Stan Futch | Westside Action Group
Don Griggs was happily married to his lovely wife Celestine “Celeste” for 55 years and proud father to three children two daughters, Talya and Nicole and son Anthony who preceded him in death. He has three grandchildren, Jasmond, Diamond and Emerald and three great grandchildren, Joseph, Jailah and Justice.
He was a caregiver for his mother, Bertha Crawford and his father Theodore Griggs, Jr. (preceded him in death). He was a devout Christian student of the Bible and member of Ecclesia Christian Center.
Others will elaborate on what Don meant to them, but we will share what he did for Westside Action Group (WAG).
Hardy Brown introduced Don to WAG and “he took the action” from there, which is his hallmark reputation among our members.
Shortly after Don was introduced to Robert “Bob” Parker, Co-Founder and President of WAG from 1972-1979, Bob asked Don to serve as the group’s first vice president, the year was 1975.
Together they added other Executive Committee members to serve. They included Robert Rochelle, second vice president; Ken Chapman, treasurer; Wilbur Brown, corresponding secretary; and Bobby Bivens, recording secretary.
At that time WAG was holding breakfast meetings at the Kola Shanah Restaurant and Senator Ruben Ayala was the guest speaker at that meeting when they had the installation of officers.
Don served under the tutelage of Bob and four years later in October 1979, Don was installed as president of WAG at its first annual dinner of installation of officer’s event.
Joining Don’s executive committee was John Davis as first vice president; Al Wilson, second vice president; Keith Lee, treasurer; Wilbur Brown, corresponding secretary; Jerry Herndon, recording secretary and Larry Culberson, Sargent of Arms. County Board of Supervisor Robert “Bob” Hammock was the guest speaker.
At the dinner Don said, “WAG’s purpose is to deal with the interest of San Bernardino and the surrounding area and to promote and safeguard the interests of the people that we live with, with specific attention to the needs of the Westside of San Bernardino.”
Keeping true to that statement, in July of 1980 Don spoke out against the alternative use of Community Hospital building’s move to Highland Ave and Larch Ave in Rialto. He said, “Nothing should move without the citizens of the Westside having a say in the final decision”.
Later, in September of 1980 Don spoke out on the issue of voting and said, “One of the problems is apathy, not enough Blacks are registered and those who are, do not vote consistently, in essence may as well cast their ballots to big money in politics. He went on to say, “The old cliché of anybody can grow up to be president or anyone can hold public office, that’s not true. Now it’s a money game. And we have not been blessed with resources. That is one avenue we’re going to have to pursue.”
Don was re-elected in October 1980 when over 400 community leaders, elected officials and business leaders attended WAG’s ninth annual community service installation dinner at the Kola Shanah Restaurant which was owned and operated by Samuel and Joan Johnson, a Black family-owned business on Mount Vernon Avenue on the Westside of town.
Don was big on supporting our Black Business owners because he knew and understood the effects systemic racism has on our community. He had experienced it growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, when he served in the Marine Corps and while working at Edison. So, as president of WAG, he saw the opportunity to promote and safeguard the community.
His administration consisted of Wilbur Brown, first vice president; Larry Culberson, second vice president; Alonzo Thompson, recording secretary; Jerry Herndon, corresponding secretary; Orage Quarles, treasurer and Alex Powell was Chaplain. The guest speaker to install the officers was Dr. Byron Skinner, Dean of Academic Affairs at San Bernardino Valley College.
Don wanted a way to keep the members and community aware of WAG activities, so he printed the first and only Westside Action Group Newsletter on October 10, 1980. Don had Alex Powell, who was also a graphic artist for the Sun Newspaper, design the WAG logo still used today.
In February of 1981 Don had WAG hold a mayoral candidate forum open to the public at the Boys and Girls Club on 9th Street. Some of the candidates invited who ran for office that year were Councilman Ralph Hernandez, Councilman John Hobbs and Mayor W. R. Bob Holcomb.
In March 1981 Don spoke in support of Clyde Alexander, a Black developer who lived in San Bernardino, regarding a new housing project named Orangewood Estates located between Medical Center Drive and California Street, the first housing development on the Westside of San Bernardino in thirty years.
Jimmy Jackson succeeded Don as WAG president in August of 1981.
Don made other contributions to the Inland Empire Community since he arrived here in 1965. All who wore his “Designed by Don” ties and frequented his Men’s Clothing Stores, Irv Silvers, located in Riverside Tyler Mall and Inland Center Mall San Bernardino will miss his fashion designs.
He loved working for Southern California Edison and he still has stock in the agency and Nordstrom Department Store that carried his ties.
He was in the Marine Corps four years and a Boy Scout Commissioner with the Arrowhead Boy Scout Council. He was a recipient of the Boy Scouts Whitney Young Jr. Humanitarian Service Award, given to individuals for providing demonstrated service in the development of youth in a rural or urban community.
Don was an active member in many organizations such as the NAACP, Urban League, Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, Jaycees, founder of the Black Business Forum and others.
His last community issue was taking on the West Valley Water District over the past two years with another WAG member, Hardy Brown, who is a founding member and served as WAG’s first secretary in 1972.
Don faithfully attended the water board meetings during that time and kept WAG up to date on the issues. He spoke truth to power as they uncovered corruption and got justice for employees who had been terminated from their jobs.
He was active in all levels of politics and encouraged young people to get involved in the community. He was active up until his death.
We want to provide a copy of this tribute to his family as we thank them for sharing Don with us.