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Maria Teresa Griffin, East L.A. activist who fought jail plan, dies

Maria Teresa Griffin, East L.A. activist who fought jail plan, dies

It may be tough to find Maria Teresa Griffin’s identify in historic archives or newspaper clippings documenting revitalization or social justice efforts all through Los Angeles’ Eastside.

But her handiwork is in every single place.

Griffin labored for 49 years at Barrio Planners Inc., an architectural agency in East L.A. that blends city planning with activism. She served as a receptionist, architectural assist and accountant.

Barrio Planners helped renovate downtrodden Whittier Boulevard partially by designing East L.A.’s now-famed 65-foot metal archway in 1986. The agency, led by chief architect and founder Frank Villalobos, additionally designed Lincoln Heights’ El Parque de Mexico and Boyle Heights’ Mariachi Plaza, and it renovated elements of Olvera Road.

One in all Griffin’s biggest accomplishments, nevertheless, issues a facility by no means constructed.

When California Gov. George Deukmejian advocated for a jail in East L.A. within the mid-Eighties, Villalobos, Msgr. John Moretta of Boyle Heights’ Resurrection Church and Lincoln Heights group activist Steve Kasten rallied coalitions to derail the undertaking.

They relied on Griffin, who utilized her thick Rolodexes and neighborhood connections to buttonhole politicians, group members and others to battle.

Griffin finally grew to become a founding member and longtime treasurer of the group that symbolized Eastside resistance to the jail — the Moms of East Los Angeles.

The affiliation, numbering about 100 members within the mid-Eighties, started a battle towards the jail undertaking that lasted for six years, holding quite a few rallies in L.A. and Sacramento till, in 1992, the plan was nixed.

The Moms proceed to battle environmental injustices, however with out this trailblazer.

Griffin died Jan. 15 at 74. She had been affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, higher referred to as Lou Gehrig’s illness, based on her sister, Olivia Haddock.

Haddock, considered one of Griffin’s youthful sisters, stated Griffin by no means married or had youngsters however spent her days surrounded by her eight siblings’ mixed 64 kids and grandchildren.

Griffin had a cushty, middle-class upbringing, Haddock stated. The household was staunchly Roman Catholic and lived in Commerce and, later, Monterey Park. Griffin’s father, Edgar G. Griffin, born in Mexico to an Irish household, was a one hundred and first Airborne paratrooper who survived the Normandy touchdown on D-day and was awarded a Purple Coronary heart. Mary Dominguez Griffin, her mom, was a longtime See’s Candies worker.

Maria Teresa Griffin’s profession took flight on Halloween 1974, when the 25-year-old walked into Barrio Planners’ workplace searching for a job.

Maria Teresa Griffin poses with family outside a building with wooden barrels.

Maria Teresa Griffin, pictured third from left in 2021 with prolonged household, was a founding member of the Moms of East Los Angeles.

(Courtesy of Olivia Haddock)

The one accessible place was for a secretary who may sort 82 phrases a minute.

“She sat down on considered one of our IBM typewriters and she or he simply flew,” Villalobos stated. “She solely made one error on our take a look at — one error. She received employed on the spot.”

Griffin finally moved from secretary to landscaping architect assistant after taking drafting courses at East Los Angeles Faculty.

She was a fast learner, based on Villalobos, who stated Griffin simply transitioned to computer systems when Barrio Planners purchased its first mannequin in 1982. She finally helped prepare a few of the architects on Microsoft Excel and AutoCAD, 2-D and 3-D drafting and design software program.

However her true ardour was numbers, based on Villalobos. She returned to ELAC, this time enrolling in accounting courses.

Upon graduating, she grew to become the agency’s accountant, eschewing a backroom workplace to stay close to the doorway and prospects.

There, Griffin struck up a friendship with rising Eastside politician Gloria Molina, who usually stopped by to speak when she was working for then-Assemblymember Artwork Torres.

Molina was one of many first and most vocal advocates towards the plan — endorsed by Deukmejian in addition to The Instances — to put in a 1,750-bed jail adjoining to Boyle Heights, and would usually talk about thwarting its building.

Molina, Griffin and Villalobos made up three elements of a potent resistance motion that drafted Moretta, Kasten and others into the battle.

Griffin, referred to as Terry, “was this bridge between the very grassroots marketing campaign that included space residents and advocacy teams with the extra enterprise of us just like the Chamber of Commerce and small companies against the jail,” Moretta stated. “Terry knew all people.”

For the anti-prison marketing campaign, Griffin tapped the greater than 2,000 names and numbers she had compiled by her work with Barrio Planners.

She and different Moms members usually trekked on a weekly foundation to protests in Sacramento and round Los Angeles.

When Gov. Pete Wilson signed laws killing the jail proposal in 1992, Villalobos stated, “it was a tremendous victory for the Eastside, for the Moms and for Terry.”

Griffin continued on as treasurer with the Moms for many years. She stepped away from many actions two years in the past when she was identified with ALS.

Although in poor health, Griffin traveled to Maui for the marriage of her niece, Jenika McMurray, Haddock’s youngest daughter, in September 2022.

Griffin had informed McMurray and Haddock that her attendance was unlikely.

“After which someday I noticed that she purchased an airline ticket,” Haddock stated. “She beloved her household, and she or he was a fighter. That’s her legacy.”

Griffin is survived by sisters Haddock, Ana Padilla, Gloria Brady, Irene Gaffney, Carolyn Velasco and Diana O’Connor and brother Edward Griffin.

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