Tom Griffith never lost sight that it was the common man who was the backbone of his business.
Georgia Forestry Commission Director Chuck Williams was in the state legislature when he presented a resolution honoring Griffith for a significant milestone in his career. In 2015, Golden Pantry Food Stores, of which he was one of the founders in 1965 with a flagship store in Five Points, Athens, celebrated half a century of outstanding service and grown to 39 stores in 19 counties throughout Georgia.
On Monday, Sept. 30, Griffith passed away at the age of 88.
“We lost a giant, a key thread out of the fabric of our community,” said Williams.
There will be a celebration of life service Friday at 11 a.m. at Athens First United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, the Griffith family asks for donations to Extra Special People, a Watkinsville nonprofit that provides opportunities for children with disabilities.
In addition to earning an unimpeachable reputation as an astute businessman and family man, Griffith was known for his steadfast generosity.
For example, Golden Pantry has raised money through its golf tournament for Extra Special People.
“He never turned anybody down in terms of schools and charity projects,” said Doug Dickens, who called his friend a “good, southern gentleman.”
Ben Bridges, the voice of the Oconee County High School Warriors, enjoyed talking sports with Griffith while dining on the Southern biscuits that have become a staple of Golden Pantries. Moreover, Griffith always offered to help sponsor a sporting activity.
“I truly believe that for every time you saw his name publicly, there was probably something he did under the radar that the public didn’t know about,” said Williams.
“I’m here to help Georgia all I can,” Griffith previously told The Oconee Enterprise, “especially this area and Oconee County which I know so well and is dear to me.”
Griffith grew up on Bonetown Road, now known as Colham Ferry Road, where he ferried a homemade wagon down to Watkinsville to pick up free grits. As an adolescent, he would ride his bicycle around town delivering groceries.
As a young man, he was committed to public service, joining the police force and enlisting in the military. During his time with the United States Navy from 1950 to 1954, Griffith crossed the Arctic Circle.
Griffith collaborated with the Bell family of Bell’s Food Stores in the formation of Golden Pantry Food Stores, which has thrived for almost 55 years.
“He was always kind, respectful and gracious to all of us, even when we disagreed on a matter,” said Fred Bell. “And given that I was an only child, he often felt more like an older brother in addition to being my contemporary.”
For more on this story, see the Oct. 3 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.