F. Hastings Griffin Jr., 95, lawyer and star athlete

3 x 2 F Hastings Griffin Jr
F. Hastings Griffin Jr. in 1962 was named to help investigate City Hall corruption. He is in front of a portrait of his great-great-grandfather John Tyler, the 10th U.S. president.

F. Hastings Griffin Jr., 95, of Newtown Square, a Philadelphia trial lawyer and an accomplished athlete and singer, died Sunday, Sept. 18, of heart disease at his home.

Born in Swarthmore, Mr. Griffin came from a family that left its mark on American government, science, and education.

He was a great-great-grandson of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States. His father, Frank Hastings Griffin, a chemist for the American Viscose Corp. in Marcus Hook, held the basic patents for rayon.

His mother, Priscilla Goodwyn Griffin, was dean of women at Swarthmore College. His brother, John Tyler Griffin, was chairman of the board of Church Farm School in Paoli, while a sister, Adele Sands, was head of Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont.

Mr. Griffin grew up in Wawa and graduated from Episcopal Academy in 1939, Princeton University in 1943, and Harvard Law School in 1948. He served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1945.

He called it luck

On his first foray into the working world, he was snapped up by the Center City law firm of Dechert, Price & Rhoads. Eight years later, he made partner at the firm.

He was known for rarely losing a courtroom battle. Asked about that in 1987, when he retired, Mr. Griffin told the Inquirer:

"I look back and say, 'I just don't believe it happened. I never got bombed. No client ever really got hurt.' I've got to attribute it to luck. It's not just good management. [It's] the right judges at the right time, the right juries. Such is life."

In his early days as a lawyer, the tall, handsome Mr. Griffin cut a figure reminiscent of a young Paul Newman in the 1959 film The Young Philadelphians, said Seymour Kurland, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

"Hastings was the dashing guy in the big firm - always independent, irreverent all his life," Kurland told the Inquirer in 1987.

"He was an exceptional human being," Kurland said Wednesday. "He lived a long, full life. He always did what he wanted, not what others wanted."

Other courts

In 1962, Hastings, as he was known, was appointed by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Eugene V. Alessandroni as first assistant to chief prosecutor W. Wilson White in the court's corruption probe of City Hall. That introduction to the rough-and-tumble politics of Philadelphia was enough to ward him off politics for the rest of his life, his family said.

He found time for lawn tennis, court tennis, and squash, winning 23 national championships across all three sports. (Court tennis is a version of the sport that dates to medieval times.)

He was a lifelong equestrian who rode to hounds, and as a youth he won the Puissance Class, involving high jumping, at the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden. He also rode a motorcycle well into his 80s.

Mr. Griffin sang tenor with the Orpheus Club of Philadelphia, serving as a member of the executive committee, vice president, and president.

"Hastings joined the Club in 1950," the club posted on its website in announcing his death. "Yes, that is 66 years a member. He was our most senior member both in terms of tenure and age."

Mr. Griffin was a member of the Savoy Company of Philadelphia, for which he sang leads, served as president, and stage-directed for 16 seasons.

"He knew Gilbert & Sullivan, all the shows, everybody's lyrics. He could sing a song to you extemporaneously and make it funny and in rhyme," said Albert Oehrle, a chorus colleague and friend.

Mr. Griffin was married to Mary Dercum Mifflin for 64 years until her death in 2006. The couple had four children. One of the couple's sons, Frank H. Griffin III, died at age 62 in 2009. A brother and two sisters also died earlier.

Surviving is his second wife, Margaret Slaymaker Dayton, whom he married in 2007; daughters Elizabeth G. Drake and Mary L. Griffin; son Samuel W.M. Griffin; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Church of the Redeemer, 230 Pennswood Rd., Bryn Mawr. Interment is private.

Donations for a scholarship in his name may be made to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation via www.mcsf.org

bcook@phillynews.com

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