Telvin Griffin

photo by Zaugh Photography
photo by Zaugh Photography

Telvin Griffin

Telvin Griffin, Actor/Entertainer

Years lived in Texarkana: 23

What is your favorite Texarkana memory?

I have so many fun memories for sure, but the first one that comes to my mind was during my second-grade school year at Kilpatrick Elementary. There was a charity fundraising marathon race being held on a Saturday morning and, of course, like most kids, I wanted to sleep in. My mother wasn’t having it at all. She made me get up and we were out there bright and early. They gave us raffle tickets, and of course, I thought nothing of it. At the end of the race, when it came time for the drawing, they called my raffle ticket number and I jumped up, so excited because the prize was a brand new computer. This was our first computer too, so winning that prize made it even more special. I just remember my mom crying at first and looking back on it now I realize they were tears of joy. Driving home she said, “See, aren’t you glad we went now Telvin?”. They had a big assembly at Kilpatrick with the newspapers and news stations there as well, officially gifting the computer to me. It was pretty cool, I have to admit, and something that I will always remember.

Who is someone from Texarkana who impacted your life?

Well, my wonderful God-fearing parents are by far the greatest influences in my life today, with the values they instilled in me from birth, which are with me to this very day. Next, I’d have to say a man named Billy Bland. He has impacted my life in a major way. He’s been the on-air personality and station director for KTOY 104.7 FM radio station at least since I was in elementary school and probably before. During my teenage years, I was part of a talk show for teenagers, addressing teenage issues and I had the chance to watch him work and do his thing on the radio. I had never seen anything like that, up close and personal. I had only listened in the car on the way to school in the mornings and in the afternoons, which were his on-air shifts. One of my God-given gifts is the ability to speak into a microphone and entertain people. I had always wanted to be on television and host my own morning radio show, so when I saw him in person, working his craft, it really impacted me and made me want to pursue my dreams even more. So I guess you can say, I knew what I wanted to focus on in college way back in the sixth grade. Just growing up listening to him and seeing the influence he had on Texarkana back then, was very impactful to me. The entire city knows Billy Bland. If you want something announced on the radio for the city, everyone knows you call Mr. Billy Bland.  I remember not wanting to leave the radio station. I stayed as long as I could just to help with whatever I could, to soak in as much wisdom as possible from him. He and his wife are very good friends of my family, so I see him as much as possible when I’m visiting home and sometimes he’ll have me call in as a guest, to see how I’m doing so the city can hear from one of their own.

What do you love about Texarkana?

Well for one, Texarkana is my hometown so you have to love that! Living in Los Angeles for the last three years and Dallas before that, made me appreciate Texarkana even more. I’m a country brother at heart so I value the little things like everyone knowing each other, hometown traditions such as the annual parades, and being able to get to places in 15 minutes or less. I guess you can say being born and raised there spoiled me. Living in a city like Texarkana, your name and reputation carry weight. Growing up, there were things I just couldn’t get away with even if I tried, simply based on the fact that people knew who my folks were and they’d tell on me in a heartbeat. Texarkana is the epitome of a village support system. Now of course we have our flaws as many other cities do and we’re going to work on those, so we can continue to grow into a city that sets the example for other cities across the country. But for the most part, Texarkana is a city of pride and joy!

How do you describe Texarkana to your friends?

I keep it nice and simple for those who don’t know about Texarkana, especially the friends I met in college and after. I tell them that Texarkana is unique in its own way. One city in two states with a state line dividing each side, so we are “Twice As Nice.” Many friends have been through Texarkana since I-30 goes through the city and I jokingly tell them as they drive along I-30,“if you blink, you’ll miss it.”

Were you a Hawk, Leopard, Razorback or Tiger?

I’m a proud Razorback and wouldn’t trade it for anything. I came up through the Texarkana, Arkansas School District from Carver Kindergarten all the way to Arkansas Senior High. Our biggest rivalry was the Texas High Tigers and there was always beef between both schools, especially when football season was starting. During the week of the game, I remember our principal announcing on the intercom that we weren’t allowed on their campus for anything. Both sides were known to egg each other’s schools and toilet paper certain areas on both campuses. So they knew it would be nothing but trouble - we really didn’t like each other that week - haha. A fun memory I have is my junior year, NBC Sports came to do a special on our rivalry because that year it had been named one of the top ten high school football rivalries in the country. Texas High at the time had Ryan Mallett as their quarterback who would end up going to Michigan, then to the University of Arkansas and ultimately to the NFL for a few years, along with a few other players that played college football and the pros. We also had a few players on our team that played college football as well, with our star running back playing a few years in the NFL. So they had some high-profile players, as did our team. I just remember being in the locker room and our head coach being fired up like never before and NBC cameras panning across each of our faces. It was intense, and the game didn’t disappoint for the fans. We didn’t get the win, but it was still a cool moment for two high school football teams to be featured on a national television program during Sunday Night Football.

Where was your favorite place to eat in Texarkana?

I definitely had a couple of favorite places. I’m such a simple guy who loves me some soul food. If I’m not eating my grandparents amazing cooking, because I’ll just be honest, they could have a restaurant all by themselves in their homes, I would go to a place called Mother Kelley’s. Especially on Wednesdays for that chicken spaghetti. There’s also a place called The Golden Lady that had some of the best soul food you could think of. When you eat there, be prepared for a two to three-hour nap to follow and it’d be some of the best sleep you could have! But most times after Sunday morning church services, all the family would migrate to my memaw’s house and she’d have a full spread of food laid out for us. She just loved to cook and is quite good at it. We’d end up having leftovers to take home that lasted at least three to four days. Then I’d go to my other grandparents’ house to get some of their cooking, so as you can tell my family and I didn’t really have to cook much!! Needless to say, anytime I have the opportunity to come home, I make my way to the grandparents for some good eating.

What was the teen hangout when you lived here?

You know, honestly, I didn’t really hang out much at specific places. I was a little different in that respect. I’m a musician, so most times I’d just be at the church I played for and would be there sometimes for four to five hours just playing and practicing different things to get better. My best friends would also come up too because they were singers, so we just had a good time truly. My parents would always be like, “Now son, don’t run the electricity bill up.” I think just playing the keyboard gave me peace and relaxation. I’ve never been a bar type of guy or club hopper. I’ll go now and then to celebrate a birthday or something, but every weekend is not my kind of thing.

What do you miss about Texarkana?

I’m a huge family guy, so first and foremost, I miss being around my family, spending time with them, playing games and just fellowshiping. I also miss waking up on Saturday mornings trying to be the first one at Fort’s barbershop on Oats street before they got super busy. That was always a struggle, especially if I missed that alarm. Folks just don’t realize the Saturday morning barbershop struggle. If you didn’t get there early, you’ll be for sure waiting at least two hours. You waited because you didn’t want a nappy head with beebees and messed up edge for a whole week, as you definitely didn’t have time to get a haircut during the school week. Those were fun times for sure. I also miss being able to meet up with my friends and just sit down at a restaurant to talk and catch up.

What would you change about Texarkana?

One thing I love about Texarkana is that it’s full of history. From the Perot Theater to the Discovery Place all the way to the Ace of Clubs House we have great history there that I wouldn’t change. My changes would come in the communities such as College Hill and various areas on the Arkansas side. My dreams and goals are to make movies in Hollywood and then come back to my city and pour into my community. We can never get to the point that we forget parts of our cities that are struggling. I’d love to rebuild that area and put fun things there for the kids to have, such as interactive after-school programs, better housing, and just overall upgrading that area by bringing more attractions to that side of the city. I also want to develop my own charter school system similar to what LeBron James did in Ohio. I have so many ideas on how states force these kids to learn how to take tests rather than give them basic skills, such as financial literacy or balancing a checkbook or even how to file taxes. Things that will help them in life, but I won’t go too deep into that. That’s what drives me and keeps me motivated in my entertainment career. This life isn’t and has never been about me, but what I can do for my community and generations to come after me. My favorite actor Denzel Washington says, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse” with the implication being that no one can take any of the money they’re going to make from their careers with them when the Lord decides their time on this earth is up, so why not pour back into the community that poured into us? At least there’s a legacy being left that hopefully will endure for many generations to come. That’s how God intended for us to operate, in my opinion. How can we be of use to our generation and generations to come? It’s a different mindset you see.

What do you think makes Texarkana famous?

You know what honestly, I really think just the whole aspect of being able to stand on State Line and have your feet in two different states at the same time makes Texarkana unique and famous. Of course, the movie Bonanza mentions Texarkana in the theme song too. But other than that, being able to be in two states at one time is quite unique! Although there is a place in the Midwest where you can be in four states at the same time, it’s still not Texarkana. We’re Twice As Nice, baby!!

What is your nickname for Texarkana?

What is your nickname for Texarkana? I call Texarkana “T-Town.” That’s been my nickname for Texarkana ever since I was nine years old. I would hear my grandpa say it all the time and it just clicked with me to the point when I was in college and my friends would ask me where I was going on some weekends, I’d say, “I’m headed to T-Town”. It’s got a nice ring to it, huh?

What words do you live by?

I tell you, I’m so very blessed that God allowed me to be raised by the wonderful parents He gave me. They taught me to keep God first! Something so very simple yet profound as you get older and setbacks begin to happen or huge successes happen. Either way, those words are bound to my heart and they keep me rooted and grounded, no matter what I’m facing in life. It’s my secret! So to everyone reading this, just as my parents instilled in me, I’ll leave you with the same words of wisdom as you continue to live out your purpose in this life, KEEP GOD FIRST ALWAYS, and everything else will flow in order.

TXK Roots is Texarkana Magazine’s forum to highlight and honor Texarkana natives who have accomplished big things in the world. These folks may have relocated, but they took the values, education, work ethic and creativity instilled in them by growing up in this unique border city and used these qualities to blaze extraordinary trails. We asked them to share their thoughts about growing up here. No matter how far from Texarkana they may find themselves, we will always consider them our neighbors and we are proud to claim them as forever members of our extended Texarkana community. After all, “everyone is famous in their hometown!”

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