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Texas author speaking to genealogical society

A Texas author who claimed he witnessed presidential assassin
Lee Harvey Oswald flee the scene after Dallas Police officer J.D.
Tippit was killed on Nov. 22, 1963, will address members of the
Angelina County Genealogical Society in Lufkin on Monday.

Frank Griffin will also be signing his book, “Touched by Fire,” at
5 p.m. Monday at Lufkin Barbecue, 203 S. Chestnut St., during the
monthly meeting of the organization. The public is invited to
attend.

With a foreword by former Alabama Gov. John Patterson, Griffin’s
book recounts an impoverished boyhood in the South after World War
II.

Born into a family of southern migrant workers, according to a
press release from Baltimore, Md.-based publisher Bear Press,
Griffin grew up picking cotton and grabbing what little education
he could.

Griffin’s life ran in parallel with the more public career of
Patterson, so much so that a newspaper article about their first
meeting was headlined “Bound by Blood.”

Griffin’s father, Johnnie Frank Griffin, witnessed the death of
Patterson’s father, Alabama Attorney General-elect Albert
Patterson, in 1954.

After testifying to what he saw, Johnnie Frank Griffin was killed,
and Patterson was the last man to talk to him alive.

“My book is based on two major political assassinations — one my
father witnessed in Alabama in 1954 when the attorney general
elected to office ran on a platform to clean up crime and
corruption in the city, but 22 days before he was to take office,
he was murdered,” Griffin said in a telephone interview from his
home in Splendora. “My dad was the key witness in that case, and
when he went to the grand jury and told what he knew, the mob got
him killed two days later.”

As governor, Patterson became friends with President John F.
Kennedy and signed off on the participation of the Alabama Air
National Guard in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.
Griffin’s ship sailed beneath the Alabama bombers. Two years later,
Griffin was in Dallas when Kennedy was killed.

“In Dallas in 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy,
about 45 minutes later I heard shots fired down the street where he
killed Officer J.D. Tippit,” he said. “As I looked down the street,
he was walking away from the police officer, going to the other
side of the street behind the police officer’s car. I went up there
to see what I could do to help the police officer. When I got there
he was lying on the ground on his back with his arms crossed. When
I looked down and saw the blood coming underneath his head, I knew
there was nothing I could do about that.”

Remembering what happened to his father, Griffin walked away.

“What was going through my mind was my dad who was murdered in
Alabama,” he said. “I thought, ‘My God, what have I gotten into
here?’ So I turned and went back down the street and didn’t say
anything to anybody for a real long time.”

Also during the society’s meeting, longtime active members Sam and
Mary Griffin will present a program about their genealogy research
in Arkansas, where one of Mary Griffin’s ancestors was involved in
a shooting.

Society officers include Dickie Dixon, who will be serving his
third year as president, Vivian Toole Cates of Alto, vice president
and program chairman, Betty Dufner, secretary, and Sharon Elliott,
treasurer. 

Members appointed to seats on the executive board include Debbie
Parker Wayne of Cushing, workshop chairman and webmaster, Mary
Willmon, membership, Ellen Pyle of Apple Springs, newsletter
editor, Carol Mathis, book chairman, Sam and Mary Griffin, honorary
publicity chairmen, and Bob Ham, past president.

The meeting place has been changed for January because of the Kurth
Memorial Library’s closure for the Martin Luther King Jr.
holiday.

Steve Knight’s email address is
sknight@lufkindailynews.com.

© 2012 The Lufkin Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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