Andrew Jackson “Jack” Griffith Jr. died peacefully of natural causes at the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida Hadlow Center on January 8, 2017 after a full life spanning nearly 91 years.
Jack was born on February 12, 1926 to Andrew Griffith and Louise Russell Griffith in Jackson Heights, NY. Jack grew up on Long Island, attending Garden City Country Day School, Hill School, and then Valley Forge Military Academy before enlisting in the Air Force at age 17 to serve in WWII. It was while stationed in Madison, Wisconsin that he met a local girl, Marge Johnson, who would become the love of his life. Marge, a University of Wisconsin graduate, school teacher and accomplished drummer in the Madison Symphony, met Jack while playing in the Peggy King Orchestra, an all-girl dance band that often entertained at USO dances. They fell in love, were married in July of 1946 after Jack’s discharge and began an exciting life together.
Now a civilian, Jack moved back to Long Island where he pursued his passions for music and anything with an engine that made noise and went fast. Following stints as a recording engineering, radio station operator, amateur pilot and marina owner, Jack focused his career on automobiles. After owning a series of successful car dealerships, including Packard, Nash and Ford, Jack assisted his close friend Carroll Shelby in introducing the first Cobras into the U.S.
Bitten by the high-performance bug, Jack acquired one of the six Ford factory-built race Cobras and campaigned it successfully during the mid 60s. Then, against all odds, Jack formed the Griffith Company, where he created and manufactured a powerful British/Italian sports car, the Griffith. After a run of 262 cars production ceased but the remaining examples are now the pride of collectors around the world.
The 70s found Jack moving to Florida to design and construct Nissan 280Z/280ZX (1978), Toyota Celica Sunchaser (1980-1981, 1982-1983) and AMC Concord/Eagle Sundancer (1981-1982) convertibles leading The Griffith Company to become the factory endorsed independent convertible builder for Toyota worldwide. During this time, the Griffith Company was also called on to complete several R&D race car development builds for Chrysler. As a result, Jack’s career has been documented in numerous books and chronicled by some of the world’s most prominent automotive journals. At his 90th birthday, and during this illness, best wishes and remembrances have poured in, not only from family and friends, but also from Griffith owners and admirers worldwide.
Throughout Jack’s business career and retirement, he was an active Kiwanis member.
Always community minded, Jack was very active as a high school Key Club advisor for several Jacksonville High Schools where he helped organize weekend car shows to raise money for community projects. Along with several of his car buddies, he conceived of RoadSmart, a program to teach students the advanced defensive driving methods used by competitive auto racers.
As if these weren’t enough to keep him busy in retirement, in 1996, Jack and a handful of auto enthusiasts helped found The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. From its inception, Jack and Marge both worked diligently, Jack active on the Board of Directors and Marge organizing the golf tournament, helping to form it into one of the top automotive concours events in the world. With Northeast Community Hospice as a major charity recipient of the Concours since 1996, it was also only natural that Jack became a volunteer at Hospice during his retirement years.
Jack’s additional loves included boating. A life-long boat owner, Jack and his family got to see a lot of New England from Long Island Sound on the weekends as his kids grew up. This passion continued in Jacksonville as he motored his way up and down the St. John’s River. Not coincidentally, Jack and Marge were active members and volunteers at the Episcopal Church on the river, Church of Our Savior in Mandarin, since moving to Jacksonville in 1982.
Jack will be remembered for his entrepreneurial spirit, his relentless pursuit of the family and interests he loved and his desire to give back to the communities that gave him so much.