Eddie Griffin has a history not unlike many black men of his generation. In 1965, he was one of a handful of black students at what was then Arlington State College who set out to force the administration to take down the Confederate flag that had flown over the campus alongside the Texas flag since the turn of the century. He also helped found the college’s chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Later, drafted for Vietnam but rejected by the draft board, Griffin joined the Black Panther Party’s underground militant movement. He eventually robbed a bank for the cause, was caught and convicted, and spent 12 years in prison.
After prison, the Fort Worth native and graduate of I. M. Terrell High School came home and got a job with McDonald & Associates engineering firm. Six years later he was chief operating officer of the company, said owner Kenneth McDonald. Griffin is now retired, volunteers in the community and works as a mentor for young black entrepreneurs. But in all that time, he never forgot his first white teacher, Allan Saxe, and the role Saxe played in the fall of 1965 “as an advocate of black students’ rights and dignity.”
“We were the first black students at Arlington State College. Dr. Saxe was our government teacher, and he transformed our college experience by teaching us how to change our society,” Griffin said. Black students from that time remember Saxe “as the young college professor who joined us in a ‘Rally ’Round the Flagpole’ protest to help bring down the Confederate flag and replace it with the U.S. flag, the symbol, to us, of freedom.” When a group of white students threatened to beat up the slightly built Saxe, the black students came to his aid, Griffin remembered, “by surrounding him with our bodies.”
Saxe remembers the time as “very tumultuous.” Arlington State College “had a very Deep South motif and emblems, [and] African American students were bothered by the symbols, but it went deeper,” he said. “There were calls for black studies, more [minority] student recruitment, staff, and faculty.” There were some students and faculty members like Saxe who sided with the black students, but they were in the minority, and confrontations were frequent. In addition to being threatened, Saxe was verbally attacked by some faculty members. “I was much more rebellious than now,” he said. “It was a quite a heated moment in time.”
The Confederate flag came down, Saxe said, and UTA eventually adopted new symbols and became a model of minority recruitment and responsiveness. “But it all started 40 years ago.” Fort Worth Weekly
Saturday, April 7, 2007
This Is Eddie Griffin
According to Bettie Brink, of the Fort Worth (TX) Weekly,