Artist and academic Jefferson Eugene Grigsby, Jr., was born on October 15, 1918 in Greensboro, North Carolina. His interest and enjoyment in art and creativity began in childhood and was later pursued through formal education. He earned a BA from Morehouse College in 1938 and an MA from Ohio State University in 1940. Grigsby continued his studies at Arizona State University, Columbia University, the American Artists School in New York, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Marseilles, France. In 1963 Grisby was awarded a Ph.D from New York University.
In 1942, after the United States entered the World War II, Grigsby volunteered for the U. S. Army. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war he returned to teach in Phoenix, Arizona at Carver High School, which was an all black institution until the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954. At this point Grigsby moved to Phoenix Union High School where he stayed for eleven years before joining Arizona State University’s School of Art in 1966 where he remained for two decades.
Grigsby’s art exhibitions have been acclaimed and numerous. Using a variety of media, color and texture, his subjects range from the abstract to more defined depictions. The year he graduated from Morehouse, Grigsby held his first professional art exhibition at the second Annual Exhibit of African American Artists hosted by Dillard University in New Orleans. Since then his work has been seen all over the world. Public collections containing his works are on show at locations as diverse as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Library of Congress.
Grigsby has also written for the International Review of African American Art, Outstanding Educators of America, Afro-American Artists and Ebony. He served as vice president of the National Art Education Association for two years from 1972 to 1974, and later as President of the Arizona Art Education Association from 1986 to 1990. Grigsby was named NAACP Man of the Year as well as Art Educator of the Year by the National Art Education Association. In September 2007 Grigsby was honoured for “Distinguished Contributions to African-American Art and Education” by the Congressional Black Caucus’ Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts in Washington, D.C.