Obituary for John Griffith II
John Hall Griffith II (1925-2018)
John Hall Griffith II passed away on February 6, 2018 in Atlanta, GA, at the age of 92. He was born on September 23, 1925 in Wildwood Crest, NJ, to Alice T. Griffith and Edward D. Griffith. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Jutta W. Griffith, with whom he had one son, Mark. He is also preceded in death by his ex-wife, Elizabeth Cordis Griffith, with whom he had four children.
He is survived by his loving children, daughters Janet Sofield and her husband Edward of Brick, NJ; Megan Griffith and her husband Robert Menzimer of Albany, CA; and Constance Chapman and her husband Grey of Everett, WA; and sons John H. Griffith III and his wife Cherie of Paris, France; and Mark Griffith and his wife Kathryn of Atlanta, GA. He is also survived by eight grandchildren, Jared, Janine, Rainbow, Allison, Parker, Neil, Shea and Reece, and five great-grandchildren.
John Griffith grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania. He graduated from Wyoming Seminary, KIngston, PA in 1943, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, NY in 1945. During World War II, he served our country on merchant vessels from 1943-1945 as a midshipman cadet. In 1944, he sailed on the legendary “Murmansk Run” to Russia, where Allied convoys passed north of occupied Norway into the Arctic to deliver food and war supplies to the Soviet army. Upon graduation from Kings Point, he was commissioned as a Merchant Marine Deck Officer and an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Mr. Griffith earned a Bachelor of Science from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1949, followed by studies at the London School of Economics. In 1971, he completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
John Griffith was a pioneer in the maritime shipping industry. Griffith began his career with United States Lines in 1950 in London and served for 10 years in management positions in London, Hamburg and Rotterdam. From 1959-1968, he worked at the New York headquarters of U.S. Lines where he was responsible for the commercial operation of the company’s fleet of 40 cargo vessels in the European, Far East and Australian trades. In 1966, he inaugurated the first commercial container ship service between the U.S. and Europe. He transferred to Japan in 1968, where he served as Vice President of Far East Operations and expanded the company’s container services to the Pacific.
In 1971, he was appointed Chairman and CEO of Norton Lilly in New York, the largest independent American-owned shipping agency in North America. In 1987, he was selected as the New York Foreign Freight Forwarders and Brokers Association’s “Man of the Year”. In 1994, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the International Maritime Hall of Fame, which recognizes individuals or companies whose unique vision and leadership transformed the maritime industry. Griffith retired from Norton Lilly in 1999 at the age of 73.
John had a lifelong passion for sports cars. He was known for meticulously maintaining his car collection and won many awards at car shows throughout the Northeast. He participated in track events at Pocono Raceway, Lime Rock Park and Watkins Glen. He was an active member and served in leadership capacities in local Porsche and Morgan car clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
He and a group of friends travelled to France annually for 25 years, where they combined taking in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race with touring the French countryside, sampling oysters, and savoring fine cuisine. John was an avid reader with an interest in history, politics, economics and current events. He enjoyed classical music and opera. John travelled the world from a young age and continued to do so in his retirement until the age of 90.
Besides living in Europe and Japan during the early phases of his career, he resided in the New York City area, Pittstown, NJ (27 years), and retired to Bucks County, PA (16 years). He then moved to Atlanta, GA in 2016 to be near his son Mark and his family.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made in his name to the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler, SUNY, 6 Pennyfield Avenue, Bronx, NY 10465.