Mural Honors Wiley Griffon’s Legacy In Eugene

Jun 7, 2019

Close up of a mural dedicated to Wiley Griffon, the earliest named African American resident of Eugene. The mural was painted by artist Ila Rose.
Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News

One of Eugene’s first African American residents has been honored with a mural. The artwork compliments other historical markers where Wiley Griffon lived, worked, and was eventually interred. 

Griffon wasn’t the first African American to live in Eugene, or Oregon, but he was one of the first to own property. Local archivists Cheri Turpin and her husband Mark Harris have been finding ways to commemorate that triumph.

“Oregon being an exclusion state, it was pretty fantastic that Wiley was even here to begin with and allowed to stay,” said Turpin.

Turpin found Griffon by sifting through old newspaper microfilms. Since then, she and Harris have set out to share Griffon’s history. And that includes supporting a mural that reflects Griffons job as a trolley man.

“You know a picture’s worth a thousand words, some of those words are you know hey people have come here to reside and sometime they’re welcome, sometimes they’re not, but still they stay,” said Harris.

The mural, located on Willamette St., was painted by local artist Ila Rose. Rose, Harris, and Turpin will discuss their work Sunday at Tsunami Books at 5:00 pm. The event will benefit the Eugene-Springfield NAACP.