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Lloyd C. Griscom


Centurion, 1910–1959

Full Name Lloyd Carpenter Griscom

Born 4 November 1872 in Riverton, New Jersey

Died 8 February 1959 in Thomasville, Georgia

Buried Church of the Redeemer Cemetery, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Proposed by William Bayard Cutting and Joseph H. Choate

Elected 5 November 1910 at age thirty-eight

Century Memorial

Meeting with the chief of a fierce nomad tribe in an almost unexplored part of Persia, employing a United States battleship to bluff the Sultan of Turkey into paying a $90,000 debt, conducting the relief operations after the Messina earth quake in Italy, flying with Wilbur Wright in 1909 when the top altitude was 200 feet, serving as aide-de-camp to a general in the Spanish-American War and as a liaison officer on Pershing’s staff in the First World War—these were only a few of Lloyd Griscom’s exploits in a life of eighty-six years. He was at various times lawyer, diplomat, soldier, sportsman, author, and newspaper publisher.

Born in Riverton, New Jersey, in 1872, Griscom spent his schoolboy years in Pennsylvania, Switzerland, and France. He took his Bachelor of Philosophy degree in 1891, at the head of his class, in the Wharton School of Finance and Economics of the University of Pennsylvania. He then studied law at the Pennsylvania Law School, and at twenty-one he held the post of attaché to the London Embassy and was also the private secretary to the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. In 1895 he returned to the United States and at tended the law school of New York University. His studies were interrupted by the Spanish-American War in which he was captain of volunteers.

His diplomatic career began in earnest with his service as chargé d’affaires in Constantinople from 1899 to 1901. It was there, when he was only twenty-eight that he had his brush with the Sultan. The debt owed by the Turkish government had resulted from damage to United States property during the recent Armenian massacre. On learning that the battleship Kentucky was scheduled to stop at Smyrna, he requested Secretary of State John Hay to order it to remain there five days. This scared the Sultan into offering to pay in full, but Griscom magnanimously agreed to an installment plan. Richard Harding Davis, Griscom’s close friend, wrote him, “Few boys of 28 are given a battleship to play with. Be careful it doesn’t go off.” A few years before this incident Davis and Griscom had made extensive travels together as a result of which Griscom became one of the heroes of Davis’s book Three Gringoes in Central America.

At thirty-four he became our youngest ambassador. This was to Italy. He had already served as minister to Persia, to Brazil, and to Japan. He was in Japan during the whole of the Russo-Japanese war. After he left the diplomatic service, he practiced law in New York until the First World War, when he went overseas with the 77th division and became a staff officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

All these experiences had given him the sense of news values that is needed to own and operate a paper. The journal he chose was the Tallahassee Democrat and he resolved to give Tallahassee “a better newspaper than a town this size can normally afford.” From this time in the late twenties, he remained with the Democrat and lived in Georgia until his death there.

Griscom was always a sports enthusiast. He played tennis till he was over seventy, and his golf continued to his middle eighties. He was an excellent shot and was out shooting pheasants three days before he died.

With his varied interests so far away and so exigent he was able in his nearly fifty years of membership to make only occasional visits to the Century. But we were proud of him and happy to greet him when he could find time to come.

Roger Burlingame
1960 Century Association Yearbook