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Obituaries

Lorin Griset, 86; Mayor of Santa Ana in the '60s

April 04, 2006|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

Lorin Griset, a former Santa Ana mayor who helped steer his city through racial tensions in the late 1960s, has died. He was 86.

Griset, an insurance broker and church deacon whose son Dan also later served as mayor, died Friday at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach from complications of a hematoma, family members said.

Born to a Santa Ana dairy farmer, Griset was elected to the City Council in 1967. Two years later, he became mayor as the city plunged into turmoil after the slaying of a Santa Ana police officer by a member of the Black Panthers.

Amid complaints that police looking for suspects were pulling innocent black residents out of their cars at gunpoint, Griset met with black ministers and protesters to quell tensions. He later helped launch the city's Human Relations Commission.

In 1971, he supported a plan to bus schoolchildren to achieve integration.

Not all of the lifelong Republican's views were liberal. When Santa Ana wanted to shut down a beer bar with nude entertainment, Griset accompanied a vice officer to the establishment and later testified in court that the performance he witnessed was obscene.

Before entering politics, Griset, a UCLA graduate, helped found a Christian businessmen's group and served as president of Goodwill Industries.

During World War II, while serving as an Army officer in France, he was captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp in Poland, his son Norman said Sunday. Griset and other POWs were later forced to march to Germany through the snow as their captors fled advancing Russian troops. Griset was freed when the war ended, his son said.

Returning home, he set up an insurance business and -- as part of a promise he made to God as a POW -- embarked on various evangelism projects, such as spearheading an appearance by Billy Graham at Anaheim Stadium in 1969. He also served on the boards of Biola College and Wycliffe International, a missionary group founded by his uncle.

After leaving politics in 1975, Griset remained active in Christian circles, teaching Sunday school and serving as a deacon at Calvary Church of Santa Ana. His oldest son, Dan, was elected to the City Council in 1979 and served as mayor from 1984 to 1986.

A Santa Ana continuation high school scheduled to open later this year will be named the Lorin Griset Academy, relatives said.

Griset is survived by his wife, Dorothy; five of their six children; two sisters; and eight grandchildren. Services are set for Friday at Calvary Church.

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