Quimby Melton Jr., 90: Journalist, historian, legislator loved Griffin

Many young people head for college, with no intention of returning to the place they grew up. Quimby Melton was cut from a different cloth, as he had every intention of returning to Griffin, the place of his youth.

“He was raised to love Griffin,” said his wife, May Wingfield Melton. “He and his father poured their hearts into the town.”

Quimby Melton not only ran the city’s newspaper for 20 years, he also wrote two histories of the area, and he represented the people of Spalding and Fayette counties in the Legislature for more than a dozen years.

“He was quite a man,” said his son-in-law, Walter Geiger, who is the publisher of the Herald-Gazette in Barnesville. “A character and a Southern gentleman.”

Oliver Quimby Melton Jr., 90, of Griffin died Feb. 7 at his home after a period of declining health, days before his birthday. His body was donated to the Emory University School of Medicine. A memorial service was held Sunday at First United Methodist Church, Griffin.

Born in Americus, Melton was reared in Griffin, but graduated from high school in Chattanooga, Tenn. He returned to Georgia for college, graduating from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1942. Before he returned to Griffin, Melton served in the military, and he was awarded a Purple Heart for his service.

When he returned to Griffin in the 1950s, he worked for his father, who was the publisher of the Griffin Daily News. He worked as the editor until 1970, when he became the paper’s publisher, until he sold the paper in 1982, Geiger said.

Prior to taking over his father’s newspaper business, Melton was a member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia from 1955 until 1960, and he served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1959 until 1972.

“He believed in serving the people,” his wife said, “and if there was something wrong, you could be sure Quimby would try to make it right.”

Melton used his position at the paper to voice his opinion on some of the hot-button issues of the day, his wife said.

“When it was time for integration of the schools, Quimby supported it, but there were others in town who would have just as soon shut the schools down,” she said. “He wrote an editorial in the paper saying why closing the schools would be a bad idea. He did that whether it was a popular idea or not.”

Geiger said he admired his father-in-law’s sense of justice and his willingness to speak up when something wasn’t right.

“That’s just one of the things he taught me,” he said. “That and to always stand when a lady walks into a room. I’ll never forget that one.”

In addition to his wife of 69 years, Melton is survived by a son, Quimby Melton III of Griffin; daughters, Mary Melton Forehand of Stone Mountain, Laura Melton Geiger of Barnesville, and Leila Melton Stone of Forsyth; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.