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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dr. Junius Griffin: From the Mountains to the Sea

Born on January 13th, 1929 in a coal camp of Stonega, Virginia, Junius Griffin attended the two-room Stonega School for the Colored and later Central High School in Appalachia.

At 16, 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 Griffin crossed paths with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Griffin joined the Southern Leadership Conference as public relations officer and speech writer for Dr. 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 that resulted in a Grammy award.

Gordy named Griffin as Director of Public Relations with Motown Records in Detroit until 1982, becoming vice-president of public relations, eventually moving to Los Angeles, where the music industry had concentrated. 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.