By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — As the black paper was ripped away from the front entrance of the newly named Otis Faulk Griffin Memorial Library, his widow Glenda Griffin was overcome by emotion.
The man she called her husband for decades and still pumps love into her heart was on display on the front doors of the Shrine School Memphis Library. Pictures she supplied to the project were formed into a wall-sized collage illustrating the late Griffin’s love of reading, writing, children, basketball, family, the Shriners and the school.
“I know how much Otis loved all of you Shriners,” Glenda said. “You all were so special to him and the wives of the Shriners too. Nancy he thought so much of you and Dr. Reese you too. I can’t all of your names. I know the love he had for all of y’all. This is beautiful. This couldn’t be any better. God bless you all and I hope the school continues to grow. I don’t think you could have a better place.”
Shrine School Principal Dr. Charlie Reese welcomed all the invited guests to enter through the newly painted doors to the new-look library. Work from Redmond Designs created two areas featuring reading trees from books — Dr. Seuss’ lorax trees and the tree from Winnie the Pooh.
“As we gather together today for the dedication ceremony of our beloved friend, we have the opportunity to recall and honor a person,” Reese said, “who’s personality is deeply engraved in this institution called the Shrine School.”
Griffin alongside his fellow Shriners spent several days at 4259 Forest View Drive in Memphis. On the Board, Griffin helped usher in many policies and measures to benefit the children, faculty and staff.
Shrine School Board President Larry Kerns noted how Griffin also had a gift of gab communicating with all forms of local media to gain exposure for the school.
“I am very pleased with the dedication of this library,” Kerns said. “We have some unique structures including the front door. I will remember this for many, many years to come. It was an honor on behalf of the trustees of the Shrine School and the board members of the trustees to have a small part to have this done on behalf of Otis Griffin.
“Otis always said, ‘I want to do what is good for the children,’” he added. “With that in mind, just remember Otis and his importance to the Shrine School.”
Shelby County School Board Chairperson Miska Clay Bibbs was on hand as well for the dedication. Bibbs and others address the audience about the impact of Griffin over the years.
“We dedicate this library in the memory of him for all his hard work to make sure the children here at Shrine School had the best of the best,” Reese said. “It was Mr. Griffin who helped our previous librarian Nancy purchase furniture and make sure it was good furniture. It was Mr. Griffin when they started taking books off these shelves saying ‘We need to get some more books in here.’ He pushed that. He loved reading. He loved books. He would always pulled Nancy to the said and say, ‘What can I do for you?’”
Most of those in attendance remember Griffin saying those six words to them and genuinely meaning it. Griffin went home to be with the Lord Sept. 14, 2019, passing away peacefully at home with his beloved wife, Glenda holding his hand.
Born in October 1940 in Charleston, Griffin was raised in Rosemark with his parents Otis Mansfield and Edna Earle Griffin.
His union with Glenda produced their son Mark who is now married to Lindsay living in Nashville. Before leaving this earth, Griffin had connections throughout the state of Tennessee spending his college years in Jackson at Union University.
Griffin was an All-Tourney star at Bolton High School on the County Championship Basketball Team before graduating in 1958. Griffin played basketball at Union University from 1958-62 and was inducted to the Union University Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
The man of stature earned numerous honors at Union including VSAC All-Conference in 1963 and VSAC Who’s Who in 1961 and 1962, and VSAC All-Tournament in 1961 and 1962. When he finished at Union, Griffin had scored 1,605 points, which puts him No. 12 on the all-time scoring list for Union men’s basketball.
Upon graduating from Union, Griffin held four school records including points in a season (573), rebounds in a season (370), rebounds in a game (24) and free throws in a season (193). Currently he ranks in the Union record books top 15 in points in a season, No. 3 in rebounds in a season, No. 6 in rebounds per game and No. 2 in free throws made in a season.
Otis earned the Fred DeLay Memorial Award in 1962, given to the senior who is an outstanding athlete, a person of high academic standing, unquestionable loyalty and good character. He also earned the Dean F.E. Wright Award for GPA in his field. He was co-captain as a senior.
Glenda noted her husband’s love of basketball. She said it was rivaled by his passion for serving the community. He was a member of Richmond Masonic Lodge, 32nd degree Scottish Rite, Shrine School Board, Rotary Club of Millington and a longtime member of First Baptist Church Covington.
Griffin’s love of Memphis-area history was featured in his writings in the long-running The Millington Star column Southern Raisin’.
All of those associations are now on display in the walls of the Otis Faulk Griffin Memorial Library. With her sister Betty, brother-in-law Mike Roland and caregiver Missy Scherburg by her said, Glenda gave her official blessing to the facility that will honor her husband forever.
I know Otis is up there saying, ‘GLORY! GLORY!’” she concluded. “I know he is and he’s happy all about it. I wish he was here but since he’s not, he’s happy. I thank you all for all your work on this.”