Floyd L. Griffin Jr., the first Black man elected to the Georgia State Senate from Milledgeville and the first Black man to serve as the city’s mayor is being honored.
City officials were asked earlier this year by members of Baldwin County Branch of the NAACP to rename a historic street and heritage plaza in honor of the 76-year-old Griffin.
During a recent city council meeting, both requests were approved. While one of them was approved unanimously, the other request resulted in a 3-3 tie among city council members. Ultimately, the tie was broken by the mayor in favor of the NAACP request.
A portion of the 100 block of West McIntosh Street to North Wilkinson Street to North Wayne Street will soon be renamed Floyd L. Griffin Jr. Street. The Black Heritage Plaza also will be renamed in Griffin’s honor. Both are located in what was once a thriving area for Black-owned businesses in downtown Milledgeville.
Griffin said he was humbled to be recognized in such a way.
“I want to first thank the NACCP for feeling that that was a worthy cause and for following through with their request to get that done,” Griffin said in a recent telephone interview with The Union-Recorder. “And I want to thank city council and the mayor for what they decided to do to honor me.”
Asked how he would like others to remember him, Griffin was quick to say that he didn’t necessarily want them to remember him.
“I want them to understand what that street and that plaza is all about,” Griffin said. “It’s all about the legacy and the history of African-Americans when I was growing up — my generation and my parents’ generation because that was considered a big part of the Black business district in Milledgeville.”
Griffin recalled that south of Allen’s Market there were several Black businesses.
One of those businesses included Slater’s Funeral Home, which was owned by his family for many years. Another well-known business in that area for many years was Dr. Boddie’s office.
The former two-term state senator and city mayor recalled that before the funeral home settled into the building, it served as a Black private school.
“There is a whole lot of rich history there in that part of this city, but many of those Black-owned businesses are now gone, along with their history, except for some of us who remember when many of those buildings were owned and operated by African-Americans,” Griffin said.
He regrets what city officials did years ago when he was serving the country in the U.S. Army.
“Why the city condemned that area where the city police department is today around the Heritage Plaza, I don’t really know,” Griffin said. “I wasn’t here back then. If there was a good reason for doing that — then there should have been some good thought process given to rehabilitate that area and set it up where Black-owned businesses had an opportunity to continue to thrive down there.”
Griffin said he wants people who remember that part of the history to be preserved and passed on to current and future Black generations and anyone else interested in the city’s rich history.
“So, naming that street and the plaza after me should not be the major piece, because I think that that street should have already been named after an African-American anyway,” Griffin said. “It just happened to be me that they have now decided to rename the street and plaza after.”
When Griffin served as mayor, he was instrumental in seeing to it that a monument was erected to recognize what was once the Black-owned business district and later became the Black Heritage Plaza.
Cynthia Ward-Edwards, president of the local NAACP, made the requests to honor Griffin with the renaming of the street and the plaza.
During one of the two votes taken by city council — the one aimed at honoring Griffin with the renaming of the plaza in his name — city council members agreed to it, unanimously.
When Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan called for the vote from city council concerning the street being renamed for Griffin, there was a tie vote.
Three council members voted in favor of it, while three of them didn’t.
Those voting in favor of it included Denese Shinholster, Walter Reynolds and Dr. Collinda Lee.
The three who opposed it were Richard “Boo” Mullins, Jeanette Walden and Steve Chambers.
Parham-Copelan decided the fate of the tie vote. She cast a yes vote.
“I am going to make this painless,” Parham said before she rendered her vote.
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