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Booker Griffin Jr.; Black Radio Talk Show Host

July 08, 1993|JOHN L. MITCHELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Booker Griffin Jr., a black community activist and political gadfly who used his popular weekly radio talk show to air his biting criticism of former Mayor Tom Bradley and other black elected officials, has died at the age of 55.

Griffin died Sunday at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in West Los Angeles after suffering a stroke induced by diabetes, said his wife of 23 years, Lynette Hewette Griffin.

Griffin was best known as a talk show host on KGFJ radio, where his guests included Bradley, former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and other politicians and officials.

"His long suit and his weak suit was his ability to tell it like it was," said Bill Shearer, vice president and general manager of KGFJ. "Sometimes it served him well and sometimes it didn't."

Griffin's on-air assessments of the mayor's job drew the most attention.

"He and Bradley were at odds," said Jim Cleaver, a columnist for the Los Angeles Sentinel. "Booker didn't think that Bradley did enough for the black community in terms of jobs and economic development, and he was willing to say it."

Griffin moved to Los Angeles in 1962 after graduating from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

After the 1965 Watts riots, he wrote and helped design programs for the Westminister Neighborhood Assn. in Watts. In the late 1960s he worked as a publicist for Motown Records and was a local volunteer in Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.

Griffin's interest in politics flourished, and in 1970 and 1972 he ran unsuccessfully against former Assemblyman Bill Green. In addition to an intermittent career at KGFJ, he worked as a columnist for the Sentinel. He also worked as a boxing publicist, hired by promoter Don King to handle the Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fight in Zaire.

In addition to his wife, Griffin is survived by his son, Jabari; his parents, Booker Sr. and Bertha Griffin of Gary, Ind., and two sisters.

Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2270 Harvard Blvd. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Booker Griffin Memorial Fund, 4954 Valley Ridge, Los Angeles 90043.

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