Sunday, January 3, 2016

Uberto Saunders Griffin (1857-1918)

Portrait from the 1905 Kansas Legislative Directory.

  2016 is upon us and following our 2015 "Strange Name of the Year " profile of two-term Kansas state senator Peru Italian Blackerby Ping we continue our stay in the Sunflower State for the first write-up of the new year. A man prominent in the political and business life of Nortonville, Kansas for over three decades, Uberto Saunders Griffin represented Jefferson County in both houses of the Kansas legislature during the early 1900s. A native of Illinois, Uberto Griffin was the third born son of Samuel Parker and Eliza Saunders Griffin, being born in the village of Farmington on February 21, 1857
  The Griffin family removed from Illinois when Uberto was just two years of age, settling near Nortonville, Kansas. Uberto would attend school in the nearby city of Atchison and as a young man saw his father Samuel enter political life in Atchison County, as he was elected as a state representative in 1870. Samuel Griffin would later represent Kansas' 2nd district in the state senate, serving in that body from 1875-77. 
   As a young man, Uberto Griffin would attend the Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin. After returning to Kansas he joined with his father in the mercantile firm of Griffin and Son, with which he would be affiliated for many years to come. Griffin would marry Luella Jane Hart on October 13, 1880 and later had three children: Geneva (1881-1977), Helen (1890-1973) and William (1893-1972). 
   A longstanding member of the Seventh-Day Baptist Church, Uberto Griffin was "converted at a revival meeting at Pardee" when just thirteen years of age. Griffin's connection to that church extended through the remainder of his life, and he would serve at various times as Sabbath school superintendent and "superintendent of the Nortonville school." Sources of the time also note that Griffin was a "druggist" in addition to operating a mercantile store.
   Following in the footsteps of his father, Uberto Griffin would be elected to the Kansas state legislature in 1900. Taking his seat at the start of the 1901-03 session, Griffin would sit on the committees on Insurance, Mileage and Temperance, as well as chairing the house committee on the WholeIn the 1902 election year Griffin was re-elected as a representative
and two years later won a seat in the state senate from Kansas' 5th senatorial district. Shortly after taking his seat Griffin was profiled in a small write up in the Topeka State Journal, which noted that he "would look out for the state university appropriation bills in the senate." During his senate term, Griffin chaired the senate committee on Penal Institutions and also was a member of the committee on Charitable Institutions.

                                      Uberto S. Griffin as he appeared in the Topeka State Journal, Jan. 25, 1905.

   Griffin continued to represent the 5th senatorial district during the special senate session of January 1908 and wasn't a candidate for renomination later that year. After leaving the senate Griffin continued in public service when he was appointed as "revenue collector", a post he would hold for several years. Uberto S. Griffin died at his home in Nortonville on November 22, 1918, after having been "in failing health for a number of years." The sixty-one year old former state senator was survived by his wife Luella (who died at age 82 in April 1941) and his three children. Both Griffin and his wife were interred at the Nortonville Cemetery.

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