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Wayne Grisham dies at 88; two-term GOP member of Congress

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Wayne Grisham, a two-term Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from La Mirada who later served in the state Assembly, has died. He was 88.

Grisham died Wednesday at Dove House, a hospice in Whittier, of respiratory failure stemming from complications from pneumonia, said his daughter, Kellie Campbell.

Grisham had been a La Mirada city councilman and mayor when he was elected in 1978 to represent the 33rd Congressional District.

"I think of myself as an average guy, and I think it was the average guy who elected me," he told The Times after defeating Democrat Dennis Kazarian. "I got the votes of people 40 to 55 in particular, people who own their own homes and have lived in the district for some time."

The district included La Mirada, Whittier, Downey, Norwalk, Cerritos, Santa Fe Springs, Rowland Heights, Diamond Bar and parts of the City of Industry, Pomona and Walnut. Grisham was reelected in 1980 but lost in 1982 after redistricting. He was defeated by Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) in the Republican primary.

"He was the model of civility," Dreier told The Times on Sunday. He said that although they were forced to run against each other because of redistricting, Grisham was "a friend and colleague…he was a true gentleman. We remained friends throughout the campaign and after."

Grisham once described himself to a Times reporter as a "conservative do-gooder."

Wayne Richard Grisham was born Jan. 10, 1923, in Lamar, Colo. He was the second of three sons born to Opal and Merle Grisham. The family moved to Long Beach when he was an infant, and he graduated from Jordan High School in 1940.

Grisham served as a fighter pilot during World War II and received a Purple Heart. His plane was shot down over Germany, and he suffered head wounds and a broken back. He spent several days in a German hospital before U.S. troops captured the hospital.

After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Whittier College in 1949 and taught elementary school in Long Beach before changing careers. He told The Times in 1987 that the prospect of a higher income lured him into real estate. He opened Wayne Grisham Realty in the mid-1950s.

Millie Grisham said her husband was "kind of a natural leader" who became well-known in La Mirada through his real estate company. "His for-sale signs were all over La Mirada," she said.

He was elected to the City Council in 1970 and served eight years.

Grisham became director of the Peace Corps in Kenya in 1983 before returning to politics. He was elected to the Assembly in 1984. He tried unsuccessfully to move to the state Senate in a special election in 1987 and then lost a reelection bid to the Assembly in 1988.

In addition to his wife of 66 years and daughter, Grisham is survived by daughter Cathy Brooks and son Randy Grisham of La Mirada; and five grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Morningstar Christian Chapel, 16241 Leffingwell Road, Whittier.

keith.thursby@latimes.com

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