Leon Griffith, 95, of Orange, passed away peacefully Saturday, Aug. 10, at his residence. A celebration of his life will be at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at First United Pentecostal Church in Orange. Officiating will be the Rev. Melvin Clifford, Pastor of Christian Life Center in Little Rock, AR. Burial will follow at Orange Forest Lawn Cemetery in West Orange.
Visitation will be 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Monday, at Claybar Funeral Home in Orange.
Born in Magee, MS. on July 18, 1918, Leon was the son of the late James Elihu and Susan Mae (Hankins) Griffith. Leon Griffith was one of the last surviving members of The 6th Ranger battalion stationed in the Pacific during WWII. After 70 years, he still remembered every detail leading up to the mission known as The Great Raid. In 1945, Leon’s company executed one of the most daring rescues in American history. They penetrated 29 miles behind enemy lines and destroyed a garrison of Japanese soldiers twice their size and freed over 500 prisoners of war who were being held at a prison camp in the Philippines.
He was known as one of the “Ghost Soldiers” whose job was to shoot the locks off the gate and help free the prisoners. He earned two bronze stars for his courage, along with other medals during his time in the Army. In later 1945, he was able to return to his home in Mississippi. He was proud to be alive but often thought of all the soldiers who didn’t come home. His wishes were that we all take a moment to honor the lives, courage and memories of those who gave so much. We are so grateful that he lived to tell his story.
Leon was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth Griffith; brothers, Claude and Howard Griffith; sister, Mary Smith; sons and daughters-in-law, Ben and Jenni Taylor and Rudy and Judy Taylor, and daughter-in-law, Karen Taylor.
Leon is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Peggy and Melvin Clifford of Little Rock; son, Wayne Taylor of Conroe; daughter and son-in-law, Shirley and Kenneth Perkins of Lorena; 13 grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; sisters and brother-in-law, Billy Watts of Jennings, LA, Helen and Edward Lambert of Jayess, MS; and sister-in-law, Christine Moss of Orange.
The family wishes to thank Gina Boulware (granddaughter and caregiver), Mollie Willis (lifetime family friend), Amanda Herring (V.A. caregiver) and Advantage Plus Home Care for all their care and compassion.