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Two Former Richmond City Council Members Die Within Days

Two former Richmond City Council members, Reverand Charles belcher and Richard Griffin, died recently within days of each other.


Charles Belcher


Reverend Charles Belcher died over the past weekend, reportedly of a massive heart attack. He was appointed in 2001 to fill the seat of Alex Evans, who resigned and moved to Orinda. He later ran for and won the two-year remainder of the term, defeating Chevron auditor Lynn Wade, who is married to a firefighter and was heavily backed by Local 188. Belcher did not support a proposed firefighter benefits package, and he ran unopposed until just days before the deadline. 2001, when Wade filed at the last minute. Belcher was a consummate gentleman who, by himself, substantially raised the challenged civility quotient of the Richmond City Council. He moved to St. Louis about three years ago. Local services for Reverend Belcher are as follows:

Services in Berkeley, California


Monday August 18, 2008

Family Hour: 6 - 8 PM

Fouches Hudson Funeral Home

3665 Telegraph Avenue

Oakland, California 94609

Phone:(510) 654-8558



Tuesday August 19, 2008

Services 10:00 AM

St. Paul AME Church

2024 Ashby Avenue

Berkeley, California 94703

Phone: (510) 848-2050

Rev. Dr. Allen L. Williams, Pastor

Presiding Elder Vernon S. Burroughs, Presiding Officer The Rt. Rev. T. Larry Kirkland, Presiding Prelate 5th Episcopal District, Eulogist


Expressions of sympathy and condolences may be sent to:

Mrs. Doris Marie Denson-Belcher

4324 W. Pine Blvd

Saint Louis, Mo 63108-2206

Phone: (314) 652-7968

Email condolences may be sent to: arglova@aol.com

Richard Griffin

Richard Griffin, who died earlier today, was appointed to the council in 1981 to fill a vacancy. His last term ended in 2006, when he decided not to seek re-election. He appeared on the ballot, though he had officially withdrawn. Richard was born in Arkansas and spent his early childhood there, a unique bond that we shared. Richard was a really nice guy with a great sense of humor and a keen insight into the complexity of municipal affairs. We had some political disagreements with each other, but neither of us ever took them personally.

Griffin was well-educated and had a technical background that people weren’t generally aware of. He held a BA in chemistry and biology from SFSU and a MA in education. Griffin was a public school teacher and later principal before moving into politics. He had served on his neighborhood council. Laurel Park, before being appointed to the City Council. He worked as a microbiologist for Schlitz Brewery and was chief chemist for General Dynamics Corporation. He received three National Science Foundation Scholarships. He lived in the city of Richmond for 37 years and served in the United States Armed Forces. He was a union member in the United Administrators of Oakland Schools, Local 83. He was a Baptist and attended St. John Missionary Baptist Church. In the past he served as director of both the Richmond Girls Club and Greater Richmond Social Service Corporation. In the past he served as vice-mayor. Richard Griffin was married Betty had two sons and three grandchildren.

Following are stories from the West County Times about Griffin and Belcher:

Former longtime Richmond City Council member dies at 74

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

Article Launched: 08/13/2008 06:23:51 PM PDT

Richard Griffin, who spent more than two decades on the Richmond City Council, died Wednesday afternoon. He was 74.

Griffin was appointed to the council in 1981 to fill a vacancy. His last term ended in 2006, when he decided not to seek re-election. He appeared on the ballot, though he had officially withdrawn.

"He was probably one of the most likable council members, even to those he voted against," said Councilman Nat Bates, who was a close friend. "He just had a charisma, a friendly, charming personality."

Griffin suffered health problems for a few years, prompting his council retirement.

His death marks the second time in a week that a former Richmond councilman has died. The Rev. Charles Belcher, who was appointed to fill a vacancy and then elected to a two-year term in 2001, died last week. Belcher was living in St. Louis, Mo., at the time of this death.

Griffin was a champion for senior citizen issues and was heartened by redevelopment projects in the city, friends and colleagues said.

"It was a dead city for a long time, and it began to lighten up. He liked being part of that," said George Livingston, Griffin's brother-in-law and a former Richmond mayor.

He also was a strong advocate for the city's crime-prevention programs, said friend and former Richmond Police Commission Chairman Bob Sutcliffe. Griffin's support during the early 1980s helped firmly establish the Police Commission, which investigates allegations of police brutality, Sutcliffe said.

Griffin's support and behind-the-scenes advocacy later in his council career further helped the Police Department through a difficult stretch of public mistrust and allegations of mismanagement that cost former police Chief Joe Samuels his job in 2003, Sutcliffe said.

"Richard was always out there, he was one of the council members who was really accessible," Sutcliffe said. "He supported the Police Commission during some very difficult times."

Griffin had a reputation for finding common ground on the council and in the community, even when groups didn't see eye to eye.

"He didn't like to rock the boat," Livingston said. He was "easy-going" and always composed even when others were not, former Councilman Jim McMillian said.

Beyond his work on the council, Griffin had been a public school teacher and principal in Oakland who held degrees in chemistry and biology. He was a golfer when he was active.

"He was a beacon in our family," Livingston said. "He was always grinning. When people had problems, he was a peacemaker."

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com. Staff writer Karl Fischer contributed to this report.

Information about services for former Richmond City Councilman Richard Griffin is pending. Services for the Rev. Charles Belcher begin next week. A viewing is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at Fouche's Hudson Funeral Homes, 3665 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. A celebration of his life is scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Paul African Methoidist Episcopal Church, 2024 Ashby Ave., Berkeley.


Belcher Gets Richmond Council Seat
January 10, 2001

By Shawn Masten

RICHMOND -- To no one's surprise, the Rev. Charles Belcher was appointed to the City Council Tuesday to fill the seat left vacant by former Councilman Alex Evans. 

The only surprise was that the vote was unanimous. 

Belcher was present with a prepared speech, and his appointment was applauded by dozens of his supporters in the audience. 

"It is my prayer that your vote and confidence will be well-founded," Belcher said. "I thank you for the honor and privilege to serve the city that I love." 

The vote capped several months of political jockeying behind the scenes by council members and special interest groups. Council members Monday had predicted Belcher was the only one of three candidates who could muster the necessary five votes. 

The other candidates were Steve Harvey, a city planning commissioner and former council candidate, and Maria Theresa Viramontes-Campbell, a longtime political activist in the region. 

Belcher didn't say Tuesday how his name first came up for the appointment, but did say he hadn't lobbied the council for the seat. 

Tuesday's vote came after several residents pleaded with the council to keep the seat open until November, when an election will be held. 

"It's appalling to me that there's no public process," said Susan Glick. "It doesn't look right, it doesn't smell right." 

Evans submitted notice Jan. 4 that he was resigning effective Monday. 

By law, the council had until March 9 to fill the seat or leave it open until the general election in November. 

Belcher is the pastor of the Resurrection African Methodist Episcopal Church on Cutting Boulevard in South Richmond. He is a native of the city and serves on the board of Richmond's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also served on the city's human relations and affirmative action commission. 

Belcher will serve until November. To continue the remaining two years of Evans' term , he will have to stand for election at that time.