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GRIFFIN, BENNETT HILL (1895-1978)

Aviator and aeronautics administrator Bennett Hill Griffin, born September 22, 1895, in Barton, Mississippi, to John B. and Georgia Short Griffin, came to Oklahoma with his family circa 1900. He attended public school, graduating from Lexington High School in 1913 and from the University of Oklahoma in 1917. In World War I he enlisted in the U.S. Army and received flight training. After the war he worked for Nebraska Aircraft Corporation and then moved to Oklahoma City, operating a commercial air transport business and flight school.

He also raced and tested airplanes. In the 1927 Dole Race from California to Hawaii, he piloted the aircraft Oklahoma, sponsored by Phillips Petroleum Company, against Hollywood stunt flier Art Goebel in the Woolaroc, also sponsored by Phillips. Griffin's plane developed problems in San Francisco, and Goebel won the race. Griffin and fellow aviator Roy Hunt modified a Curtiss Robin airplane to challenge the record for sustained flight and in September 1930 spent 296 hours aloft over Oklahoma City, short of the record 628.5 hours set in July. In 1932 Griffin and Jimmy Mattern challenged Wiley Post's 1931 record around-the-world flight. Crossing the Atlantic from New York in eleven hours, they beat Amelia Earhart's transatlantic flight record. Over Russia they were ahead of Post's time, but the plane crashed in Siberia, and the trip had to be abandoned. Griffin left Oklahoma in 1933, and his American Air Aces troupe performed at air shows around the nation in the mid-1930s.

During World War II Griffin returned to active duty as a U.S. Army Air Force flight instructor and transport pilot. In 1946-47 he supervised the transfer of the Civil Aeronautics Administration center from Houston to Oklahoma City, where it was later renamed Mike Monroney Aeronautics Center. Griffin finished his administrative career as director of Washington (D.C.) National Airport (now Reagan National Airport), retiring in 1959. He died in Washington on April 26, 1978, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

SEE ALSO: BRANIFF INTERNATIONAL AIRWAYS, CENTRAL AIRLINES, ROY HUNT, SPARTAN AVIATION, TRANSPORTATION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Bennett Griffin," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Dianna Everett

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