Visitation is Saturday, Feb. 9 from 3-5 p.m. at the Melton home at 1940 S. 6th St., 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.
Melton was the longtime editor and publisher of the Griffin Daily News, which his father purchased on Feb. 1, 1925.
He also published weekly newspapers in Barnesville, Zebulon, Fayetteville, McDonough, Forsyth, Hampton and Jackson and operated a printing facility in Barnesville. He edited and published more than 16,000 newspaper editions.
He was active in the Georgia Press Association and served as its president in 1955-56.
Melton served 14 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, representing Spalding and Fayette counties. He chaired both the House Education and Ways and Means committees. No legislation raising taxes passed committee under his six-year leadership.
He was the Griffin Exchange Club’s Man of the Year in 1958 and Georgia’s Citizen of the Year in 1955.
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, an annual designation.
An advocate for civil rights, Melton won the Georgia Press Association’s most fearless editorial award for one he wrote in opposition of the formation in Griffin of a white supremacist group. This led to a resolution in the Georgia Legislature to abolish the paper “as a public nuisance.” The resolution failed to pass, and the organization failed to form.
In the 1960s, a young black woman telephoned him one night and said crosses were being burned from time to time in her section of Griffin and frightening her baby so that it could not sleep. He wrote and published an editorial saying that cross burnings should not be allowed and children should not be frightened by such. A few nights later, a cross was burned in his own yard.
When segregationists sought to close Georgia’s schools rather than integrate them, Melton successfully fought to keep them open.
Melton attended Griffin schools and graduated from Baylor School in Chattanooga. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia. He later attended Woodrow Wilson College of Law at night, earned his law degree and passed the bar examination on his first attempt.
Immediately after graduating from UGA, he attended the Army Cavalry School at Ft. Riley, Kan., where he was commissioned a second lieutenant. Melton served with the mechanized cavalry in World War II, seeing action in New Guinea and at the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines. He landed early on during the invasion of Luzon and was wounded several weeks later. He was awarded the 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.
He served as a member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia from 1955-60. 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.
His body was donated to Emory University School of Medicine for research.
In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to First United Methodist Church of Griffin and its Men’s Bible Class.