Captain Russell F. Griffen

Captain Russell F. Griffen, who was given and still continued to give valuable constructive service as secretary of the Grand Rapids Citizens League, and who has the further distinction of having been elected in 1924 to the office of secretary of the National Association of Civic Secretaries, is a native son of whom Grand Rapids has had to hear nothing save good reports. His was distinguished service with the United States army forces in the great World war, and on the blood-stained fields of France and Belgium he lived up to the full tension of the greatest conflict the world has ever known, the while he won advancement to the rank of captain. Captain Griffen was born in Grand Rapids January 4, 1895, and is a son of Almond and Alpha M. (Freeman) Griffen, the former of whom was born at Batavia, New York, and the latter at Litchfield, Michigan, she being a daughter of Ralph Freeman. Almond Griffen was long and actively associated with newspaper work and gained high reputation in his chosen profession. He was for years connected with the Grand Rapids Herald, and was in the course of his professional career associated with other papers in this city, as well as with leading metropolitan papers in the east. Almond Griffen now resides in the city of Detroit, where he is editor of the Michigan Invester. After completing his schooling Russell F. Griffen became active in newspaper work. In 1916 Captain Griffen became a member of the Grand Rapids Battalion, Michigan National Guard. With this command he was in service on the Mexican border, and when the nation entered the World war he went to France and received intensive training at the war college at Langres. After receiving commission as a second lieutenant he was assigned to the Thirty-seventh Division of the American Expeditionary Force, this division having been composed almost entirely of units of the Ohio National Guard. With his command he immediately went into action at Chateau Thierry and later took part in the St. Mihiel campaign. Nest the command was sent to the Meuse-Argonne sector, where for eleven days it took part in the gallant fight against the desperate German forces, the casualties having been tremendous. The part of the line held by Captain Griffen’s company had the distinction of capturing Montfaucon, which was defended by the famous Prussian guard during the campaign period of 1914-17 and which was the headquarters of the Crown Prince of Germany. On the 7th of October, 1918, Captain Griffen’s command was relieved and sent back for rest and recuperation, but almost immediately thereafter it was again called to the front, to relieve the Sixth division of the French army in Belgium, which had been under constant shell fire for eighteen months and which was rapidly becoming demoralized under this terrific tension. The Thirty-seventh and Ninety-first were the only two American divisions to fight on Belgian soil. With his division Captain Griffen there took part in the battle of Lys river, and later in the fighting that took place along the Escault river. When the allied troops marched into the villages bordering these rivers the citizens learned for the first time that the American forces were aiding in the great war. On the 10th of November, 1918 he was severely wounded and was sent to the hospital near Boulogne, this hospital having been established primarily for the care of wounded officers of the English forces. Captain Griffen remained in the hospital two months, and thereafter was in a convalescent hospital at Nice, and he returned to the United States in January, 1919. After receiving his honorable discharge Captain Griffen returned to Grand Rapids, and here, in 1919, he was made assistant secretary of the Grand Rapids Citizens League, which was organized in 1916, mainly through the promotive influence of Charles W. Garfield, its primary object having been to effect the establishing of the commissioner manager system of municipal government in the city. The league has recognized leadership in all progressive civic and industrial movements in Grand Rapids, and its influence is large, as its working organization has been brought to a high standard of efficiency. In 1902 Captain Griffen was chosen secretary of this fine organization, of which office he has since continued the vital and valued incumbent. He is a Republican in politics, is actively affiliated with the American Legion, the Army and Navy Club and he has membership in the Masonic fraternity together with business and social organizations of representative order. In 1919 was solemnized his marriage to Miss Alice B. Leavenworth, daughter of Philip D. Leavenworth, of Grand Rapids, and they are popular figures in the social activities of their home city. Following the reorganization of the Michigan National Guard in 1921, Captain Griffen has been active with the local units, and at the present time is in command of the Howitzer Company, 126th Infantry.

Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 21 February 2005