Michigan State University

April 16, 2015 : Former Michigan U.S. Senator Robert Paul Griffin Dies

Jon Harrison

Former Michigan U.S. Sen. Robert Paul Griffin, a key Republican congressional leader during the Watergate crisis of the 1970s who helped prod President Richard Nixon to resign, died at his home in Traverse City.

Griffin, a staunch Republican, was elected to the U.S House in 1956 at age 33 and was appointed in May 1966 to fill the Senate seat of Patrick McNamara. Griffin twice was elected to the Senate on his own right, and was GOP whip from 1969-77. After announcing he wouldn't seek re-election — and then changing his mind — he was defeated by Democrat Carl Levin in 1978; Levin went on to become Michigan's longest-serving senator.

Born in Detroit, Griffin attended school in Garden City and Dearborn. He served in World War II in the U.S. Army, including 14 months in Europe. He graduated from then-Central Michigan College in Mount Pleasant and got a law degree from the University of Michigan.

While in the Senate he served on the Judiciary, Foreign Relations and Finance committees, and played a key role on many judicial matters, including thwarting President Lyndon Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas for Supreme Court chief justice.

In one of his last big decisions on the Michigan Supreme Court, he joined a 5-2 majority in December 1994 in ruling it was constitutional to make assisted suicide a crime — a setback for assisted suicide practitioner Jack Kevorkian.

One of his key achievements in Congress was helping win approval of the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act, which helped establish democratic principles in union government and finances.

Griffin co-authored the act with Democratic U.S. Rep. Phil Landrum of Georgia. Signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower, it strengthened the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

For the full article, see David Shepardson and Gary Heinlein, "Former Michigan U.S. Sen. Griffin dies at 91", Detroit News, April 17, 2015.

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