Lee Griffin started his career with the Vicksburg Fire Department in 1974 shortly after a butane tank explosion in Vicksburg.
Griffin’s friend, Jimmy Gibbs, convinced him to take the firefighter exam where he scored an 85 and quickly began his career as one of six African Americans at the VFD.
Griffin had many roles over his 25 years at the fire department such as driver, rescue, and assistant chief.
“I enjoyed the job, and I got along with just about everyone,” Griffin said.
Griffin recalls the first fire he responded to at Wyatt’s Motel where two units burned down.
“I remembering it being so hot. but it was definitely a learning experience,” Griffin said.
By 1984, after serving 10 years on the fire department, Griffin was promoted to captain and became the first African American to serve in that role with the Vicksburg Fire Department.
“I felt proud, but it really didn’t make any difference to me, and it took me a while to get used to,” Griffin said.
Throughout his firefighting career, Griffin worked closely with Craig Danczyk, who is now the VFD fire chief. Danczyk continues to speak highly about Griffin although it’s been more than two decades since the two have worked together.
“Vicksburg Fire Department Captain Lee Griffin was a Vietnam veteran and came to serve his local community after service to our nation. He was a great teammate, and people enjoyed working with him,” Danczyk said. “He looked out for me during the early years of my career, and I appreciated that as a young firefighter. He was the captain that would back his crew, but also coach you if you need to improve.”
To this day, Griffin still speaks highly of Danczyk as well. “He is one of the best chiefs that Vicksburg ever had, and I am glad about everything he is doing,” Griffin said.
In 1998, Griffin, Danczyk and James Montgomery were in an accident while responding to a fire.
“I was with him on Sunday, Nov. 8, 1998, when he made his last response on Engine 7,” Danczyk said. “While responding to a motor vehicle accident, our pumper lost control on the North Frontage Road and drove off a bridge. The fall was 51 feet, and it was a miracle any of us survived.”
The accident was something Griffin will never forget, and he remains grateful that he survived.
“I prayed to God that he would save us, and everything had crushed down on me,” Griffin said. “… We made it through the front windshield, and Craig was able to pull me out.”
“I was glad everyone was able to make it out alive. I suffered from a broken pelvis,” he added. “Montgomery lost an eye and Craig had a scar along his back.”
Griffin stayed with the VFD for one more year after the accident and retired in 1999. He went on to work in security for five years before retiring again.
Griffin spent 10 years in the Army before joining the fire department where he was assigned to Vietnam and then Germany.
The city of Vicksburg will always be grateful to Griffin for his hard work and efforts to help everyone in the community.