Feature: Wednesday, March 22, 2006
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UTA Prof. Allan Saxe and Griffin first met during protests around the flagpole on campus where the Confederate flag waved until 1968.
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Brooks: Griffin was ‘a very serious student, a math whiz.’
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Washington: Griffin wants kids ‘to stop and think about the other side of the equation.’
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Griffin teaches Sunday school at the Everman Church of Christ.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Mean Streets to Peace

Eddie Griffin wants a future for kids that’s a little less colorful than his past.

By DAN MCGRAW

Eddie Griffin is doing what he always does, questioning and analyzing, digging down to the core of an issue in odd ways, but always with a take that goes to the core of who he is. Sitting across from him at an Evans Avenue restaurant is a man who has been in prison and has fallen on some hard times. Griffin has been there before. He’s a self-described O.G. (Old Gangster), a former Black Panther who three decades ago participated in one of Fort Worth’s most famous crimes, a guy who went to prison and came out a different and better man.

But Curtis Wilbert isn’t hearing what he wants from the old-school guy. He was convicted of cocaine possession in the ’90s, served more than three years, and had it overturned because of bad lawyering, but the drug felony keeps following him around. Can’t get a job, can’t pay his mortgage, looking at possible jail time because he’s behind on child support. So Wilbert wants to use his experience from prison and elsewhere to set up a nonprofit group to help ex-cons return to a more healthy life after prison — job training, support systems, new skills.

Griffin is all for that, and he does some of that work himself. But he is honest with this young Dallas guy: Getting grants for that work is next to impossible, and “that’s volunteer work, and you need to get a job for your child support and keep out of jail. You’re holding on to a rope, but the rope isn’t even there any more.” There’s no “I feel sorry for you” going on here.

Wilbert tries again. “I get turned down for jobs when they find out about my prison time, but then I go to a neighborhood I know, and the drug dealers say they can put me to work,” he says with a pained look on his face.

“You’ll surely go back to jail,” Griffin says with a stare. “That’s fatalistic thinking. You think money is everything to your problem? If you go back to prison, what are you going to do, just lay back in there and die? What you are telling me is you have fatalistic thinking. You’ve lost your faith.”

“Faith in what?” Wilbert asks.

“Faith in God,” Griffin responds, as he eats his peach cobbler.

Curtis Wilbert makes a face. He goes into a diatribe about how churches are full of hypocrites, pastors only interested in money in the basket, and how when he has looked to churches for help he was ignored. “Pastors have become pimps and only care about the dollars,” he says.

Griffin laughs loudly. “Churches aren’t responsible for paying mortgages. Churches are not there to only help poor people. But the church may help you find out what is inside you. You might find some fire. You might find out how to think differently. You might find the problem and then be inspired to find the solution.”

The meeting ends, and as usual, Griffin follows up with an e-mail to Wilbert a few days later. “The solution is more than a matter of silver and gold. ... This struggle is about being a man, about dignity and honor stolen from you, and about your children. But there are some realizations you must come to grips with,” he writes. “This is not Ice Cream World. ... You must remember that you are on Mission Impossible. My refuge is in the Lord who delivered me out of prison. Him I know.”

One might not expect Eddie Griffin to be strolling down this path. This is a man who worked in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, kidnapped two women during a bank robbery in 1972, flirted with being a black Muslim while in prison — a man who declared himself a political prisoner because of his Black Panther affiliation. So you might expect Griffin to feel sorry for those who think racism and unfair incarceration are to blame for African-Americans’ woes.

But Griffin isn’t like that. His views of racial issues and the economic/social strata are based on his unique past. He left the free world during a time of racial tension and segregation and came back when most thought America was integrated. He missed the baby steps, missed the so-called political process, and wasn’t around as the Great Society went from a theoretical plan into the reality of Stop Six.

“When I got out of prison, I didn’t even know what a microwave was and put a Coke can in there one time,” Griffin says. “So when people told me that blacks and the poor were making strides in America, I looked around, and some things were about the same as before. Government programs weren’t really helping, and the rich white folks weren’t investing in our communities. So I started studying things as if I hadn’t even been here before. And I realized one very important lesson. If you think the system is oppressing you, then learn about that system. Learn how to make changes from within and not just by throwing stones from the outside. Because the system won’t change unless you get it inside your head.”

Eddie Griffin writes a lot — mostly e-mails, long essays sent out to about 400 political and business leaders locally and nationally. But his views can be all over the map. He champions the rights of the poor, yet “homeless street people don’t like me. I tell them ‘get out of my way, brain-dead.’” He sees the younger, hip-hop generation as a group that exploits “materialism, drugs, sexual immorality, and thrill seekers.” Yet at the same time, he writes about Homeland Security preying on young black culture, arresting gang members as potential terrorists. “Black helmet and jackboot storm troopers took homeboy off the street,” Griffin writes. “It was just a matter of time before the government’s largest snoop agency and police force would come down on the low-lifer on the street who calls himself a ‘gangsta’.”

He protested the Confederate flag flying at Arlington State College (the predecessor of University of Texas at Arlington) in the mid-’60s but now thinks African-Americans should learn more about the Confederacy and the Civil War. “I’m not offended by the Confederate flag,” he says. “It is part of black history, especially in Texas.”

Griffin doesn’t see any of this as contradictory. “To understand my views, you have to recognize that I come from a culture that has been oppressed in some ways ever since we were first brought to this country as slaves,” he says. “That is not arguable. So I think of issues differently. Nothing is so simple. When blacks were rioting after the [Martin Luther] King assassination, whites were just so upset that we would burn down our own neighborhoods. But with our background, we saw it as destroying crummy old buildings run by slum landlords with a hope that things might be rebuilt better. The mistake was not in the reasoning, but the results never happened.”

“So do I think hip-hop music has some damaging elements? Yes. But what it is is young people expressing themselves against a culture they don’t like. And that is always a good thing. I love it when kids tell us about their world and tell us what they think. Because when we do that we get dialogue. And they will listen to old school. And I’m the old-school gangster.”

So how did the old-school gangster who’s turning 60 this year go from being one of the top students at I.M. Terrell High School to a bank robber and hostage-taker? It is complicated, based upon the turbulent ’60s and ’70s, times of radical black activism and hiding underground from the feds. Some of it makes little sense the way Griffin tells it, but one has to remember that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover once called the Black Panthers the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” Like Muslims being held at Guantanamo Bay without charges, Griffin says, black militants were facing the same “government Gestapo” in the ’60s and ’70s.

Go back to the Fort Worth Griffin grew up in. He was born in 1946 to a father who worked in a packing plant and a mother who was a domestic maid for white folks, into a black Fort Worth community that was segregated, but not a poor ghetto.

“We grew up segregated, but in many ways our community was fully self-contained,” said Tarrant County Commissioner Roy C. Brooks, who has known Griffin since grade school. “We had businesses and lawyers and doctors who lived in our community — because that was the only place they could live — and we had opportunities if we knew the boundaries. Our schools were first-rate because the teachers by and large had advanced degrees, and their only opportunity to teach was at the segregated schools of the day. There was leadership we could see around us.”

“We couldn’t go downtown to see a movie, but we had movie theaters in our neighborhood,” he continued. “It was a cocoon in many ways, but in terms of segregated deprivation, we did not feel it so much.”

Brooks described Griffin as a “very serious student, a math whiz, who was quiet most of the time.” After high school, in 1964, Griffin enrolled at Arlington State College and at first didn’t think the Confederate flag that flew on campus was a big deal. But he soon saw one of his professors, Allan Saxe, and his fraternity president, Ernest McMillan, marching together around the flagpole.

“I wasn’t too politically conscious then, but seeing my professor and a guy I admired out there made an impression on me,” Griffin said. “It was the first time I ever held hands with white people. It soon turned into an issue that galvanized us to question a lot of things. We were having roundtable discussions about civil rights and ... the right to vote and the Vietnam War. A lot of it was drunken rhetoric because we were all so young, but those events changed a lot of people.”

Saxe, still at UT-Arlington, remembers Griffin as a “very serious student.” And if Griffin was new to holding hands with white folks, Saxe was equally new to what he was learning. “There was just so much racial tension. I came from Oklahoma and had some ideas about racial discrimination, but nothing like this. What Eddie and the other African-American students were able to do was give me a different perspective on how they lived their lives. It changed me so much. He was so articulate and thoughtful.”

Saxe said he was called a “nigger-lover” many times by white students. Griffin said he began to notice more about how the 200 to 300 blacks on a 8,000-student campus were treated, and it opened his mind to black civil rights. “During the ‘Old South Week,’ the white students were dressing up in Confederate uniforms and parading around campus,” Griffin said. “We related it to being like a Klan rally.”

Don Babers, deputy regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fort Worth office, was going to Arlington State College during the turbulent times and remembers Griffin. “There was absolute tension,” Babers said. “The flag was just mind-boggling to me. There was a lot of prejudice going on, and it was very open. Some were protesting day and night, and Eddie was one of those guys.”

Those were the early days of campus protests supporting civil rights and opposing the Vietnam War. The Black Panther Party wasn’t much of a factor yet, and the protests were non-violent, led by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black United Front (BUF). But the protest over the flag was getting national attention, and Black Panther leaders Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown came to Arlington to take part in 1967.

The flag eventually came down in 1968, but Griffin wasn’t there to see it. The story of why he wasn’t there is so bizarre that’s it’s hard to believe. It’s tough finding confirmation for some of the events he recounts. But the strangest parts, probably, are the ones that are backed up by old newspaper stories, records, and other recollections that show Griffin turning from serious student to bank robber.

He was drafted into the military in 1966 and served in the U.S. and Germany. Griffin said he was discharged in 1967 because his superiors said he was undermining morale. “We wore our Afros, and the officers thought of us as black militants,” Griffin said. “I was on the verge of being court-martialed, but they just decided to get rid of me instead.”

For the next year or so, he did some protesting with BUF, but as Griffin put it, “the BUF was into playing the tom-toms in parks and wearing dashikis. They were into more of a black culture nationalism, not what the Black Panthers were doing.”

But in 1968, after the MLK assassination, things changed. The non-violent approach was dropped by many, in favor of the now-growing Black Panther movement, and Griffin bought a 9mm handgun. “There were riots in all these cities around the country, and we all thought there was really going to be a race war,” Griffin said. “The days of non-violent protests were pretty much over.”

Then the trouble started. Griffin’s brother borrowed his car and used his gun in a robbery. Griffin was charged with aiding and abetting, found guilty, and given 10 years probation. In 1970, Griffin brought his gun to a bar, he said, and he wounded a friend during an argument. He got out on bail. It is hard to believe the courts would allow a man on probation out on a cheap bond, but, Griffin said, “it was just one black guy shooting another black guy, and Fort Worth didn’t seem to care too much about those crimes back then.”

And here is where the story gets really bizarre. Facing trial on the shooting and wanting to go underground with a new identity, Griffin said he re-enlisted in the military using his cousin Jerry Joe Hamilton’s name and identification. “That was the craziest idea I ever came up with, and my cousin was crazy to allow me to do it,” he said with a laugh. “But the way I figured it, no one was enlisting, so they would bring me in, I would get a new identity, and could go live among the communes in California.”

Griffin indeed went AWOL after basic training in California but, within a few months, got picked up by the FBI. The feds turned him over to the military police, according to Griffin, and he was sent back to Texas to the Fort Hood stockade. Two months later, Griffin said, he ripped off a sewn-on tag on his uniform identifying him as a prisoner and then walked out. Calls to the Fort Hood base about escapes during that time period were not returned to Fort Worth Weekly.

Griffin said a lot of that time is now a blur to him. But whether you believe the tale or not, it was a time when there were bizarre incidents involving law enforcement and black militants that are still hard to pin down. Griffin knew he was a wanted man on numerous fronts. He came back to Fort Worth an underground militant fugitive, hiding in safe houses. The problem, he said, was that the safe houses were hardly safe, from FBI infiltrators or white organized crime figures.

The FBI was working with local white organized crime to find the black militants, Griffin said. “A guy with the Dixie Mafia came up to me and showed me a list of black snitches who were working with the FBI and local police,” he said. “We didn’t know if the names were right, but the threat was there. The choice was either cooperate with them and work on their crimes [or] get your name being put in the hands of the black underground as a snitch or get turned in to the feds or police.”

That, he said, is how he turned into a bank robber. And on March 9, 1972, those who knew the serious student from I. M. Terrell were suddenly shocked by what they saw on the news.

Griffin and three others walked into University State Bank at 2712 W. Berry St. near TCU at noon with guns drawn — at about the same time, as luck would have it, that several Fort Worth police officers showed up to do some banking. With their chance of evading police notice even briefly thus gone, the robbers took two women bank employees hostage and threatened to kill them if they weren’t allowed to leave. The escape car was waiting, and Griffin and the others took off with their loot in a paper bag.

They drove to the Stop Six neighborhood with cops chasing, abandoned their car, and hid between some houses. One officer got out of his car to hunt for them but left the keys inside. Griffin and two of the robbers forced the hostages into the police vehicle and drove off.

What happened next made the already-dramatic robbery into one of the most famous crimes in Fort Worth history. The robbers used the car’s radio to communicate directly with police, demanding that the roads be cleared for them and that police and news media stay away. The entire chase was carried live on tv and radio.

Griffin and the others originally wanted to go to Oklahoma. “I figured I was a dead man and wouldn’t come out of it one way or another.” Griffin said. “But we didn’t want to kill these women. We kept trying to find ways to release them and then escape in some way. But it took about three hours.”

The driver tried to turn on the siren to get cars out of the way, but instead turned on the car’s flashing lights and couldn’t turn them off. They drove out into northeast Tarrant County, decided that Oklahoma was a bad idea, and came back toward downtown.

Fort Worth Press photographer Gene Gordon didn’t have a scanner in his car, but he drove to the Cobb Park area because his editors had heard that was where the robbers might be heading. Police ordered all media and civilians out of the area, but Gordon, in his 1970 gold Malibu, was trapped, and the robbers’ car was approaching.

“Carefully, I put my camera on the dashboard, so they could see I was a cameraman and not a policeman,” Gordon wrote in the Press the next day. “They pulled up beside me so close that they scraped my fender. I was lying down in the seat, and they were crouching down below window level with their guns pointed, looking as scared as I was. They said, ‘Give us that camera. You’re trying to make a dollar and so are we. You just stay out of our way.’”

Griffin said he remembers the conversation with Gordon, “but all we wanted was the film out of his camera. We didn’t want any pictures of us to show up later.”

The robbers knew the Cobb Park area because they had played there as kids, and when they realized it had been cleared, they released the women. Griffin and the others hid in a storm drain at Village Creek Road and U.S. 287. The police found them there a half hour later with a bag full of money — $15,000 according to news accounts, but $25,000 according to Griffin.

One of those who watched the entire chase with some fascination was Fort Worth police officer Sam Hill, now the interim city manager and police chief of Forest Hill. Back then, he usually drove patrol car 345, the one the robbers drove off in, although another officer had it that day. He also knew Griffin. “I knew Eddie from 1962 in summer school,” Hill recalled. “And I saw him some at Arlington State College. We had played some cards together, and I knew him to be a pretty smart guy. I was surprised that a guy like him was involved in a crime like this, but as I have worked as a police officer my whole life, I am usually always surprised when someone thinks they can get away with stuff like that.”

The bank robbery and kidnapping were federal charges, and Griffin faced the death penalty on the kidnapping. He also faced state charges on stealing the cop car and evading arrest. The defense team played the race card. “The lawyers made the argument that we were black Robin Hoods,” Griffin recalled. “Black people were fascinated by the chase, thinking we were going to throw the money out to the community if we got away. We weren’t thinking that at all.”

He was sentenced to 50 years on the federal charges and 10 and 20 years on the state charges. Griffin is not exactly remorseful, but he knows he had to pay the price and that what he did was stupid. “There were circumstances of the time that forced me into certain actions, but I wasn’t doing what I tell young people now,” he said. “I wasn’t in charge. I didn’t [have a sense] of my own responsibility. But I was a dead man walking in those days. Prison was just going to be a part of that.”

So Eddie landed in federal prison in September 1972, in the Marion facility in Illinois and then Leavenworth in Kansas and a few others during the next 12 years. During that time he learned how to survive and work the system.

The violence of prison was the first thing he had to deal with. White guards, Griffin said, allowed members of the Aryan Brotherhood to kill black militants. At Marion, “Cadillac,” a black leader of the militant DC Gang was attacked in a recreation cage by two ABs with knives — a setup by the guards, Griffin said. “They say [Cadillac] fought pretty good, but then stopped and held up his arms to give them a good shot at his heart,” Griffin writes. “In the meantime, the prison guards had abandoned him. [The AB] killed him, and then took him by the legs and dragged him from one black prisoner’s cell to the next.”

He hadn’t been a formal member of the Black Panther Party before the robbery, but in prison, Griffin joined up. The Black Panthers held a lot of control within the prison, and Eddie decided his chances of surviving were better if he worked with them. He became a “peacemaker,” a role that’s not really what it sounds like. Griffin was in charge of getting the word to certain prisoners that they would get killed if they did certain things. “We were the ones that controlled life and death,” Griffin said. “I would go talk to a guy and lay it out for him, and if I got the answer we wanted, I would in walk one direction. If the answer wasn’t what we wanted to hear, I’d go the other way, and the leadership would take care of business.” Griffin wouldn’t go into specifics but added that “the role of peacemaker with the Black Panthers afforded me protection in many ways.”

The Panthers thought they were political prisoners, and they used that notion to motivate sympathizers on the outside to get them out. Griffin worked on “intelligence” projects. “My part of the organization was to keep people informed on the outside what was happening,” Griffin said. “We would get newspapers from all over the world, and we would highlight groups or issues we could use. Then we would send out letters to everyone we could find, getting support for our cause.”

He used the media with flair. He and other prisoners were interviewed by Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes. The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran an editorial citing Griffin as a victim of racial incarceration. He was even interviewed by a Soviet magazine for a story chastising the United States for human rights violations.

Griffin helped get law students at Southern Illinois University to work on the prisoners’ behalf. He wrote an article on brainwashing techniques used on “political prisoners” that was published in a magazine and later reprinted in several newspapers. He helped organize a 15-day hunger strike in 1976 to focus on mistreatment of the “political prisoners.” He and other prisoners filed endless appeals, “choking the system with paperwork,” he said.

“Our major issue was to teach prisoners how to read and write, study, use the system against those keeping us in, and how to think on your own,” Griffin said. “We were fighting the Nixon and Ford administrations, trying to bring them down, and it worked in some ways, because after Jimmy Carter got elected, he released many of those black radicals who found themselves in prison on charges that were mostly political.”

Griffin’s charges weren’t really political, though. “A lot of us used the political prisoner thing as just another way to get out,” he said. “That’s what we would tell the media and the courts, but a lot of us knew it wasn’t true.”

Before he got out, Griffin experienced one more major change in his life. “I had become kind of a radical Muslim, and I had read the Koran twice, but had never read the Bible through and through,” he said. “But one of the times they threw me in solitary confinement, they tossed a little red Bible in with me. I read it as a non-believer. As a Muslim, I wanted to disprove the Bible, make it false. But by the time I was through, I was a believer. God was my rock and my refuge. It changed me.”

Griffin was paroled unexpectedly in April 1984, having served time concurrently on the state charges. He was free but had no idea what he would do — except for one thing.

“When you get out after that long, it is like a rope tied around you,” Griffin said. “Simple things like making conversation are so tough, because the language in prison is so different. No one talks in complete sentences. I saw glass buildings in Fort Worth that weren’t there before. I saw that my old neighborhood was worse now than when I left. But the first place I went was to my church. That was my refuge.”

And then he raised himself up, with his first job as a minimum-wage ditch-digger. He got training at a vocational school and found a job as a machinist. He married a woman who had four kids (they have split since). Even though he hadn’t graduated from college, he had taken some business classes, and his math skills helped him move up to an office job in the machinery company, helping with their taxes. Contacts at his church led to a position as office manager at an insurance company. From 1990 to 1996 he worked for McDonald & Associates engineering firm, handling the firm’s books, and eventually becoming chief operating officer.

More recently, he’s worked as a consultant to small businesses on taxes and financial affairs. He has used his skills to help out at a computer school for disadvantaged clients. He retired officially a few years ago and now spends most of his time working on political issues and advising young people.

What he has become is a political activist who’s heard often and eloquently on certain issues. Locally, he has worked hard to make sure Fort Worth uses more minority contractors in construction, particularly on the Omni Hotel project. Mostly he concentrates on youth issues, specifically on drug and crime issues. “So many community leaders think we should have a ‘round ’em up’ police mentality with these problems,” he said. He disagrees. “We should use more resources in education,” he said. “The crime problem is a result of a medical problem and an education problem.”

Patrick Washington, founder and president of NuVision Education and Scholarship Fund, a Dallas-Fort Worth agency that helps disadvantaged young people prepare for college academically and financially, has been working with Griffin as a volunteer for eight years.

“What he does so well is that he is a very good writer and puts together workshops for kids that teach them how to present themselves in an intelligent way,” Washington said. “He loves interacting with kids, but he is never quite doing the ‘in-your-face’ approach. He wants them to think differently, to stop and think about the other side of the equation.”

Griffin also has worked hard on the Texas education funding issue, warning that wealthy districts are trying to shift the burden onto poor and middle-class consumers through a sales tax increase. “He has made his opinion known on the funding issue at virtually every meeting we have had,” said State Rep. Marc Veasey. “In these meetings he gives his opinion and is often very outspoken. It is always interesting. I wish more people were like him.”

Griffin spends Sundays teaching the Bible to young members of the Everman Church of Christ. “Eddie is quite knowledgeable, he always puts a lot of time and effort and study,” said Pastor Alonza Winston. “I’ve known him about 10 years now, and he is always an encouraging spirit, bringing different discussions to the table with young people. And he does not hesitate on anything. When the Hurricane Katrina evacuees came here, he was in those shelters immediately, and he was in a great hurry to be of assistance to them.”

“We are a church that believes in the forgiveness of God,” the Rev. Winston continued, “and all sins are forgiven. He is truly one who has turned his life and his character around. I commend him for that. He is a poster for at least trying to turn things around and get it right.”

Griffin writes for some small magazines (he is a contributing writer to Literafeelya, a Houston-based political magazine), but most of his missives are now delivered through mass e-mails that are making many people aware of him. His writing is frank and opinionated, generally tying together historic racial arguments with discussions about economic and social class. He is extremely interested in the different “operant conditioning” between racial groups.

“I have a lot of contact with members of the black chamber [of commerce],” said HUD’s Babers, “and what Eddie is thinking about and writing about always comes up in our discussions.”

“It seems like I get something from him every day,” said Tarrant County Commissioner Brooks with a laugh. “Long ones too. Now I don’t agree with him on everything. I enjoy reading what he has to say and then arguing about it. But he has turned himself into the conscience for our community in some ways. What we need in Tarrant County is people who are willing to state their point of view and face it. Eddie Griffin is doing that.”

Brooks has tapped Griffin to work on a proposed county program that will help inmates who get out of jail to integrate themselves better into the community. “We need to craft a strategic plan for people coming back to our community from the criminal justice system,” Brooks said of the proposed Tarrant County Re-entry Council. “We need to identify gaps in the services. Eddie can help because his contacts across the country are quite vast. He is also so well read. But more than anyone else, he understand the folly of blaming things on people you have no control over.”

The Fort Worth Public Library is now working with Griffin to archive those of his papers that shed some light on the history of local black activism in the ’60s and ’70s. The Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society wants to work on the project because Griffin “has some political viewpoints and history on the more radical movements that aren’t real well represented in the archives,” said Sarah Walker, president of the society.

Griffin likes to call himself a peacemaker now, but not the kind he was in prison. His emphasis, he said, “is knowing how the system works, how some groups take advantage of the system, and learning from that. So many young people protest, and it is a waste of time. I like to teach them to learn from the past and make a difference by being smarter.”

His former student “has found himself in so many ways, and his writing is so well done, so articulate,” said Saxe. “We just hooked up again a few years ago, and the first thing I noticed was Eddie still had that passion he had as a student so many years ago. He still has that fight in him. We should all age like that.”

He’s willing to fight with reporters, too. In early interviews for this story, Eddie didn’t like the questions that focused on the infamous bank robbery. “The misadventure of my past is my authentication, not my identity,” he wrote. “It has taken me nearly 22 years to overcome the stigma of who I was and overcome the fears that followed me. But, I guess, I will always be ‘The Outlaw Eddie Griffin.’ I can live with that moniker because of my redemption. But it is not easy to go from 12 years of imprisonment and come out and readjust to a world that passed you by.”

Griffin has changed in many ways over the last 40-plus years, but he takes very seriously his new way of being a peacemaker. Some former black militants have melded quietly into society; others still hold the grudge of the past. Griffin has a combination — he tries to keep balanced, bringing the lessons of that turbulent time into the modern world.

“I never again want to be perceived as an enemy of the state,” Griffin wrote in an essay about the war in Iraq. “As a former black revolutionary, I have been associated with Muslims, Communists, and other radical and subversive organizations, though I am an openly avowed Christian. The problem arises is that I am a Peacemaker, but not [one who seeks] government approval. Nowadays, I pray for peace. The only way I can feel comfortable in this world is to be surrounded by peace.”

You can reach Dan McGraw at dan.mcgraw@fwweekly.com.



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