Celebrated artist, writer and educator Jefferson Eugene Grigsby was born on October 17, 1918 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Grigsby first discovered his love for art after his family moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina when he was nine years old. Grigsby went on to obtain his B.A. degree from Morehouse College, his M.A. degree in art from Ohio State University and his Ph.D. from New York University. In 1933, Grigsby attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Within a year, Grigsby transferred to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he first met his long time mentor, Hale Woodruff. Under Woodruff's tutelage, Grigsby graduated from Morehouse College in 1938 equipped with extensive artistic experience that he would retain throughout his life.
In 1942, Grigsby volunteered to serve in World War II and became a master sergeant of the 573rd Ordinance Ammunition Company under U.S. Army General George Patton during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1943, Grigsby married Rosalyn Thomasena Marshall, a high school biology teacher and social activist. Three years later, at the invitation of the school's principal, W.A. Robinson, Grigsby began working at Carver High School as an art teacher. After the closing of the school in 1954, Grigsby began working at Phoenix Union High School where he remained until 1966. In 1958, Grigsby was selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to represent the United States as an art teacher at the Children's Creative Center at the Brussels World Fair. This experience inspired Grigsby to initiate a number of art programs in community centers, housing projects and day care centers in the Phoenix area. Grigsby began teaching at the university level in 1966, working at the School of Art at Arizona State University until 1988. During this time, Grigsby published Art and Ethics: Background for Teaching Youth in a Pluralistic Society, the first book ever written for art teachers by an African American artist and author.
In 2001, The Art of Eugene Grigsby Jr.: A 65 YearRetrospective was featured at the Phoenix Art Museum. The exhibit featured insightful commentary of Grigsby's life and influence on the art and education world by his many colleagues, friends and family. Grigsby served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the National Art Education Association, the Committee on Minority Concerns and Artists of the Black Community/Arizona. Grigsby has also been awarded numerous times for his outstanding work, including the Arizona Governor's "Tostenrud" Art Award and the NAACP's Man of the Year Award.
The Jean and Robert Steele collection consisting of 227 works of art by 120 African American artists was gifted to the University of Maryland. These works on paper were assembled over almost four decades. A print by Dr. Grisby was among those donated. Dr. Grigsby's work is also included in the Library of Congress and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.