Retired Army Gen. Ronald Griffith, a former Georgia baseball player and commander of a tank division that played an integral role in the Persian Gulf War, died of a heart attack last week at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 82.
Born in LaFayette, Ga., on March 16, 1936, Gen. Griffith graduated from Lakeview High School before attending the University of Georgia, graduating in 1960. While working as a high school track coach that same year, Gen. Griffith earned his Army commission at the behest of his friend, legendary UGA track & field coach and Army veteran Forrest “Spec” Towns. “Leading soldiers is a lot like coaching, but you don’t have to deal with parents,” Towns told Gen. Griffith, according to The Washington Post.
Gen. Griffith is perhaps best known for his role in Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s “left hook” maneuver during the Gulf War. Leading the 1st Armored Division, Gen Griffith helped outflank the Iraqi army and rout Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, effectively ending the war in less than a week.
After the war, Gen. Griffith went on to become the Army’s inspector general for four years before being named vice chief of staff, the second-highest position in the Army, in 1995. He served in that post for two years and retired in 1997.
“He had uncanny diplomatic skills,” said Joe R. Reeder, who served alongside Gen. Griffith as undersecretary of the Army, according to The Washington Post. “When there was an issue that needed someone who was a facilitator, or someone who knew how to find a win-win, or to find what Ronald Reagan called ‘the pony in the manure,’ Ron could do it.”