Portraits from Our Past:
Southwest Virginia Authors
Junius Griffin (1929 - 2005)

Like Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Junius Griffin also had a dream. Born on January 13th, 1929 in the coal camp, Stonega, Griffin attended the two-room Stonega School for the Colored and later Central High School in Appalachia. It was during these school years that Junius Griffin's dream began to form. An avid reader, Griffin enjoyed the classics, especially, Emerson, and reading the Knoxville News Sentinel. It was in the pages of the Sentinel, that Griffin discovered the writings of war correspondent, Ernie Pyle. Griffin greatly admired Pyle's poignant stories and his dream of becoming a writer began to form.

At sixteen, Griffin graduated high school and entered Bluefield College in West Virginia. However, at 17, he enlisted in the Army Air Corp Reserves and then went into the U.S. Marine Corps. During the Korean War, he served as one of only two African American newspaper correspondents working for the U.S. Armed Forces—Stars and Stripes, eventually being named the Far East Bureau Chief. After leaving the military, Griffin became a reporter for the Associated Press and later the New York Times. He and other African American reporters collaborated on a 13 part series on race relations called The Deepening Crisis for which Griffin was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

In the mid-1960's, Junius Griffins dream crossed paths with Martin Luther King Jr.'s. Griffin joined the Southern Leadership Conference as public relations officer and speech writer for King. Griffin spent two years engaged in the civil rights movement, traveling everywhere with King. When King was assassinated, Berry Gordy of Motown Records exercised his copyright authorization to publish recordings of Dr. King's speeches. He brought Griffin to Detroit to head the project which resulted in a Grammy award. Griffin continued with Motown Records until 1982, becoming vice-president of public relations.
Since 1984, Griffin has taken his life experiences and returned to the classroom. In his 50s, he earned his B.S. in English Literature, a M.S. in American Studies and a Ph.D. in English. After teaching in Michigan, Dr. Griffin returned home to Virginia as Emory and Henry College's Scholar in Residence until 2001. Griffin was recently quoted as saying, "I want to inspire some of our young people to look over the ridges. You can always come home again." Dr. Griffin wants others to dream.


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