Wendell L. Griffen is an Arkansas lawyer, jurist, legal educator, business leader, ordained Baptist minister, and public speaker. Born in Prescott, Arkansas, Judge Griffen attended the University of Arkansas School of Law from August 1976 through May 1979, when he received the Juris Doctor degree. While in law school, he served in the Student Bar Association, was president of the Black Law Student Association, and was Associate Editor of the Arkansas Law Review. He was awarded the first Silas Hunt Memorial Justice Award presented by the Black Law Student Association in memory of Silas Hunt, the first black law student admitted to an institution of higher education below the Mason Dixon line, in 1979.
After graduation from law school Judge Griffen joined the Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, becoming the first lawyer of color to join a major Arkansas law firm. He practiced business and tort litigation with the firm and was admitted to the partnership in January 1984, becoming the first lawyer of color admitted to the partnership of a major Arkansas law firm.
On April 15, 1985, Governor Bill Clinton appointed him Chairman of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission, making Griffen the first person of color named to that state agency and the first to chair it. Griffen served in that position until February 2, 1987, when he returned to his law practice with Wright, Lindsey & Jennings. Governor Jim Guy Tucker appointed Judge Griffen to the Court of Appeals at the end of 1995, and he entered judicial service in 1996.
While on the Court of Appeals, Griffen also remained active in professional, civic, and religious life, including service as President of the Pulaski County Bar Association, President of the Judge William R. Overton Inn of Court, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock, and Parliamentarian of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Judge Griffen concluded his tenure on the Arkansas Court of Appeals at the end of 2008. From 2009-2010, Griffen joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law as a Visiting Professor of Law teaching pretrial criminal procedure and leading a seminar titled “Cultural Competency, Inclusion, and Law.”
In 2011, Judge Griffen was elected as judge to Arkansas’s Sixth Circuit for Pulaski County. In addition to this, he currently serves as pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock and CEO of Griffen Strategic Consulting. He also runs a blog called Justice is a Verb!. Judge Griffen is married to Dr. Patricia L. Griffen, a clinical psychologist practicing in Little Rock, and they are parents to two sons: Martyn and Elliott.