Fernandez “Bumpy” Griffin, a former equipment manager at Winston-Salem State who is in the school’s Hall of Fame, is back home in Winston-Salem after suffering two strokes while on a cruise in the Cayman Islands.
After Griffin, a 1979 graduate of WSSU, was taken to a hospital in the Cayman Islands, he was in intensive care for several days, according to Tim Grant, a former WSSU assistant basketball coach and a classmate of Griffin.
Griffin, who started as an equipment manager and administrative assistant in the 1970s under Big House Gaines, had to stay in the Cayman Islands until enough money was raised to bring him back to Winston-Salem. A gofundme page was set up, and $22,000 was raised to bring him home.
“He’s doing better, but the main thing is he’s back here in Winston-Salem, even though he’s still in ICU,” said his mother, Mildred, who is also a WSSU graduate. “We can’t thank everybody enough for the prayers and phone calls of encouragement, but we wanted folks to know that he’s improving.”
Griffin, 64, was a constant at WSSU from the time he arrived in the mid-1970s as a student until the early 1990s.
There’s been a groundswell of support for Griffin through social media. He left WSSU to go with football coach Pete Richardson to Southern University in 1992, when Richardson left WSSU. Griffin worked at Southern University in the athletics department until Richardson retired a few years later, but Griffin stayed in Louisiana and was a teacher.
Grant said that Griffin was a big help to every coach in the WSSU athletics department and was a fixture around the CIAA.
“He did just about everything from equipment guy to team trainer and on the road for basketball games, he would keep the scorebook,” Grant said earlier this month. “And in the CIAA, everybody knew who Bumpy was.”
Dr. Randy Bolton, a former star running back who graduated in 1979 and is also in the Big House Gaines Hall of Fame at WSSU, said, “Bumpy was the eyes and ears of the coaches on and off of the athletic field or court year round. You can’t talk WSSU athletics without mentioning Bumpy. He still coaches us today.”
Bolton, who lives in Charlotte, said Griffin has been a key part of a highly successful athletics department for nearly three decades.
“Bumpy was a tremendous figure in the lives of WSSU athletes during the mid to late ’70s,” Bolton said. “He kept you in order when it came to your equipment on and off of the field. He demanded respect from guys, and you made sure you turned in equipment in an orderly manner each and every day.
“He watched each of us closely and became a little lenient toward you if you proved to him that you were disciplined enough to take care of what the athletic department issued you. He didn’t care who you were or what string you were on the depth chart.”
Through social media and word of mouth, Mildred has tried to let folks know that Griffin is back home. Mildred, a 1967 graduate of WSSU, is well known in the WSSU community and is an active alum.
In 2008, Mildred was recognized by WSSU and was added to its Hall of Distinction in honor of her professional accomplishments, outstanding character, community service and commitment to WSSU.
“Mildred is very well known throughout the WSSU community, and she’s very active,” Grant said.
Mildred said seeing the WSSU community come through to raise the money to bring her son home to a hospital in Winston-Salem means a lot to her.
“It just shows you that when one of us is hurting, folks come through, and I can’t thank them enough,” Mildred said. “He was there (in the Cayman Islands) in a hospital for four weeks, so we’re not sure what kind of treatment he was getting. Now he can hear familiar voices and has been responding nicely since he returned.
“We are thankful that Bumpy is back home.”