Clark Griffith: A Tide veteran hopes for a different ending

Biloxi City Councilman Clark Griffith is well-known for being a three-star general who once led Keesler Air Force Base, but the Alabama native also has a connection to Tide football: He was the head cheerleader for Bear Bryant’s first national championship team, back in 1961.

And only a few months ago, just before Veterans Day, he was one of four servicemen honored in a pre-game ceremony before 110,000 fans gathered for the — you guessed it — Alabama-LSU game.

Come Monday Griffith will be hoping for a better outcome than Alabama’s 9-6 OT defeat back in November.

Griffith was one of four male cheerleaders during his sophomore and junior years at Alabama, before graduating in 1963 as a distinguished ROTC student and embarking on a career as an Air Force combat pilot in Vietnam.

“I was actually told to become a cheerleader,” said the Gadsden, Ala., native. “I was a pledge in a fraternity, and they said, ‘Pledge Griffith, they’re having cheerleader tryouts and you’re going to be our entry.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’ve never done that before in my life.’ Damned if I didn’t make it.”

Flash forward to November 2011. Applause and honor aside, Griffith said, it was his grandson, one of three grandchildren and 23 family members at the game, who was most impressed to see Griffith’s image looming large in the stadium. “Granddad,” he said after seeing the huge Jumbotron screens at the stadium, “you were on all four of the big TVs.”

Said Griffith today: “That means a lot to a granddad.”

Griffith, meantime, sees a 14-10 Tide victory on Monday night.