Archive for October 6, 2008

October 6, 1917

October 6, 2008

James Griffin was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1917 and grew up in the city’s largely African American Rondo neighborhood. He was a talented athlete, playing on the all-city basketball team in 1945 and going on to serve as a basketball and football official for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1941 Griffin was hired as a patrolman in the St. Paul Police Department, and over the ensuing 30 years he worked his way up the administrative chain, battling several instances of discrimination along the way. He was made a sergeant in 1955 and a captain in 1970. In 1972 he was appointed a deputy police chief, the first African American to hold that position in St. Paul. He retired from the police force in 1983.
Griffin joined the Navy in 1942 and served overseas during World War II. While in West Virginia following the war, he met and married Edna Smoot and briefly attended West Virginia State College. He later attended college at the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University, and received his bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University (Minn.).
In 1973 Griffin was elected to the St. Paul school board, and served in that capacity until 1990. He also served on the board of directors of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and was active in the NAACP, the American Legion, and many other organizations. Griffin received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Concordia College (St. Paul) in 1988. He died in St. Paul in December 2002.

Thanks to Mr. Gunderson’s 6th grade class at Virginia-Roosevelt Elementary School for the research on October’s Day in History.

Thanks also to Minnesota’s Learn and Serve America Service Learning Program for their help.