The celebration of life memorial service for Dr. Jefferson Eugene Grigsby Jr. was held October 19th, 2013 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix. This memorial service was more than a tribute to a nationally known artist from the African American community but a tribute to his contributions to the world of art education.
The family of Dr. Grigsby came from all over the country to share their stories of his impact on their lives and the lives of everyone he touched. The medium size congregation was filled to capacity with artists, musicians, educators, community advocates, and friends from around the state and nation.
Vivian Hewitt, Gene’s cousin is an artist, librarian and major art collector with the Hewitt Collection which highlights Haitian and African American Artists. Her collection is nationally known. She said she bought stock in her cousin when he was fourteen, as did other family members, so that he could afford to go to art school. It turned out to be a very good investment.
Dr. G., as he has been affectionately called, was loved and respected by former students such as Doyle Foreman who went on to become a Professor of Art at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Doyle came to express his respect for Gene as a former colleague. Gene once told this author that other than his family, his students were his pride. Each of them went on to carry the gift of art to new students. He considered this his legacy.
The list of speakers for this memorial was expansive. There were representatives from National Art Education Association, William Harris and Grace Hampton, who told the crowd that Dr. G. gave her the confidence to move though her education to ultimately gaining a Doctorate in Art Education. She followed the example of Dr. Grigsby using his method of teaching without judging to train educators and professors. She is currently the Senior Faculty Mentor at the Pennsylvania State University.
The community activists were Calvin Goode, Colleague, Booker T. Washington Child Development Center and a former member of the Phoenix City Council. He also was a former colleague at Carver High School as well as Phoenix Union High School. Gene Blue the President and CEO of Phoenix Opportunity Industrialization Center spoke as did Brendan Mahoney the Senior Advisor, Office of the Major, City of Phoenix. Finally Marquis Scott, President of Delta Tau Lambda Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity from Morehouse College.
Dr. J. Eugene Grigsby Jr., artist, teacher, family man, mentor and friend leaves behind a vast array of contributions to the world. The musical benediction was by Charles Lewis and Mary Petrich. Charles, an associate of Dr. G was also on the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Alliance for the arts. He is an Inductee of the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.
Artist and friend John Henry Waddell was in the congregation. John Waddell was the sculpture of the statues, “That Which Might Have Been” which is the memorial garden at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix and the twin of these four young girls killed in Birmingham, Alabama is housed at the George Washington Carver Museum (see Page 12). It was with the assistance of Dr. Grigsby that the sculpture was housed at the museum.
Dr. G. will live on in the remarkable mentoring and teaching of his students, children, friends and associates. This is a man whose contributions to the world of art and to the world of love and harmony will continue to grow.
To visit his congregation and see some of his art which graces the walls, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix is located at 4027 E. Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley, Arizona. There are two services on Sunday, one at 9:30 and one at 11:15.