Griffin’s dedication to leadership lands him in HOF

Published 12:17 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

Chilton County native Earl Griffin was immortalized into Alabama sports lore on March 13 being inducted into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame. Griffin was honored with 12 other inductees, and he was inducted into the old-timer wing of the hall for inductees with a minimum of 15 years of service to an AHSAA member school and have been out of coaching for 30 years or more.

“There were probably 1,000 people there at the induction ceremony, and they do it the right way there. I cannot describe the feeling,” Griffin said. “Being inducted into the Hall of Fame was not about me. It was about Dallas County High School and the people I met there, particularly the players and their parents, the assistant coaches and my friend James Carter.”

Griffin was born in Chilton County on Sept 11, 1942, and his family held deep roots in the area with his parents being born in the same area. Griffin’s grandfather, DeVaughn, owned a store in Clanton when he was growing up.

Times were simpler then for Griffin and other kids.

“Growing up in Chilton County was great,” Griffin said. “We played ball and worked in the watermelon fields.”

Griffin moved to Mobile at 2 years old, so his father could help build ships during World War II. The family moved again a few years later to right outside Hueytown when his father began working at U.S. Steel. Then, halfway through his seventh-grade year, Griffin and his family moved back to Chilton County, and he has not moved away again since.

Griffin attended Verbena High School, and the school only offered three sports — football, baseball and basketball. Griffin played all three.

“And that was enough,” Griffin said.

Griffin excelled in all three sports and was a member of the all-county teams for each sport. He was the quarterback of an undefeated Verbena team his junior year, but he was exceptional on the baseball diamond.

Griffin was invited to play in the East-West baseball game in Clanton at the end of the season and Dixie Walker, a scout for the then Milwaukee Braves, offered him a $1,000 baseball contract to sign with the Braves. Griffin did not take the offer and decided to attend college.

Griffin’s friend, Clay Carroll, did accept the offer and went on to win a World Series title with the Cincinnati Reds.

“I decided I wanted to go to Auburn University,” Griffin said. “I do not have any regrets about that. I loved my 36 years at Dallas County High School, and I would not swap that to play for the Braves.”

Griffin graduated salutatorian of his class at Verbena in 1960 and went on to Auburn where he earned a degree in mathematics and graduated from there in 1964. In the fall of 1964, Griffin began a 36-year career at Dallas County High School in Plantersville where he would dedicate his time for the better part of four decades.

Griffin took over as head coach for their football, basketball, baseball and track teams. Griffin’s tenure as basketball coach was short, only coaching for four years. However, in 1967 Griffin got his first assistant coach, James Carter, and the duo led the basketball team to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament. He and Carter remained close throughout Griffin’s career at Dallas County and to this day.

Griffin’s stamp on the school came coaching the baseball team as he compiled a 219-59 record at Dallas County, including his teams winning 48-straight games at one point. In 1970 the AHSAA introduced their championship awards program and Dallas County was the first winner of the Class 1A-2A title under Griffin’s guidance.

“We were always near the top,” Griffin said. “Prior to me getting to Dallas County they had not won a game in three or four years, and everything was at the bottom of the ocean.”

Griffin’s success as football coach was also notable, compiling a 91-36-6 record in 14 seasons as head coach. He holds the Dallas County coaching wins record, and no football team under Griffin had a losing season.

During the 1967 season, Griffin recalls losing the last game of the season to Lowndes Academy 20-18 which cost them a spot in the championship game.

“We filled that place up that game, there was no telling how many people were there,” Griffin said. “In that day and time, the sports writers determined who played for the championship, and it is not like it is today in anything.”

In 1995, Dallas County renamed their baseball field and field house in honor of Griffin’s coaching accomplishments at the school.

When it comes to how he coached, Griffin attributed his coaching style and development to two coaches with military backgrounds. He adopted a lot of what those two taught him in his coaching style over his years.

“I got a double dose of that, and that was the only way I knew how to coach when I started was to be really tough on them,” Griffin said. “They responded to it, and they wanted that. Not everyone bought in, but about 90% of them did, and all of them thank me today for the way I treated them.”

While at Dallas County, Griffin earned a master’s degree from the University of Montevallo in school administration. That moved him to take over the assistant principal position at Dallas County in 1983 and became the principal in 1985. In 1990, Griffin helped construct a staff that brought Dallas County the Class 3A state football championship.

Griffin retired from Dallas County in 2000. He was approached to do some substitute teaching at Billingsley High School, and he accepted it. Griffin had a whole other career at Billingsley serving as a part-time math teacher, substitute teacher and bus driver there to this day.

Griffin can also be found at ball fields all around Chilton County, especially in the spring with baseball and softball, as he has umpired and officiated games since 1959. Griffin has embraced officiating since retiring from Dallas County and works most of his games in Chilton County.

On the same day Griffin found out he was being inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Griffin has not been active at Billingsley since, but he has not taken a step back for officiating having a game four or five times per week during the spring.

“I would say I am about 75%,” Griffin said. “I pray that the treatments will work.”

Aside from teaching, Griffin received Bible education at Bethany Baptist Church at a young age and was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Stanton for several years. Now, Griffin is a member at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church #2 in Maplesville and has taught an adult Sunday school class since he was 20 years old. Griffin, now 81 years old, has resided in Maplesville for 44 years.

“I want to thank everyone for the emails, texts, phone calls, pictures, cards and gifts I have received,” Griffin said. “I have been very blessed.”