Denver East Teacher dies at 79
Anyone who was fortunate to have Regis Groff as their teacher at Denver East surely remembers him with fondness, love and reverence. Regis was my teacher for a rather avant-garde class, for the time, called Afro-American history. He was one of my top two high school teachers.
Just 5 years after the assassination of of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., history books did not yet include much about African Americans aside from slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation. Tensions between races were still brittle, but Regis taught that class on Black American history with such vigor that even the white kids felt connected – like family.
Oh yeah, Regis was cool. He was the first person I met who truly looked beyond color, ethnicity or social status. His charisma was born from his real desire to know and care about his students. No wonder he did so well as a Colorado Senator.
But I knew Regis outside of the classroom too. He coached the East Angels golf team, of which I was the weakest link. Other teams knew when the Angels were coming by our hair. Everyone on the team (even the white kids) wore an “afro”. And as I recall, Regis too sported a longer cut. How I would love to get a copy of that team picture. (Are you out there Dan Gross?) Whenever I ran into Regis after those high school days, he’d always ask about each of the players by name. And he’d make a special mention about Eric Lombardi who he knew was my best bud. “What about Lombardi?” he’d always say… “let’s get together at City Park.”
I photographed Regis several times over the years while he was in politics and did his family portraits as well. This most recent portrait was done about 7 or 8 years ago. After the photo-shoot was over, we chatted for a long while at his desk. We talked about war and peace, religion and family. When I told him about my then 2 year old son’s leg amputation his expression turned to one of shocked empathy. It felt awkward reaching for my camera when I saw his expression but I did and here it is. I wonder if he liked this one as much as I do. It’s a side of Regis I will always cherish.
Here’s a link to the Denver Post story by Kirk Mitchell (Not the same Kirk Mitchell we knew from the hood)