About the Author

This is “my version” of what transpired when I first entered Dallas County Jail. First of all, let me explain where “I” was coming from at the time . . .

I grew up in the churches of Christ of South Texas. I never smoked, chewed, spit, drank booze, abused drugs, danced, gambled – I guess you get the picture. I guess I lived what folks call a “sheltered” life. I have zero music appreciation. My family got our first TV when I was in Junior High. I did not drive until I was a High School Senior. I didn’t date much. My one passion was football. I won a scholarship to attend Abilene Christian University. It was there that I fully gave my life to Christ, decided to preach and took all the Bible courses possible. I got married, quit football, taught home Bible studies and preached every Sunday (130 miles – one way – from Abilene). I graduated in 1966 with a major and minor in Bible. I went to preach full-time at two small congregations near Lubbock. Janet and I had our first child (Tishanne), and moved to Grand Prairie in July of 1969. A few years later our son (Yancy) was born there. I was quite “proud” of myself as a preacher and I was very hard on ALL sinners - especially smokers, cussers, drinkers and the sexually immoral!

This is where a man by the name of Joe Blow [obviously not his real name] enters the picture.

Looking back, I can see that I was well on my way to becoming a big-time, popular, straight-arrow, self-righteous, too-good, near-perfect, “holier-than-thou” . . . preacher!  Meeting Joe Blow was a great blessing. He helped to straighten me out and my life has been forever changed.

You see, Tishanne was only 4 years old when I read in the Grand Prairie Daily News that a 4-year-old girl was missing. As a protective father, I “personalized” the whole thing. I sucked up every ounce of news about this story. When I heard that some man might have kidnapped her, I wanted the cops to find that no-good scoundrel and throw the book at him!

Well, Joe eventually confessed that he had beaten, raped and killed the girl. He led them to her body – tossed like garbage into the Trinity River bottom. As I followed the case, I inwardly wanted him to get the Death Penalty!

I had no idea that this same “Joe Blow” would write a letter to the congregation where I was preaching at the time (Burbank Gardens Church of Christ in Grand Prairie). He requested a Bible and a study course. In his letter, Joe admitted that he had committed “a horrible crime” and knew he was headed straight for Hell! Of course, I said “Amen” to that! He explained in his letter how his family had attended Burbank Gardens years earlier. He told of his dad being considered at one time to serve as a deacon. Once, in a young men’s training program, Joe had actually stood in my pulpit to read Scripture and practice song singing! One of his statements really “stung” me. Joe said that he had written to some other congregations with this request but had heard nothing from them.

Well, I was determined that he would certainly hear back from us! But I was not going to be the one to do it! Joe was the last person in the universe I wanted to have anything to do with so I took his letter to the next elders’ meeting. As shepherds of the flock, I figured that they would take care of it. Instead, each one read Joe’s letter and passed it around the conference table. Finally, they gave it back to ME, telling me to “handle” it. This is what I call, “Passing the buck to Buck.”

Resolved that I was NOT going to have anything to do with this child rapist-murderer, I called Fred Selby. Fred was a deacon at Freetown Road Church of Christ in Grand Prairie. I knew he made weekly visits to Dallas County Jail. I gave him Joe’s name and offered (out of the goodness of my heart) to donate the requested Bible and study course if Fred would just “handle” this for us. I guess you could say now that “Buck was trying to pass the buck to Fred.” In this way I would keep myself totally pure and “sanitized” from this mess. Every time I thought about Joe, I visualized him raping and killing MY 4-year-old. As I recall, he killed her with a tire tool! The thought turned my stomach.

Well, Fred agreed to handle it but he asked, “Why don’t YOU go with me?” The “buck” I passed was turning out to be a boomerang! The only reason I can think of that I agreed to go with Fred is that I was too chicken to admit that I hated Joe’s guts for what he had done (and I think I heard somewhere that preachers are not supposed to hate).

Plus, I was AFRAID to see Joe Blow face-to-face with malice in my heart. Still, there is something about being an ex-football jock (“macho” mentality) that says I’m not “scared” of anything! So I went with Fred – against my better judgment – stuffed full of prejudice and with fear and trembling.

The clanging steel doors did not bother me. I don’t know what I expected but when we met for the first time in that little cubicle I was totally caught off-guard. Joe looked a lot like me and Fred – a regular guy! He was supposed to be red with horns sticking out of his head. Smoke was to be streaming from both nostrils. Surely I would spot his forked tail protruding out from one bottom leg of his jailhouse jumpsuit. We sat down in that tiny space with two round seats on our side with a metal table top and iron bars from the flat table top to the ceiling. The whole place had that institutional stench.

The first thing Joe did was snake his hand through the bars to shake mine! I was frozen.  I don’t know if he sensed it or not but I did not want to shake his hand. It took me a long time to admit the truth about that meeting. I gave him my old “limp noodle” handshake with zero enthusiasm. I sat down sadly and gladly let Fred do all the talking. But when he was ready to go, Fred turned to me and asked me to lead a prayer. I prayed for everything except JOE . . . I prayed for the widows in their affliction, the orphans, poor, hungry, naked, sick, bereaved, and the missionaries overseas in difficult fields. But I could not say a word about Joe or my crummy attitude. I quickly mumbled, “In Jesus’ name, Amen”. I tried to get up and get out but Joe started snaking that hand through the bars again . . . so I gave him my best imitation of a dead fish and hauled out of there as fast as possible. At that point, I was confident that I would never again be inside a jail!

A few days later Joe sent me his Bible lessons to be graded. I had hoped to “fail” him but he made a decent grade. Plus, he requested a Bible and study course for a guy in the same cell (he called it a “tank” but I used to fish in one of those so I was confused at first). I called Fred to give him this information. I thought he would take the new guy’s name and my job would be done. Instead, he asked me to go back to Dallas County Jail with him. Again, instead of admitting my fear (and shame), I dumbly went along. It was not as hard to meet and talk to Joe’s friend (because I didn’t know “what” his crime was). I thought about that a lot - later. It’s easier to forgive the man that stole my neighbor’s mule. But if he steals my mule, heaven better help him because I won’t!

When we were about to leave the jail that second time, Fred suggested that we stop by and see Joe Blow again. I didn’t want to but I was sort of a hostage myself. It was still very difficult for me to shake Joe’s hand and “act” halfway righteous. Later, Fred asked me how I “felt” about going to the jail. I told him that I had a terrific headache and felt like I was going to throw up but I didn’t tell him why. Luckily, he didn’t ask.

What no one knew was that a huge battle was going on inside of Buck Griffith. I was having a tough time going to sleep at night. I knew MY heart was not right. My thoughts haunted me all day – every day. When I first decided to become a preacher, I told God that I doubted He would ever be able to use me in a big way. I only asked that He put me wherever He wanted me – anywhere! I figured He would stick me in a little church no one else wanted to preach for – where I couldn’t do too much damage!

Slowly, my attitude was coming around. It was about that time that Joe wrote and asked to be baptized. I can’t recall if he asked me to baptize him or if FRED was playing a dirty trick on me and suggested that I do it. Anyway, that blew my mind!

Jokingly, I thought - “Yeah, I’ll baptize him OK . . . I’ll put him under but won’t let him up until he stops bubbling!” But beneath the surface, this was the most serious struggle I had ever faced. I think I stayed up all night that night. Finally, I came to understand that it was me that had to change.

I crossed the bridge that is essential for anyone who is going to win souls . . . “Who am I to stand in the way of ANY soul that desires to be washed in the blood of Jesus and escape the Hell that we ALL deserve?” In training new volunteers in jail and prison ministries today, I share my story. A God-approved volunteer must be willing to “teach, baptize and teach” (Matthew 28:19-20) any person - regardless of what sins they have committed. God is more interested in where we are going than where we have been! I must be converted to His divine standard.

After reaching that point, everything was a piece of cake. A calm came over me and I’ve never looked back. I want to thank Joe Blow for his crucial role in all of this. The pain was too intense for me. I would have run off if there had been any way for me to get away with it. Then, after his baptism, we began to study a lot more in depth, one-on-one. It wasn’t until Joe’s baptism that I was able to put my prejudice behind me. We were both starting out on a new journey - together.

The guys in Joe’s “tank” would ask him questions and he brought them up when we visited. We looked up Bible answers and he wrote them down, going back to explain the answers to the other prisoners. After some time, I spoke with Alvin Jennings of Star Bible Publications in Fort Worth and he agreed to publish “Questions Prisoners Ask” as one of his “flip-top” tracts. I used those until they were out of print! Maybe we should look at it, spruce it up some, and print it again? Prisoners still ask the same questions.

As Joe and I got closer, I pieced together the following explanation of the events leading up to his horrible crime. This is not an excuse – just the way things went down that terrible day . . .

Joe had broken up with his girlfriend (the mother of the 4-year-old).  He wanted to hurt his girlfriend so he went by and talked the babysitter into letting him take the child. Joe didn’t really have a “plan” but intended to keep the girl long enough to really “scare” his girlfriend.

But things started happening and quickly escalated. The girl became bored, tired, hungry, scared, wanted her mommy and started crying.  Never having been a parent, Joe tried to shut her up by yelling at her.  She only cried more. He hit her. She cried louder. She said she had to go to the bathroom, he ended up taking her to a deserted place between Grand Prairie/Irving in the Trinity River “bottom”. It was there that he sexually assaulted her and then killed her with a tire tool. He threw her body in the heavy brush.

Joe’s conscience got the best of him. He could not live with himself. He turned himself in, led the police to the body and as they say . . . “the rest is history.”

This is not a “pretty” picture. Personally, I don’t look so good in this story either but the only thing that will set us free is the truth.

Anyway (back at the ranch), time went by and Joe eventually went to trial. In the end they gave him the Death Penalty (what I had hoped for at first). But by this point in time I wanted to scream: “No! Wait! You don’t understand!”

Yes, this is the same Joe Blow that committed that horrendous crime BUT . . . he has been changed by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ!” Of course, this world’s courts (attorneys, judges and even most jurors) do not put much stock in spiritual matters. The mother of the deceased child didn’t think much of it either. The “old” Buck Griffith would have agreed with her completely. Victims and their family members need ministering to as well so don’t lose your ability to empathize with these hurting souls.

But I was no longer the same person. I thank the Lord that Joe and I were both changed by Jesus. In 1972, Texas did away with Capital Punishment (bringing it back in 1976).  Joe’s sentence was automatically commuted. The way I look at it, we couldn’t change the decision of the Criminal Courts of Dallas County so we appealed to God and . . . He looked down in tender mercy and changed it! God is Awesome!

When Joe left Dallas County Jail for the Texas prison system, our contact ended. I was covered up with prisoners taking Bible studies and requesting baptism. I got “caught up” for a time trying to teach and baptize everything that moved. But it was becoming more impersonal. I was a horse with “blinders” on. All I could see was teaching the next inmate, baptizing him and teaching and baptizing the next one. I can’t believe how truly BLIND I was. I confess that I am a very slow learner.

In time, I started opening my eyes to the multiple horizons of this “mission field” called jails and prisons. The first thing that dawned on me was that every inmate has a FAMILY and they are hurting too – parents, grandparents, wife, husband, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I had to reach out to them also.

Then, I started to see the need to follow these county jail contacts as they transitioned into state or federal prisons. Shipped off, each is in need of encouragement. I could also persuade preachers and other Christians nearby to go see them and teach and pray with them.

Finally, I began to see the tremendous need to work with prisoners when they are released – probationers and parolees. They need help finding jobs, housing, transportation, their significant place in a local congregation and using their painful past to help brighten the lives of others.

Down through the years when I would tell my story (not mentioning Joe’s real name), every now and then I would be asked, “Where is he now? Have you kept up with him?” My answer, of course, has been: “No. We lost contact. I don’t know where he is or even if he is still alive.” And, I’d leave it there.

More and more, however, I’ve been concerned (kind of like the way my conscience bothered me when I didn’t want to go see Joe in jail or shake his hand). I located him and found out that he is still alive. It still took some time for me to get up the nerve to contact him. The devil said Joe wouldn’t remember me or if he did, he would be angry with me for not staying in contact all these years or that he would write me a hateful letter full of true things that I didn’t want to see or hear.

Instead, Joe has a wonderful attitude and expresses nothing but love for me. I can only attribute that to God’s Amazing Grace! Joe is, of course, about 40 years older and his health is extremely poor. He was always a heavy smoker and radical cancer surgery has severely disfigured him. He will likely die in prison soon.

This brings us down to the present. Now . . . since that first day in November, 1971 . . . here is an abbreviated outline of what has transpired from my end.

1973 – I authored a five-lesson Bible correspondence course called “There IS a Better Way” since we could not find studies especially designed for inmates. We still use this course today and have added many others.

1974 – Burbank Gardens Church of Christ hosted the 1st Annual/National Jail & Prison Ministry Workshop in Grand Prairie. It has continued at a different city each year.   The 38th Annual Workshop will be in Louisville, Kentucky in 2011. See what this guy started!?

1977 – My family and I moved from Grand Prairie to Windsor Park Church of Christ in Corpus Christi. I was approved to minister in Nueces County Jail. In June 2002 I finished 25 years as Pulpit Minister at Windsor Park and began working full-time as Director of Kings Crossing Prison Ministries.

1983 – Started the Christian Training School for Ex-Offenders (CTS), a residential after-care facility for 12 men at a time. It was totally funded by the church and individual Christians. We ceased operating as a “residential” facility in 1993, having served 60 men from 12 states over that time frame. Today, we do the same thing but with men and women in halfway houses or other residences.

1988 – Started Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA), a Bible-based 12-Step support group which has spread to many prisons throughout the United States and in foreign countries. I had worked with Pinky Bates in Grand Prairie. He moved here in 1986 and we formed CASA primarily in search for a program to help him. Today, it is an approved by prison systems in many states.

1991 – Started “Baptistries Around the World” to place baptistries in every jail and prison. We have placed 285 in many states and dozens of foreign countries. We have designed a light-weight “portable” baptistry - ideal in facilities lacking space for permanent ones.

1993 – Started the Prison Ministry “Endowment Fund” to insure the long-term stability of the ministry. I’m not getting any younger and when I’m gone, I want to see this work continue. This fund is now in excess of $250,000.  I dream of it being able to provide a major portion of support to this ministry one day.

1997 – CASA was licensed by the State of Texas as a faith-based alcohol and drug treatment program. Over 160 similar groups exist throughout the USA. One day we hope to add a number of counselors, adding significantly to our 5 weekly support group meetings. We need a group just for teens.

1998 – Due to local ordinances about ex-offenders being at the church building during the week due to our “child-care” program, we relocated the prison ministry office to a commercial location. It has been a blessing. People come in off the street looking for help that never would have come into the church building.

1999 – I was asked to serve as a member of the Board of NewLife Behavior Ministries in
Dallas. This is a curriculum-based ministry founded by Dr. H. M. Motsinger in 1984. NLB’s mission is: “reconciling individuals to God, families, and society.” The curriculum consists of 14 courses, including a Children’s Edition.

2000 – I authored Course VIII for NewLife Behavior (“Christians Against Substance
Abuse”). It has opened many doors throughout the United States and several foreign countries. I began serving as Secretary for the NLB Board this year also.

2002 – In July, we relocated the NewLife Behavior office to Corpus Christi, I was asked to serve as President for NLB and merged our two offices at 3833 S. Staples, Suite S-101, Corpus Christi, Texas 78411 (361) 855-3372. We now have Gary Thompson, John Henry Pruitt and Pat & Glenda Watson working there. Pat is a LCDC and Glenda mostly works with wives, mothers and children in the FamilyNet program.

2005 – I authored Course XI for NewLife Behavior (“Prisoners of Christ”) and redesigned the CASA Course (VIII) for Sex-Offenders (VIIIb). The first eight courses plus the Children’s Edition are now available in English, Spanish, Russian, Bulgarian and Chinese. We supply the curriculum free to missionaries overseas.

Well, I guess that about “wraps” it up. My prayer is that this information will enhance your understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. We need your prayers and support. May God keep you safe, well and productive in His Kingdom.

In the Lord,

Buck Griffith