Jackie Wayne ‘JW’ Griffith, beloved husband and devoted father, was born June 7th, 1952, and passed away October 18th, 2021. Although he lived on the East coast, primarily in New Jersey and for the last 21 years in Virginia, his heart remained in Abilene, Texas, where he grew up and where he called home. After serving in Vietnam for 3 years, Jackie came back to Texas and was very proud to attend and graduate from Elkins Institute with his First Class Radiotelephone license. Starting on the air and in production for several Abilene radio and TV stations, Jackie had an extraordinary career as a technical director (TD) in television, becoming one of the top TD’s in the United States.
From Abilene he was hired at CNN, where he personally signed the network on the air, June 21st, 1980. He started such shows as Moneyline, the Freeman Report and News Watch and taught CNN college. Never wanting to stay in one place, he became a combat newscameraman and stringer covering Warsaw in 1980, the war in El Salvador & Nicaragua 1980-81 (appearing in an article in TV Guide), Guatemala, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Belize. It was his footage that captured the shooting of Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in Italy. Wanting to “live past his 30’s” Jackie came back stateside and began working at all the major production houses. His resume spanned every high profile award show, concert, parade, music festival and talk show. Highlights: Maury Povich, Ricki Lake, Geraldo, Montel, soap operas, Macy’s Day Parade, Regis Philbin, Dr. Ruth, Paul McCartney World Tour, Sessions at West 54th St., VH-1 Hard Rock Live, CNN Heroes, CMA’s, VMA’s, Nashville Star, A&E’s Live By Request, Farm Aid, Newport Jazz Festival, Sturgis and more. He was nominated for Emmy’s for his technical direction from 1992-96.
As a drummer, music guided the last part of his career and he focused solely on televised concerts: Rush in Rio, Garth Brooks, Dave Mathews in Central Park, Decades Rock Concert Series in Atlantic City including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvis Costello & Bonnie Raitt, Rock n Roll Hall of fame induction ceremonies, and countless others.
The stories, adventures and struggles he experienced and overcame were endless. His life was a defiance of all clichés. He was a Jack(ie) of all trades AND a master of just as many. He could fix, build and repurpose anything; whatever he didn’t know, he learned. Always wanting to be underestimated, he often referred to himself as a dumb old country boy, but he knew more stuff about more things than anyone. You knew he was in a good mood if he was joking and never went anywhere directly without stopping for a conversation or to help someone along the way, maddening and endearing to those along for the ride.
More than the pride he took in rising to the top of his profession, rivaling even his relationship to God, was his role as a father; he loved his three children deeply. It was literally and spiritually what got him up in the morning. Retired for the last 13 years, Jackie devoted his time to his family. He worked on restoring old cars with his youngest son Donovan, and with his knowledge of music, mentored him in drums, guitar and sound. Whenever he was asked what he wanted for a birthday or a holiday, he always said, “for us all to be together.”
He is preceded in death by his mother, Mary Kathrine ‘Kitty’ Griffith and his father, Johnnie W. Griffith. He is survived by his wife, Jena Savadsky Griffith, daughter Jaimie Anderson, son, Johnny Griffith and son, Donovan ‘Donnie’ Griffith. He gave the best hugs. He was our protector and warrior. May he protect us in death as he did so in life.