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Griffin Bell

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Title: Griffin Bell  
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Subject: Presidency of Jimmy Carter, James Clinkscales Hill, Charles Devens, United States Attorney General, List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States
Collection: 1918 Births, 2009 Deaths, American Military Personnel of World War II, Carter Administration Cabinet Members, Deaths from Pancreatic Cancer, Georgia (U.S. State) Lawyers, Georgia Southwestern State University Alumni, Guantanamo Bay Captives Legal and Administrative Procedures, Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Mercer University Alumni, People from Americus, Georgia, United States Attorneys General, United States Court of Appeals Judges Appointed by John F. Kennedy
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Griffin Bell

Griffin B. Bell
72nd United States Attorney General
In office
January 26, 1977 – August 16, 1979
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Edward H. Levi
Succeeded by Benjamin R. Civiletti
Personal details
Born Griffin Boyette Bell
(1918-10-31)October 31, 1918
United States
Died January 5, 2009(2009-01-05) (aged 90)
Atlanta, Georgia,
United States
Resting place Oak Grove Cemetery, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Foy Powell Bell
(m. 1943 - 2000; her death)
Nancy Duckworth Kinnebrew Bell
(m. 2001 - 2009; his death)
Children Griffin B. Bell, Jr.
Alma mater Georgia Southwestern College
Mercer University)
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1942-1946
Unit Quartermaster Corps
Battles/wars World War II

Griffin Boyette Bell (October 31, 1918 – January 5, 2009) was an American lawyer and former United States Attorney General. He served as the nation's 72nd Attorney General during the Jimmy Carter administration. He was an attorney with the law firm King & Spalding.


  • Early years and legal practice 1
  • Marriage and children 2
  • Political career 3
  • Society 4
  • Death 5
  • Honors and awards 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early years and legal practice

Bell was born on October 31, 1918 in E. F. Hutton & Co..

Marriage and children

He was married to the former Mary Foy Powell in 1943 until her death in 2000. Their only son, Griffin B. Bell, Jr., is an attorney in Georgia and is married to Glenda Maxwell Bell. Mary and Griffin Bell have a grandson, Griffin B. Bell, III, also an attorney in Georgia, and granddaughter, Katherine Bell McClure.

Political career

Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1961. He served for more than fourteen years on the Fifth Circuit. He often played an instrumental role in mediating disputes between the court's factions during the peak of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Griffin Bell was to sworn in office as the Attorney General.

In the aftermath of the disputed William O. Douglas and Abe Fortas had argued against legislative selection of the governor, but the court majority, led this time by Hugo Black took the strict constructionist line and cleared the path for Maddox's ultimate election.[1]

Bell resigned from the Fifth Circuit in March 1976 to resume his law practice at King & Spalding. In December 1976, U.S. President Jimmy Carter nominated him to become the 72nd United States Attorney General. He served until August 1979. His Watergate-era nomination was initially controversial because he was a Southerner and a personal friend of the President. However, by the time he left office, Bell had allayed the concerns and won the praise of most of his critics in the United States Senate and the media. He was credited with bringing needed independence and professionalism to the Department of Justice. Unprecedented and not duplicated since, Bell posted publicly every day his third party contacts, including meetings and calls with the White House, members of Congress, or other non-Justice Department individuals, to rebuild confidence in the Department of Justice.

On April 10, 1978, Attorney General Bell announced the indictment of former Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray, Mark Felt and former FBI Assistant Director Edward Miller for authorizing break-ins of New York City radical political activists. Bell introduced requirements that any authorized illegal activities must be made in writing. Five Department of Justices attorneys resigned over the alleged reluctance of the Attorney Bell to pursue others in the department for illegal activities related to domestic spying. [2]

Bell led the effort to pass the Texas) into two courts: a new Fifth Circuit based in New Orleans and an Eleventh Circuit based in Atlanta. Bell also led efforts to professionalize the Federal Bureau of Investigation after Watergate and recruited another federal appellate judge to recommend to the President as Director, Judge William Webster of the Eighth Circuit. After Bell resigned as Attorney General in August 1979, President Carter thereafter appointed him as Special Ambassador to the Helsinki Convention.

From 1985 to 1987, Bell served as a member of the E.F. Hutton following federal indictments for its cash management practices.

Bell being sworn in on the Court of Military Commission Review. Bell is the second individual from the left.

In September 2004 he was appointed the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Military Commission Review.[3] Bell was replaced by Judge Frank J. Williams in July 2007, when the first two cases were appealed to the Court, due to ill health.


Bell, whose wit has been widely reported, was an especially popular member of the Carter Cabinet and well known in the social scene. Bell introduced rooster pepper sausage as one of the more publicized foods in Washington. The dish, made from rooster spur pepper from Georgia, was widely rumored to be an aphrodisiac. It was maintained that he slipped supplies of the potent sausage into the White House to President Carter through their mutual close friend, Charles Kirbo.

The Alfalfa Club is a century-old Washington institution of social, political and business America. At its annual dinner in 1979, Bell was the Alfalfa nominee for President of the United States and quipped as he began his acceptance speech that he hoped that President Carter would now understand the full meaning of his warning that he would not serve as Attorney General during the President's re-election campaign. Bell (as well as Jimmy Carter) is a member of the Gridiron Secret Society.

Bell was the first cabinet official named in Mr. Richard Blackwell's list of best dressed Americans in 1978, citing the former Attorney General's penchant for wide, sleek, bold-colored ties that were emblematic of mid-to-late 1970s fashion.


Griffin Bell died on January 5, 2009. According to the Associated Press, Bell was being treated for complications from

Legal offices
Preceded by
Edward H. Levi
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Jimmy Carter

Succeeded by
Benjamin Civiletti

External links

  • Bell, Griffin B. and Ronald J. Ostrow.Taking Care of the Law Morrow. 1982. ISBN 978-0-688-01136-9
  • Murphy, Reg, "Uncommon Sense, The Achievement of Griffin Bell," Peachtree Press.
  1. ^ Billy Hathorn, "The Frustration of Opportunity: Georgia Republicans and the Election of 1966", Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, XXI (Winter 1987-1988), pp. 46-47
  2. ^ Theoharis, Athan G. (1978) Spying on Americans. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. pp. 128-9 p 238. ISBN 0877221413.
  3. ^ "Military Commission Review Panel Takes Oath of Office".   mirror
  4. ^ Lyons, Patrick J. (January 6, 2009). "Griffin Bell, Ex-Attorney General, Dies at 90". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Governor Perdue Orders Flags Lowered for Griffin Bell,; retrieved January 6, 2009
  6. ^ "Alumnus and former U.S. Attorney General Griffin B. Bell to receive honorary doctorate December 13". Georgia Southwestern State University. December 5, 2008. Retrieved January 2, 2009. 


See also

[6] In December 2008, Bell received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from

Honors and awards

He is buried in Americus' Oak Grove Cemetery, Section N3-South, where his tombstone bears the inscription "Citizen Soldier, Trial Lawyer, Federal Appellate Judge, Attorney General of the United States." [5]

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