Oliver Quimby Melton, Jr., of Griffin died peacefully at his home Feb. 7, 2013 just five days before his 91st birthday. He was a leader in Griffin and the State of Georgia. He was a newspaperman, legislator, historian, World War II veteran, avid horseman and devoted husband and father.
Mr. Melton’s newspaper career began at the age of 11 as a carrier boy at the Griffin Daily News which his father owned. While at the University of Georgia, he was editor of The Red and Black and upon his return from war became editor of the Griffin Daily News. He became its publisher in 1970. He published weekly newspapers in Barnesville, Fayetteville, Forsyth, Jackson, Hampton, McDonough and Zebulon and operated Hometown Press in Barnesville. He edited and published over 16,000 editions of newspapers. He was active in the Georgia Press Association and served as its president in 1955-56.
Melton was a member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia from 1955-1960. He helped Gordon Military College become a unit of the University System and was a member of the Gordon Foundation, serving as its chairman for a decade.
He served seven terms in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1959-1972 representing Spalding and Fayette counties. He chaired the House Education Committee and the Commission to Improve Education. He served six years as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Under his leadership, every bill brought before it to increase taxes was defeated.
He attended Griffin schools and graduated in 1939 from Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the fall of 1939, he entered the University of Georgia and graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1942. At Georgia he was a member of the Gridiron Secret Society and the Kappa Alpha Order.
Immediately following college he attended the Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas, graduated and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He served in the mechanized cavalry in the United States, Australian New Guinea, Dutch New Guinea and Luzon in the Philippine Islands. He landed on Luzon in an early wave of the D-Day liberation of the Philippines, was wounded by Japanese machine gun fire several weeks later and awarded a Purple Heart.
His younger brother and only sibling, Frederick Davenport Melton, also served in the mechanized cavalry and was killed by a sniper in Germany while attending to his wounded men.
An acknowledged historian, Melton did extensive research on Griffin. Among the books he published were two volumes, the History of Griffin, which include information about Griffin's founder, Gen. Lewis Lawrence Griffin. Melton was named the first symbolic General Griffin in 1983, now an annual designation.
He was Georgia’s Citizen of the Year in 1955 and the Griffin Exchange Club’s Man of the Year in 1958. He earned his law degree at night from The Woodrow Wilson College of Law in 1961, passed the bar examination on his first attempt and was licensed to practice law in any court in Georgia.
Joining at 12, he was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Griffin and was a member and teacher of the Mens’ Bible Class. He was a member of Scout Troop Two and earned the rank of Eagle Scout at 15. He was a member of the Griffin and Barnesville Rotary clubs, Griffin's Tuesday Morning Coffee Club and a former director of the Bank of Griffin. He was a charter member of the Commerce Club in Atlanta and the Griffin Country Club, a member of Meridian Sun Lodge #26 F&AM and the Elks and Moose lodges of Griffin.
A lifelong horseman, he received ROTC Cavalry training at the University of Georgia. He specialized in hunters and jumpers which he broke and schooled. He co-founded Tri County Hounds which rode to hounds in the English manner in Spalding, Pike, and Lamar counties in the 1960s. Mr. Melton was Master of Foxhounds and taught riders the etiquette, customs and discipline of the hunt which he led in his scarlet coat.
A native of Americus, he was the son of Oliver Quimby Melton and Mary Ella Davenport Melton. His paternal grandfather, Wightman Fletcher Melton, Ph.D., was Poet Laureate of Georgia.
Oliver Quimby Melton Jr. is survived by his wife of 69 years, May Wingfield Melton of Griffin; a son, Quimby Melton, III, Ed.D., (Louisa) of Griffin; three daughters, Mary Melton Forehand (James) of Stone Mountain, Laura Melton Geiger (Walter) of Barnesville and Leila Melton Stone (Edward) of Forsyth; seven grandchildren, Quimby Melton, IV, Ph.D., (Samantha) of Huntington Beach, CA, Isaac Melton (Shelly) of Griffin, Marianne Forehand DeVito (Steven) of Atlanta, Carol Forehand of Atlanta, Robert Stone of Macon, May Melton Geiger and Olivia Lanier Geiger, both of Bamesville; two great-grandsons, Isaac Melton, Jr., and Asher Melton, both of Griffin; a Goddaughter, Alice Lindsey Blake (Andrew) of Griffin; and a Godson, Lee Thomas (Tina) of Griffin.
His body was donated to Emory University School of Medicine for research.
Visitation is Saturday, Feb. 9 from 3-5 p.m. at the Melton home at 1940 South 6th Street, Griffin or Sunday, Feb. 10 from 2-3 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of First United Methodist Church in Griffin with a memorial service following at 3 p.m. in the church sanctuary.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the First United Methodist Church, 1401 Maple Drive, Griffin, Ga. 30224 or the Men's Bible Class of the church.