- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

DELAWARE CITY, Del. (AP) - When Charles H. “Chuck” Griffin made Delaware history, he didn’t make a big deal about it.

He did the job.

Griffin was the state’s first black chief of police, according to News Journal archives.

He died late last month at his home in Dover, at the age of 78.

In 1971, he saw a newspaper ad that changed his life and his state.

Delaware City needed a part-time police chief. He applied and got the job.

Griffin was born in Dover and attended Booker T. Washington Elementary School before his family moved to Delaware City. He was a 1953 graduate of Howard High School in Wilmington, then the state’s only high school for African-American students.

A longtime employee of the Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City, he also worked for New Castle County.

After an eight-week course in the Delaware State Police Academy, he was sworn in.

His appointment by then-Mayor Philip Cruchley with council approval was considered a milestone of racial equality.

At the time, The Morning News and Evening Journal - The News Journal Media Group’s predecessors - reported that Griffin was 35, lived in Delaware City, was a father of six children and would keep his full-time job with New Castle County, later rising from maintenance to security.

His hours as chief were 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. weekdays, 4 p.m. to midnight on weekends. But news accounts said he put in 40 to 50 hours a week, despite his part-time yearly pay of $7,350. “Those extra hours are given to the town,” he was quoted saying. “The less I get, the more money is available for my men.”

“He was very well liked and respected,” said retired policeman Al Finch of Bear, who served under Griffin.

Not only did Griffin do well leading the force of three full- and two part-time officers, Finch said, he was an avid sports volunteer, providing needed youth activities in town.

Griffin’s historic post lasted until 1980, when Delaware City officials dissolved the force to opt for state police coverage.

But the change was sudden and amid controversy following an investigation of the police force done in secret by two town officials who never discussed it in public.

Griffin made public offers to sit down with them and discuss any issues, but got no response.

Griffin sued, contending officials’ refusal to release the findings, along with “implication, innuendo and false statements, they gave the impression that the plaintiff’s performance was, if not illegal, at best unsatisfactory.”

A copy of the probe report leaked to News Journal predecessors said no wrongdoing was proven. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

Griffin continued to serve in court security, retiring from the county in 1988, then joining the state as an alcoholic beverage control law enforcement agent.

Until retired by health issues, he continued to work and remain heavily involved in the Masons, M.F. Chase Unity Memorial Church in Dover, youth sports officiating and coaching, along with law enforcement groups and volunteering.

His funeral drew police from forces statewide, complete with honor guard, motorcycles and bagpipes in a tribute Finch said was worthy of a man who held such a place in Delaware history. And he said it showed the impact of someone he was proud to know.

“I’m white and he’s black and he treated me like a son,” he said. “He was my chief … and he was an excellent chief.”

And he made history.

___

Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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