B. Ernest Griffin, 91, passed away January 14, 2013 at the Life Care Center in Jacksonville.
He was born March 16, 1921 in Live Oak, Florida to Benjamin Ernest Griffin, Sr. and Mary Estelle Walters Griffin. Graduated from John Gorrie Jr. High School in 1936 and Robert E. Lee Senior High School, Class of 1939.
Mr. Griffin attended University of Florida for two years, then enlisted in the U. S. Navy in February 1942. He was honorably discharged on February 2, 1946 having served his country as Chief Petty Officer assigned by the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1943 to the Sino-American Co-operative Organization serving in China from 1943 to 1945. He remained an active member of SACO, Navy Group China.
In 1952 along with J. V. Freeman and A. H. Edwards, founded Sav-A-Stop, Inc., a company that specializes in the sales and merchandising of non-food products, including health and beauty aids in grocery/food stores. Under his leadership, Sav-A-Stop became the nations leader in the industry, with sales exceeding 400 million dollars annually.
Sav-A-Stop incorporated in 1953 and its stock initially traded in the over-the-counter market from 1960 to 1967 at which time it was regulated and traded on the American Stock Exchange from 1967 to 1977, when it became a member of the New York Stock Exchange under the trading symbol SVS. Mr. Griffin served as President and Chairman of the Board of Sav-A-Stop from its beginnings until his retirement in 1985. During his tenure, Mr. Griffin was also elected to the Board of Directors of the Toiletry Merchandisers Association from 1962 to 1972, serving as President and Chairman of the Board.
Senator George Smathers appointed Mr. Griffin as a member of the National Advisory Council of the United States Select Committee on Small Business in 1968. Sav-A-Stop, with the assistance of a federally funded insured Small Business Loan, became the first small business in the South to achieve national status and recognition. Mr. Griffin served as Chairman of the National Advisory Committee of the Small Business Administration from 1977 to 1980 and was named National Advocate of the Year in 1980.
In addition to Sav-A-Stop, Mr. Griffin was founder of the Ocean State Bank in Neptune Beach, Florida, now Nations Bank where he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He was also founder of the American Federal Savings and Loan Association in Jacksonville, Florida where he served as President and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. Due to his management, American Federal Savings and Loan was the only surviving thrift bank in Northeast Florida after the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s. This institution's name was eventually changed to Florida Bank, and was subsequently acquired by AmSouth, now Regions. Mr. Griffin continued to serve as a Director until his retirement.
Throughout his life, Mr. Griffin was a member and supporter of many civic, fraternal, educational, and charitable organizations. He served as President of the Jacksonville Sportsman Club, Director of the Gator Bowl Association, charter member of the Presidents Council of the University of Florida, Gator Booster, honorary member of the Business Fraternity Beta Sigma Gamma of the University of Florida, Director of Goodwill Industries and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Northeast Florida, life member of the Eagle Scouts Association, member of the Downtown Rotary Club, River Club, University Club, San Jose Country Club, Sawgrass, and the Ponte Vedra Club, member of the Riverside Lodge FAM #266, life member of the Scottish Rite 230, life member of the Morocco Temple, life member and past Director of the BOJ Court #90. Mr. Griffin served on the Florida Legislation Regression Commission in 1968 and was awarded the ADL Torch of Liberty Award in 1970.
Mr. Griffin was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Helen Scotten Griffin. He is survived by his son, Thomas S. Griffin, wife Wendi, granddaughter Amanda of Jacksonville; his daughter Mary Helen Griffin-Hart, her loving partner George Delorme and grandsons Deron and William-Toby of Enosburg Falls, VT; and son Gary E. Griffin, wife Susanna, granddaughter Shannon and grandson Alexander of Chattanooga, TN. He also leaves dear friends Jim Keys, Dr. Pete Booras and Jim Minton.
Mr. Griffin's memorial mass will be held 11am Saturday, January 19 at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 2400 Mayport Rd. Atlantic Beach, FL 32233.
His family would like to give heartfelt thanks for the acts of kindness, visits, cards and loving care he received throughout his illness. Special thanks to Karen Jones and to the caring nurses and staff at the Life Care Center of Jacksonville.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Mr. Griffin's memory may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children at 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, Fl 33607