Interview with Willie Grimes Family

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By Tishawna Williams, online editor and Jana Shaw, editor and chief

On May 20, 1969 20-year-old Willie Grimes was killed in the crossfire of the 1969 Uprising. Grimes was a sophomore at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Grimes was not the only student shot but was the uprising’s only casualty.

Grimes’ killing is the longest unsolved murder in the city of Greensboro. Although there has been no conviction in the killing- many speculate the police were a factor in his death.

To honor Grimes, N.C. A&T awarded his family with his graduating a degree. The A&T Register’s Online Editor, Tishawana Williams, was able to sit down with Willie Grimes’ mother, Ella Grimes, and sister to talk about his life and legacy.

1. How would you describe Willie Grimes

EG: He was such a loving boy. He would give the clothes off his back if he had to do it.

2. What can you remember about getting the news that your boy had been shot?

EG: “When I got the phone call, I was only told that he was shot. They didn’t tell me my boy was dead. It wasn’t until I got to the hospital when the news was broken to me. It is a feeling that never goes away. This was my baby, my seed, that I nurtured for 20 years. You never get over a loss like that.”

3. Did the police ever give any information as far as who done it?

EG: “Not really. They would avoid giving us information. It’s very heartbreaking, you know? The fact my baby has yet to have justice is ridiculous.”

4. I know A&T presented you with his degree…how was that moment

EG: “I have it set up just like my other children’s degrees. I am so proud of him. He worked hard for that degree. I’m saddened he did not get to witness his success, but i’m proud of my baby always.”

5. If you could tell him one thing right now, what would you tell him?

EG: “I love you, son.”

1. What is the one thing you miss most about your brother

“He was such a joking person. He walked in the room and would light it up with his smile. I miss that. When we got the news that he was murdered in cold blood, my world shattered. He was like my best friend. He was my protector.”

2. What are your thoughts about the tragedy?

“I believe the police know more than what they told us. Racism was in full force back then, and I believe the cops stereotyped some young black men and shot them. Just like what’s going on in the world today. Willie was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it is not right how they did him.”

3. Is your family still looking for answers?

“Yes. You want peace and it is hard to get peace with something that you have no answer or explanation to. I mainly want peace for mama. She needs it more than any of us.”

4. If you could tell your brother something right now, what would it be?

“I would ask him what was his final thoughts. Did he think about me? Did he think about mama? I know he was afraid, and I hate none of us were there. I hate we didn’t get to say goodbye. I would ask him what heaven is like and I would tell him how our family is doing. How proud we are with his degree. I miss him so much.”

5. Do you still keep in contact with any of his friends who were there during the shooting?

“I am friends on Facebook with a few of them. Every blue moon they will check on us. They are some nice guys.”

For more information on Willie Grimes and the 1969 Uprising visit Archive/ Special Collections in the F.D. Bluford Library.