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 Griffith Jenkins Griffith

Griffith Jenkins Griffith

Birth
Betws, Bridgend, Wales
Death 6 Jul 1919 (aged 69)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Section 7, Lakeview Ave Obelisk
Memorial ID 9251 · View Source
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Philanthropist. He was the founder of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Born in Bettws, Wales, he came to the United States in 1866 and studied mineralogy in New England and San Francisco. As a journalist for the Daily Alto Californian, he covered the West's growing mining industry and used insider tips to invest in newly-discovered Mexican silver mines. He was a millionaire by age 30. In 1882 Griffith settled in Los Angeles, which was on the verge of becoming a major city, and spent the next two decades trying to buy his way into local society. Soon after his arrival he purchased the Rancho Los Feliz and made another fortune selling its acreage and water rights. He also married into money, taking as his wife Christina Mesmer of the noted Verdugo Family, despite their religious differences (he was a Protestant, she was a Catholic). On December 16, 1896, Griffith secured his claim to fame when he donated 3015 acres of his property to the city as parkland; this gave Los Angeles a public recreational area four times the size of Manhattan's Central Park. Griffith's largesse was welcome but the man himself was scorned as a pompous upstart by L.A.'s upper crust, who derisively called the diminutive Welshman "The Midget Egomaniac". He dressed like a dandy, bribed people to listen to his long-winded speeches on everything from prison reform to prohibition, and insisted on being called "Colonel Griffith" even though he had no military record to speak of. He refused to run for public office, he claimed, because popular demand would then force him to seek the Presidency. Heavy drinking exacerbated his already eccentric behavior and he grew obsessed with the delusion that the Catholic Church was out to get him and his money as part of a plot to overthrow the government. On a rest cure in Santa Monica in September 1903, Griffith suddenly went beserk, accused his wife of being a spy for the Pope, and shot her in the eye. Mrs. Griffith miraculously survived and The Colonel served two years in San Quentin for attempted murder. As a symbol of his downfall the name of his park's highest point was changed from Griffith Peak to Mount Hollywood. In prison he appeared genuinely remorseful for his crime, refusing preferential treatment and time off for good behavior. Upon his release in 1906 Griffith returned to Los Angeles, still wealthy but shunned and alone. Only a handful of people attended his funeral at Hollywood Memorial Park. But Griffith was not through leaving his mark on his adopted city. In 1912 he had offered to donate $150,000 for the construction of an observatory and an ampitheatre on the park grounds, but the City Council, mindful of his unpopularity, stalled in accepting. He then set up a trust fund for this purpose, the money to be used after his death. The Colonel's dream projects, the Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theatre, were finally completed in the early 1930s. Today Griffith Park remains the largest municipal park in the United States. Its other attractions include the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry National Center Museum.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 11 May 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9251
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Griffith Jenkins Griffith (4 Jan 1850–6 Jul 1919), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9251, citing Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .