The Washington Post

William B. Griffith, GWU philosophy professor for 50 years, dies at 77

William B. Griffith, who was a philosophy professor at George Washington University for 50 years, died Feb. 10 at George Washington University Hospital. He was 77.

He had complications from a fall, his wife, Patricia Griffith, said.

Dr. Griffith joined the GWU faculty in 1964 and held an endowed chair as the Elton professor of philosophy and public policy. He devised and taught more than 30 courses during his tenure, with a special emphasis on ethical theory, philosophical aspects of public policy issues, economic justice and logic. He was teaching a graduate course in economic justice at the time of his death.

He was chairman of the philosophy department four times, for a total of more than 20 years, and had been director of the graduate program in philosophy and social policy since 1988.

Dr. Griffith was a leader in the university’s faculty senate and had chaired most of its major committees. He was known for his advocacy of faculty and student rights and also served as a faculty liaison to the university president and board of trustees.

William Byron Griffith was born in Fort Worth and was a 1958 graduate of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. After studying at the University of Louvain in Belgium on a Fulbright scholarship, he received master’s (1962) and doctoral degrees (1963) in philosophy from Yale University. He served in the Army before joining GWU.

Dr. Griffith had dozens of publications in scholarly journals. He was a member of the D.C. selection committee of Fulbright scholars and the American Civil Liberties Union. He lived in Washington’s Shepherd Park neighborhood, where he was a member of a community organization that promoted racial integration and fair housing.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Patricia Browning Griffith, a GWU English department faculty member, of Washington; a daughter, Ellen Flannery Griffith of Gaithersburg, Md.; a sister; and a granddaughter.

— Matt Schudel

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