Parker Griffith

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Parker Griffith
Rep. Parker Griffith.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 5th district
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byBud Cramer
Succeeded byMo Brooks
Member of the Alabama Senate
from the 7th district
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2009
Preceded byJeff Enfinger
Succeeded byPaul Sanford
Personal details
Born (1942-08-06) August 6, 1942 (age 77)
Shreveport, Louisiana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (Before 2009; 2014–present)
Other political
Republican (2009–2013)
Independent (2013–2014)
Spouse(s)Virginia Griffith
EducationLouisiana State University (BS)
LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (MD)

Rolf Parker Griffith Jr. (born August 6, 1942) is an American retired physician, entrepreneur and politician who served in the Alabama State Senate from 2006 to 2008 and then as the U.S. Representative for Alabama's 5th congressional district from 2009 to 2011. A lifelong member of the Democratic Party, while serving in Congress, at the urging of Republicans he switched parties on December 22, 2009.[1][2][3] He ran for re-election in 2010 but was defeated in the Republican primary by Mo Brooks. He returned to the Democratic Party in 2014 and unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Alabama in the 2014 election.

Early life, education, and medical career[edit]

Griffith was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He taught 7th-grade arithmetic for less than a year at T.H. Harris Junior High School (later Middle School) in Metaire in Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans prior to being admitted to medical school. He received his medical degree from the Louisiana State University Medical School in 1970 and served in residency at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. After serving at the LSU Service Charity Hospital in New Orleans and a year of neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Texas, Griffith began preparing to become a radiation oncologist, one who specializes in using radiation to cure cancer, training in radiation oncology through a combined program between UTMB and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He served as a Medical Corps captain in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1970 to 1973, while continuing his medical training at the LSU Service Charity Hospital in New Orleans.[4]

Griffith was recruited on a "cold call" to Alabama and established the Huntsville Cancer Treatment Center.[which?][when?] As a physician, he provided discounted care to patients who lacked insurance. Griffith also conducted several clinical trials in conjunction with the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and partnered with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee[5] He retired from medicine in December 1992, though he still holds a license to practice in both Alabama and Texas.

Early political career[edit]

Griffith unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Huntsville against the three-term incumbent, Loretta Spencer in 2004. He then won a seat in the Alabama State Senate, representing the 7th district. He carried 66% of the vote to his opponent's 34%.[6]

During his term in the State Senate, he sponsored bills to promote investment in alternative fuels, cut taxes, and establish a Statewide Trauma Care System to speed critical medical care.[citation needed]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



On March 22, 2008 Griffith announced that he would run for the open seat in the 5th District. The district's 9-term incumbent, fellow Democrat Bud Cramer, was not running for reelection.[7] He won the June 2008 Democratic primary election with 90% of the vote, defeating physicist David Maker. Cramer had endorsed Griffith in the primary.[8]

Griffith faced Republican Wayne Parker, an insurance agent from Huntsville, in the November election. Parker had sought this seat unsuccessfully twice before, in 1994 and 1996, losing both times to Bud Cramer.

The 5th was considered one of the few realistic chances for a Republican pickup in what was forecast to be a very bleak year for Republicans because of the district's and state's recent voting history. While Democrats still held most local offices as well as most state legislative seats in the area, the district's residents had become increasingly willing to support Republicans at the national and state level. It last supported a Democrat for president in 1984,[9] and George W. Bush and John McCain won the district by wide double-digit margins in 2000, 2004 and, ultimately, 2008.

Due to these trends, most forecasters rated the district as a toss-up. CQ Politics forecast the race as 'No Clear Favorite', The Cook Political Report ranked it 'Democratic Toss-Up', and The Rothenberg Political Report rated it 'Pure Toss-Up'.[10][11][12]

Griffith prevailed by taking 52 percent of the vote to Parker's 48 percent. He carried all but one of the district's seven counties. This came even as McCain (who carried the 5th with 61 percent of the vote) and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (whose seat was up for re-election) won every county in the district. His victory, and that of Bobby Bright in the 2nd District, gave Alabama two white Democratic congressmen for the first time since Glen Browder and Tom Bevill left the House in 1997.


Griffith ran for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican in 2010, but was defeated in the June 1 Republican primary by Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks. Brooks received 51% of the vote, narrowly avoiding a run-off. Griffith received 33%. Conservative activist Les Phillip received 16%.


In January 2012, he filed for a rematch against Brooks in the Republican primary. He said of the incumbent, "We'll contrast my time in Congress with my opponent's time in Congress. The distinction is clear, he has wandered away from many of the issues people want us to address."[13] Brooks defeated him in the rematch 71%–29%, a landslide margin of 42 points. He won all five of the counties.[14] Griffith did four points worse than he did in the 2010 primary.[15]


Supporters of Griffith circulated petitions to place him on the November ballot as an Independent.[16] Griffith considered running but decided against it.[17]


Griffith has stated that he leans conservative on a variety of issues, though not all. He states he is a fiscal conservative who has called repeatedly for reducing the national debt. He is a strong supporter of NASA and America's dominance in space.[18]

Griffith voted against the Affordable Health Care for America Act, cap-and-trade legislation and the 2009 economic stimulus act.[19]

Party switch

Griffith was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition,[20] but on December 22, 2009, he announced he would become a Republican. He cited the health care bill as a major reason for his switch, and had also clashed with the Democrats over fiscal and foreign policy. During his announcement, he stated:

I believe our nation is at a crossroads and I can no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our economy, and drives us further and further into debt.[21]

The GOP had been courting Griffith since August, when he publicly criticized the Democratic House leadership in the wake of raucous town hall meetings in his district, stating that he wouldn't vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker as she is "divisive and polarizing".[1] He also opposed the White House's decision to cancel a missile defense shield in Europe, which could have contributed to Huntsville's defense industry.[22] His switch is the first time a member of Congress switched from the majority party to the minority party since New York Representative Michael Forbes' switch from Republican to Democrat in 1999.[23] Forbes also lost his primary campaign following his switch. The 5th was one of the few districts in the former Confederacy that, at the time, had not elected a Republican since Reconstruction.

In January 2010, rebelling against his party switch, Griffith's congressional staff resigned en masse, including his chief of staff, legislative director, press secretary, and his intern.[24][25] Shortly after switching parties, Griffith joined the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative House Republicans.

Griffith's voting record veered sharply to the right after his switch. He'd garnered a 56 from the American Conservative Union in 2009, but in 2010 garnered a 95.

Upon Griffith's party switch, he became the first Republican to represent Alabama's 5th district since John Benton Callis, who was elected to a single term (1868-1870) during Reconstruction.

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

  • Army
  • Cancer
  • Doctors
  • Down Syndrome
  • Hydro
  • Immigration Reform
  • Missile Defense (co-chair)
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • NASA House Action Committee
  • Parkinsons
  • Pediatric Cancer
  • Pro-Life
  • Robotics
  • Rural
  • Rural Health Care Task Force (co-chair)
  • Small Brewers

2014 gubernatorial election[edit]

Griffith ran for Governor of Alabama in the 2014 election. He returned to the Democratic Party in February 2014, with the State Party voting to reinstate him. He was successful in obtaining the party's nomination but lost decisively to the incumbent, Robert J. Bentley, in the general election.[26]

Electoral history[edit]

Alabama's 5th Congressional District House Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Parker Griffith 158,324 52
Republican Wayne Parker 147,314 48
Alabama Republican Primary, 5th Congressional District, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mo Brooks 35,746 51
Republican Parker Griffith 23,525 33
Republican Les Phillip 11,085 16
Alabama Republican Primary, 5th Congressional District, 2012[27]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mo Brooks 65,123 71
Republican Parker Griffith 26,680 29

Personal life[edit]

He resides in Huntsville with his wife, Virginia. The couple had five children and 11 grandchildren (to date). He co-founded the Griffith Family Foundation, which awards cash grants to elementary school libraries in northern Alabama. Since its funding in 2005, the foundation has donated over $50,000 to area schools.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kraushaar, Josh (December 22, 2009). "House Dem blames leaders for party switch". The Politico. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  2. ^ "House Dem to switch to Republican". CNN. December 22, 2009. Retrieved December 22, 2009. Sources confirm to CNN that Democratic Rep. Parker Griffith will announce Tuesday that he's switching parties and will run for re-election next year as a Republican.
  3. ^ Schouten, Fredreka (December 22, 2009). "Officials: House Democrat will switch to GOP". USA Today. Retrieved December 22, 2009. WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior House aides say freshman Democratic lawmaker Parker Griffith of Alabama is switching to the Republican Party
  4. ^ (PDF) Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2011. Retrieved December 23, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ a b "Parker Griffith (R-Ala.)". Washington Post/ Archived from the original on January 25, 2010.
  6. ^ Flashpoint Blog Archived March 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Campbell, Steve. Griffith is running for Cramer's seat Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Huntsville Times, April 10, 2008.
  8. ^ Lowry, Bob. Bud Cramer says he is endorsing Parker Griffith Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Huntsville Times, April 10, 2008
  9. ^ Osborne, Matt (December 23, 2009). "Parker Griffith's Christmas Present To Alabama Democrats". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on December 28, 2009.
  10. ^ U.S. House, Alabama – 2nd District Archived May 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine CQ Politics
  11. ^ 2008 Competitive House Race Chart Archived July 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine The Cook Political Report, August 30, 2008
  12. ^ 2008 House Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, July 19, 2008
  13. ^ "Parker Griffith says he will challenge Mo Brooks again for Congress |". January 12, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  14. ^ "AL District 5 – R Primary Race – Mar 13, 2012". Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ "Parker Griffith to challenge Mo Brooks as an independent candidate for Congress? |". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  17. ^ Steve Doyle (February 4, 2014). "Party-switching former Congressman Parker Griffith mulls run for Alabama governor (updated)". Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  18. ^ NASA versus the deficit (December 19, 2009). "NASA versus the deficit". Space Politics. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  19. ^ "Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives website". November 7, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  20. ^ "BlueDog Coalition". April 27, 2009. Archived from the original on June 15, 2010. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  21. ^ "Democrat in House switches to GOP". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. December 23, 2009. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  22. ^ "Congressman Parker Griffith announces party change". WBRC. December 23, 2009.
  23. ^ Staff report (July 18, 1999). "Congressman Forbes defects from GOP". Associated Press. Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
  24. ^ Mark Murray (January 4, 2010). "Most of Griffith's staff resigns". First Read. Archived from the original on January 5, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  25. ^ David Weigel (January 4, 2010). "Parker Griffith's Staff Exits Stage Left". The Washington Independent. Center for Independent Media. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  26. ^ Aiello, Claire (February 3, 2014). "Sources: Parker Griffith Likely To Run For Governor". WHNT. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  27. ^ Chapman, Beth. "AL Secretary of State". Retrieved October 16, 2012.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bud Cramer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Mo Brooks
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ron Sparks
Democratic nominee for Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Walt Maddox