Guide dog helped a Fort Worth boxer travel independently

Guide dog helped a Fort Worth boxer travel independently

Dick Griffin and his guide dog, Gilda, are flanked by bantam weight world title holder, Manuel Ortiz, left, and entertainer Bob Hope, right.  The group was promoting Ortiz' 1943 bantam weight championship fight at Will Rogers Coliseum.

Dick Griffin and his information dog, Gilda, are flanked by bantam weight world title holder, Manuel Ortiz, left, and entertainer Bob Hope, proper. The group was selling Ortiz’ 1943 bantam weight championship combat at Will Rogers Coliseum.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, Special Collections, UTA Library

Before an opponent jabbed a rosin-covered thumb in his eye throughout a 1921 boxing observe match, Dick Griffin was a promising bantam-weight championship contender. Griffin continued to field regardless of a critical eye an infection, and his buddy and heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey paid to ship him to eye specialists. Griffin had a number of operations to protect his sight however, by 1934, he was utterly blind. As his sight deteriorated, Griffin switched careers, changing into a boxing agent and promoter. It was not till 1942, nonetheless, that he gained a trusted companion in his information dog, Gilda.

The first “seeing eye dog,” as they have been initially known as, arrived within the United States from Europe in 1928. By 1930 guidelines have been established allowing the canines on railroads and different public transportation. In June 1938 Lloyd Sparkman, a University of Texas Law School scholar, was the primary particular person to stroll down Fort Worth’s streets with a information dog. It was a head-turning sight on the time as a result of there have been solely six information canines in Texas. Sparkman was from Dallas, on the town to offer a discuss and exhibit what the dog may do for him.

Howard Betis was the primary Fort Worth resident to make use of a information dog. He met Flash in October 1941, when the pair went via a month of coaching on the Seeing Eye Institute in Morristown, New Jersey. The Fort Worth Lions Club sponsored Betis’ journey. Betis, who grew to become blind when he was 13, labored at American Manufacturing Company throughout World War II. He and Flash took the bus to work, the place he checked the band grooves on shell casings being manufactured for Army and Navy munitions.

The former boxer, Dick Griffin, was not far behind. He and Gilda started working collectively in February 1942, a change that enabled him to navigate downtown Fort Worth independently.

Early in his profession as boxing promoter, Griffin was instrumental in altering an 1895 Texas legislation that affected boxing. It banned any official designation for combat winners, making title fights basically moot. Griffin went to Austin and lobbied the Legislature to enact a legislation which, in 1934, legalized skilled boxing in Texas. That made his profession viable.

One of Griffin’s greatest occasions was a 1943 world title match between Manuel Ortiz and contender Lupe Cardoza — held at Will Rogers Coliseum as a profit for the Lighthouse for the Blind. After Ortiz knocked out Cardoza within the sixth spherical, Griffin and Gilda each “crawled via the ropes” to have a good time with Ortiz within the ring. It was most likely the excessive level of Griffin’s profession as a promoter, however he made no cash from the charity match. Griffin died of a coronary heart assault in 1950, which many stated was truly a damaged coronary heart following a main match he organized that failed to attract an viewers. Gilda was by his facet.

Today, there are two foremost organizations within the United States coaching and offering information canines. The oldest, relationship to 1929, is The Seeing Eye, Inc., in New Jersey, however the largest is Guide Dogs for the Blind, in California. Phil Green, a Fort Worth resident who works together with his information dog, Porter, sums up the distinction that having a information dog has made in his life: “I can travel independently. I by no means meet a stranger. I hear many dog ​​tales. I used to be capable of work for 10 extra years as a result of I had information canines. They helped me get to work on public transportation and navigate my work campus. My canines work for me, however they’re in love with my spouse, Subie.” It is an affirming story that has been replicated many occasions and in lots of locations.

Carol Roark is an archivist, historian, and writer with a particular curiosity in architectural and photographic historical past who has written a number of books on Fort Worth historical past.

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