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Written By Lawrence Wilkes
Bobby Griffin (BG) is a native of Bristol, Virginia, and a longtime supporter of the Hour of Power. As a young child, Bobby struggled in school, and in the 9th grade would eventually drop out. Today, Bobby is president of several companies, and serves on the Board of Directors of colleges and universities. He has created several successful companies, including creating the paper floor mat and revitalizing coin operated car washes. Bobby tells his story in his book, The Search, which is available in bookstores everywhere. Lawrence Wilkes (LW) will interview Bobby.
LW: Today it is my pleasure to introduce to you Mr. Bobby Griffin. He's a native of Bristol, Virginia, and a longtime supporter of the Hour of Power. Bobby's story really began when he was just a young boy. He struggled in school, even in the first grade. He had a learning disability but in those days, people just called him dumb. When he was in ninth grade, his teacher at that point came to him and said, "Bobby, why don't you just go home. You will never amount to anything and you're just taking up a seat which someone else could use." As he walked out of the class, everyone was laughing at him, and the memories of that day still linger with Bobby.
Today, Bobby is president of several companies and serves on the board of directors of colleges and universities. In 1979, Bobby Griffin was named ‘Personality of the South.' Please welcome with me, Bobby Griffin.
BG: Good morning.
LW: Well Bobby, we're just thrilled to have you here. You wrote a little book called The Search. Why did you write this book?
BG: After returning from Korea in 1954, and later finding my houseboy that helped save my life, I was invited to speak in a lot of churches and clubs, and after each service, people would come up and say ‘oh I wish my daddy could have heard that.' ‘I wish my brother could have heard it.' ‘I wish my uncle could have heard it,' as they were in the Korean War. ‘Why don't you write a book and tell your story?' So I did.
LW: Now you're an inventor of the paper mats on the floor of cars.
LW: I mean how simple is that? Tell us about that.
BG: Well, I was running a little service station in Bristol, Virginia and my wife and I won a trip to Sarasota, Florida. Never did we realize this trip would change our life. We had very little money to go on, an old car to go down there in. We were walking across a used car lot in Sarasota, Florida. I started to get in a car, I believe it was '59 Mercury, and a salesman called out, ‘wait just a minute, you've got sand on your feet,' and he put some pieces of cardboard on the floor. And an idea struck me.
I came back to Bristol, Virginia, and I began to make disposable floor mats for automobiles. It was tough. I had no money. I had a little old service station. But I conceived the idea of putting bank advertising on them. I applied for a patent but the patent office said you can't get a patent on this. But in 1962, I sold my service station and I stepped out on faith to promote my new invention. I applied for two patents on it and a few years later, they issued me two patents. I got in a little Volkswagen and I traveled around America promoting my new invention. No education, no ability, never sold anything, but God began to bless it and today, we sell millions of those.
And then, I was out in Oklahoma and I ran across a little company that was making coin operated car washes and it was in bankruptcy. So I took the company to Bristol and started working it in a little ten by ten room. I had one employee (who was 80 years old) and we built that into a multimillion dollar business.
BG: I sold thousands of them. I would sell floor mats in the daytime, and then I'd sell car washes at night in a motel room working 18 hours a day. But it was worth it and we got into other businesses. We're still into new ventures. In fact my family and I work together in these businesses.
LW: And all you had was a ninth grade education.
BG: That's right, a ninth grade education.
LW: What a story that is; a story of faith.
BG: A story of faith.
LW: I want to go back to Korea. You were in the war and you were wounded. I know that you had a houseboy, a Korean boy that helped you. Tell us about Butch.
BG: While I was operating the service station, the best thing that ever happened to me was when I met a fine Christian girl. We were married but I was going through some problems. On Christmas night, 1958, she invited me to go to the rescue mission where she was playing the piano.
That night at the rescue mission, a businessman was speaking. God had placed a businessman there and he was telling a bunch of drunks and bums and dope addicts about the love of God. And I remember him saying ‘you don't have to be the way you are. You can be different. You can be what you want to be if you give your life to Christ.' He said ‘if you'll simply open up your heart and invite Jesus to come in, you'll become a Christian.' I was so impressed with this man. It was on Christmas night, 1958, it was cold, and here he had come to the rescue mission. My thought: I'd like to be a man like that.
That night, I began to think back over what the man had said and I said ‘Lord, I don't want to go through life like this. I want to be a Christian.' And that night, I invited Jesus Christ to come into my life and I became a Christian. And I began to pray, ‘God, more than anything in the world I want to be a successful businessman. I want to make a lot of money. And God, if You'll help me to be what I want to be, I'll give it back to You.' And that's when a few months later, I got the idea of the floor mats, and then these other businesses. And we have just been ultra, ultra successful.
LW: And you've formed a partnership with God.
BG: I formed a partnership with God and you cannot outdo God.
LW: That's right. Now Bobby, I read a section in the book that just grasped my heart. When you went back to Korea, you found the houseboy after 21 years, and that was something of a miracle. He wanted to know something about Christianity and he made a decision for Christ. Isn't that terrific?
BG: Isn't that something? After I became successful, I was attending the Christian businessman convention in Mobile, Alabama, and a fellow by the name of Billy Kim spoke, a Korean fellow, very famous.
And he talked about how he was a houseboy in Korea during the Korean War, and a soldier boy from Virginia invited him to come to America. This soldier boy lived up in the mountains there, but he put Billy through school. Billy graduated at the top of his class, and he went back to Korea to become a missionary to his people.
After the service that night, I went up and I put my arm around him and I said ‘Billy, I was taken by your story. I had a houseboy in Korea who helped save my life. I would love to go back and tell him I'm a Christian because he's only seen the very worst of an American soldier.' He put his arm around me and he said ‘Bobby, if you'll come back, I'll help you find him.'
Two years went by. I was afraid to go back because I had returned home with a lot of problems. But in 1974, I went back to Korea in search of him. Here I was trying to find one little boy out of six and a half million people and the chances of finding this boy was twenty million to one. I was told I could never find him because there were thousands of people.
It's a long story, but Butch came to my hotel after an article came out in the paper. He came to the floor where I was staying and he was walking down the hall, and when we saw each other, he grabbed me and he hugged me and he laid his head on my chest, ‘Sgt. Griffin.' And there we were together again after 21 years.
LW: What a story.
BG: I went to his little home. He lived in a little ten by ten room. He was a taxi driver. And in his home that morning, the interpreter that I had with me said, ‘Butch wants to know why you came to find him.' And I said ‘I'm a Christian. I wanted him to know about this.' I witnessed to him, and he too became a Christian.
BG: I came back to America never expecting to go back, but God began to open doors and I began to go back couple times a year. In fact I've spoken at just about all the army bases. It was a miracle to be able to find that boy, but God does miracles.
LW: He does, absolutely. What an incredible story. We have a Korean service here on the campus at 3 o'clock on Sunday's and we also have students in the seminary here from Korea, so that's a wonderful ministry.
BG: My wife and I set up a foundation to help, at that time, Korean kids through college here in America. She's a musician and they would come over and she'd teach them music. We would help them through college and they lived with us. It's been a great ministry.
LW: Oh that's wonderful. Now you've got four grandchildren and two of the grandsons are here, Logan and Taylor. They're seniors at King College University, and we're thrilled they could be here today.
Well Bobby, we're just so glad to have you here today. I've read through this book. It doesn't take very long at all, and it's absolutely wonderful and soul searching.
Thank you very much for coming and being our guest today. God bless you, and I trust that your trip here will be a wonderful blessing to you.
BG: I want to close by saying I have watched the Hour of Power every Saturday night at 9 o'clock for 20 years. Never in a hundred years did I ever think I would be standing in this pulpit, but that's the way God works.
LW: That's right.
BG: The more faith we have in Him, the more we trust Him, the more He uses us.
LW: That's true.
BG: That's the reason He saved us.
LW: Yes. Absolutely.
BG: Thank you.
LW: Great word. God bless you, brother.
BG: Thank you.
LW: Thank you. Bobby's book is called The Search and it is available on Amazon.com or by calling Bobby directly at 276-466-8080.