Jimmy Griffin, one of St. Paul's finest
*Jimmy Griffin was born on this date in 1917. He was an African American police officer and activist.
James Stafford Griffin was from St. Paul, Minnesota. He was raised in Rondo, the cities largely Black neighborhood. He was the son of William Griffin and Loretta Waters Griffin who were from Paris, Kentucky. His father was a waiter on a railroad dining car. Young Griffin was kicked off the basketball team at Central High School because of poor grades, but he graduated and attended college for two years in West Virginia, where he met his wife, Edna. He returned to St. Paul, joined their police department in 1941, and retired in 1983.
While on the St. Paul police force, he advanced from beat cop to deputy chief. He was the city's first Black sergeant in 1955, the first Black captain in 1970 and, in 1972, the first to make deputy chief — but he had to sue the city to get that job, despite a top score on the examination. In the 1950s and '60s, Griffin also traveled throughout Minnesota refereeing small-college and high school football and basketball games. He was the first Black person seen in some towns. He was always conscious of the presence of racism in Minnesota, Griffin said when he was interviewed in recent years. He chose to fight it mostly by trying to bridge differences, sometimes irritating people who had less patience.
Griffin and his wife established a scholarship in his daughter Vianne's name at Central, and he shared a gift for people who contributed to the scholarship fund: a copy of his recently published autobiography, "Jimmy Griffin: A Son of Rondo." He had three daughters and 5 grandchildren. Jimmy Griffin died on November 23, 2002 in St. Paul.
Jimmy Griffin: A Son of Rondo, a memoir
With Kwame McDonald
Ramsey County Historical Society
Today in American History