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Fr James Edmund Groppi
Birth: Nov. 16, 1930
Milwaukee
Milwaukee County
Wisconsin, USA
Death: Nov. 4, 1985
Milwaukee
Milwaukee County
Wisconsin, USA

Father James Edmund Groppi, Roman Catholic priest and civil rights activist, was born in Milwaukee. He was one of twelve children of Italian immigrants, Giocondo Groppi and his wife. He attended Mount Calvary Seminary in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, from 1950 to 1952; and St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee from 1952 to 1959. In June 1959 he was ordained to the priesthood. He began his duties as a priest at St. Veronica Church, Milwaukee, in 1959. In 1963, Father Groppi was transferred to St. Boniface Church, a predominately Black parish in the inner city of Milwaukee. It was while serving at St. Boniface that he received national attention for his work in the area of human rights. After leaving St. Boniface in 1970, Groppi was assigned to the pastoral team of St. Michael Church, Milwaukee. Here he began looking for new outlets for his intellectual energies, applying to graduate schools in political science and law. In 1970, he was accepted at the Antioch School of Law, but dropped out in 1972 with one year of training left; that same year he also left St. Michael Church. From 1975 to 1976, he worked for the Tri-County Voluntary Service Committee, where he was responsible for recruiting and supervising VISTA volunteers in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth Counties. He rose again to public attention when he joined Marlon Brando to mediate the clash between the Menomonee Indians and the Alexian Brothers at the Alexian Monastery in Gresham, Wisconsin, in 1975.

Groppi's early civil rights activity included participation in the 1963 "March on Washington," work with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) movement in Mississippi during the summer of 1964, participation in the "Selma-Montgomery March" in March 1965, and work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference voter registration project, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., during the summer of 1965. That same year he became the advisor to the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council and began protesting segregation in Milwaukee public schools. In his capacity of NAACP advisor, he organized an all Black male group called the Milwaukee Commandos. They were formed to help quell violence during the "Freedom Marches" and, with the NAACP Youth Council, mounted a lengthy, continuous demonstration against the city of Milwaukee on behalf of fair housing. Two of the Commandos eventually became bodyguards to Father Groppi. While assistant pastor to Reverend Eugene Bleidorn at St. Boniface, Groppi was also second vice president of Milwaukee United School Integration Committee (1965-1966), advisor to the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council (1965-1968), and organizer of the "Welfare Mothers' March on Madison" (1969).

From 1967-1969, Father Groppi rose to national fame with such actions as picketing the home of circuit court Judge Robert C. Cannon to protest his membership in the white-only Fraternal Order of Eagles, and participating in "Freedom Marches." Later Groppi joined demonstrations at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He received both physical and moral support from human rights activists like Dick Gregory and Martin Luther King, Jr. Though he was denigrated and arrested on numerous occasions for standing firm in his beliefs, he was instrumental in dramatizing the segregated housing situation in Milwaukee. This led to enactment of an open-housing law in Milwaukee. Groppi also raised the consciousness of many to other inequities as well.

On 22 April 1976, Groppi married Margaret Rozga, who had been his secretary while at St. Boniface. Holding a doctorate in English, she was later to teach English at a Milwaukee university. The couple would have three children. Since he could no longer remain a Roman Catholic priest, Groppi attended the Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal) in Alexandria, Virginia, during the fall of 1978. Beginning in January 1979, he continued preparations for the Episcopal priesthood by working for St. Andrews Church, an inner-city parish in Detroit, Michigan. His lifelong commitment to Roman Catholicism led him to contemplate whether it was spiritually possible to continue conversion to the Episcopal priesthood, Groppi returned to Milwaukee and resumed his former position as a Milwaukee County transit bus driver in the summer of 1979. He died on November 4, 1985.  
 
Burial:
Mount Olivet Cemetery
Milwaukee
Milwaukee County
Wisconsin, USA
Plot: Block 17, Lot 494, Grave 1
 
Created by: timothy kenney
Record added: Jan 16, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 17496546
Fr James Edmund Groppi
Added by: timothy kenney
 
Fr James Edmund Groppi
Added by: timothy kenney
 
Fr James Edmund Groppi
Added by: timothy kenney
 
 
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 Added: Oct. 4, 2012
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 Added: Apr. 12, 2012
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