By John J. Duncan Jr.
My long-time chief of staff, Bob Griffitts, is to me a true hero.
He is such a humble man that I am sure he would be embarrassed for anyone to say that to him.
During his 30 years working on my Congressional staff, he helped thousands of people in big and little ways.
Probably very few of those people realized that Bob fought on Hamburger Hill in Vietnam in some of the most brutal fighting in that war.
He fought in several battles where many of his fellow American soldiers were killed.
Because he grew up with the patriotic people of Greenback, Tennessee, and because of his love for some of the soldiers he knew personally who never returned, Bob developed a tremendous love for and appreciation of the country.
He is, like me, disgusted by some prima donna athletes who disrespect our flag and by young people, spoiled leftists who falsely believe the U.S. is an evil, racist nation.
Bob and I started our careers at about the same time, me as a lawyer, him as a realtor.
He very quickly qualified as a certified appraiser, and I used him as an expert witness in several condemnation cases.
He and I have been very close for probably 46 or 47 years.
He became so personally wrapped up in my first campaign for Congress that I still remember the only time he ever really shocked me.
It was 1988 and a Washington newspaper, a few weeks before the election, had an article saying that the campaign against me was the most negative in the country that year. It was one attack ad after another and was so mean I wished I had not given up my judgeship.
Bob and I were crossing the street next to the downtown Post Office when he said this campaign was the worst thing he had ever been through.
I reminded him about some of the battles in Vietnam, but he said “It wasn’t this bad.”
After we won, I told him no one had worked harder for me and that he could have any position on my staff that he wanted.
He told me that his appraisal business was too good and to just give him something part time, but he immediately started going with me more than full time and I made him become my district director until Judy Whitbred, a 30-year Capitol Hill veteran, retired after 13 years as my chief of staff.
I got credit for many things that Bob did and our constituents soon learned how good he was.
Once I was to speak to a civic club in Loudon. Counting driving time, we were out of the office for a little over three hours.
When we came back, Bob had about 10 or 12 messages from people who had called wanting his help. I had two… I told Bob to give me some of his and I would call and see if I could help.
Bob Griffitts was and is one of the kindest, hardest-working, most honest men I have ever known.
I was lucky to have him as my chief of staff, and this nation was lucky to have him work for the U.S. Congress and the American people.