Griffin Speaks


Gregory Oswald Griffin Sr.In 1985, only two African-American men passed the Alabama Bar Examination. They were the author of this column, Greg Griffin and Jackson, Mississippi attorney, Dennis Sweet. In the late eighties I knew every African American attorney in the state of Alabama by their first name. We have truly come a long way since then. Today I couldn’t tell you the first name of half of the African American attorneys in Alabama. That reflects that there has been some progress in the area of producing more African American attorneys.

We have all heard the claim that there are too many attorneys. Well there are not too many good attorneys and there definitely are not too many African American attorneys. It is impossible to have too many African American attorneys. In this country we need as many advocates as possible to protect the gains we have made since slavery.

I met Attorney Dennis Sweet when we sat for the bar examination. When Dennis Sweet walked through the door at the Civic Center in Montgomery it appeared as though all eyes were on him. In walked this very confident black man who appeared to have the world by the tail. Dennis Sweet with movie star good looks amazingly was humble. He treated me as though we were friends even though we had just met.

A few months later I would observe Dennis Sweet and Rose Sanders represent a white lady from Greene County in a voting fraud case. They won the case. I could hardly believe my eyes at how awesome he was in the courtroom. I have practiced law for 19 years and I have yet to witness anyone that has come marginally close to Dennis Sweet’s skills as a litigator.

On January 1, 1986 at 12:01 am I received a call from Dennis Sweet. He asked me to move to Jackson, Mississippi and start a law firm. I was flattered to receive the invitation, but I had to turn him down. The rest is history!

Dennis Sweet went on to become one of the most successful trial attorneys in American History. He is Johnnie Cochran, Jock Smith, Jere Beasley, F.Lee Bailey and Willie Gary all in one man. He is incredible. Dennis Sweet won a FOUR HUNDRED MILLION-DOLLAR judgment in the FenPhen diet pill case against American Home Products. Dennis’s law firm, Langston Sweet & Freese located in Jackson, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama won a ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLAR judgment against Ford Motor, the largest wrongful death or personal injury verdict in Mississippi history. He has won numerous multi million dollar cases. I don’t have enough room in this column to list them.

A couple of months ago I received an e-mail from my long lost friend. I had not heard from Dennis in sixteen years. Dennis told me that someone had e-mailed him a copy of my article on A.G. Gaston where I mentioned his name and the fact that we were the only two African American men to pass the 1985 Bar Exam. He congratulated me on my success and saw irony in the similarities in my experience with Gaston Enterprises and his experience at a former employer. He made no mention that he was rich beyond belief. He didn’t say, “See what a fool you were for turning my offer down.” He was simply the incredible human being he has always been!

Greg Griffin is a free lance writer. You can read his earlier articles by visiting his web page at

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