Willie Grimes was a 20-year old sophomore attending North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. He wasn’t politically active and was at the school purely for his studies.
Unfortunately, Greensboro was about to erupt into a protest and violence as a result of a rigged student council election at nearby James B. Dudley High School. It was an election rigged weeks in advance to bar a Black student, Claude Barnes, from running. When he could be stopped and was elected as a write-in, they refused to see his win as legitimate.
The Greensboro Uprising and Willie Grimes’ Death
Three days later, the protests escalated into violence with student protesters throwing rocks and police officers firing tear gas. The conflict between protesters and police eventually reached A&T. Students from both Dudley and A&T were gassed and attacked by the police and National Guard. Willie Grimes was one of those caught up in the conflict.
On May 21st, Willie called home to let his family know he had cashed his income tax check. His father, Joe, said he would be down to Greensboro to bring him home since the spring semester was done. Willie would meet with his friends later in the evening about the protests and the conflict at A&T.
He and his friends headed down Summit Avenue to a fast food place for dinner. As they left Scott Hall and neared Carver Hall, gunfire rang out and Willie was struck. Witnesses near the scene tend to agree that the gunfire came from a car although some specified that it was an unmarked police car. Of course, the police denied this.
On May 22, Willie was rushed to Moses Cone Hospital but declared dead on arrival at 1:30 AM from a bullet lodged in the base of his brain. His funeral was held at his high school to seat the 2,000 people who came to pay their respects.
Willie Grimes’ death was one of eight that were unsolved from the nights of the uprising. The others include two students and five police officers.