The South Carolina Parole and Pardons Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to grant posthumous pardons to Thomas and Meeks Griffin, who were executed in 1915 for a crime they didn’t commit. The pardons, believed to be the first posthumously granted in South Carolina in a capital murder case, were the result of a determined campaign to seek justice by syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, who is a great nephew of the two men.
According to a report on Joyner’s BlackAmericaWeb.com, Joyner, his brother, Albert, and two sons, Thomas and Oscar, were joined by Harvard scholar Henry Louis “Skip” Gates and his legal team in presenting their case. Joyner broke the news nationwide by calling in live to “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” shortly after 9:30 am ET Wednesday to report the outcome to co-hosts Sybil Wilkes and J. Anthony Brown and listeners on stations across the country.
“They did give my uncles a posthumous pardon. We’re getting ready to go now for the signing of the pardon letter,” said the jubilant radio host.
Joyner had been on a quest to clear his uncles’ names for over a year. He’d learned of their execution after being found guilty of killing a white confederate Army veteran – and evidence that they were innocent – when Gates researched Joyner’s family for his 2008 PBS special, “African American Lives II.”
Gates found that the two Griffin brothers were framed by another black man who likely committed the killing himself. He later said he selected them because they were the richest black people in the county and able to afford to hire a defense lawyer. That, however, did them no good.