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Black History Month: James Groppi

Milwaukee, WI – Father James Groppi became the pastor at the predominantly black St. Boniface Church in Milwaukee in 1963. He was known for his deep involvement in the civil rights movement both locally and nationally.

Groppi participated in the 1963 “March on Washington” and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March and in 1965 he worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Voter Registration Project led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Groppi was the advisor for the NAACP Milwaukee Youth Council and worked with many other civil rights leaders to protest segregation and discrimination. He organized the Milwaukee Commandos and Freedom March against the city.

In the fall of 1967, Groppi led more than 100 demonstrators on a Freedom March across
the 16th Street Viaduct to rallies in Koscuiszko Park. Dr. King and Father Groppi got to know each other. In a telegram from September 4, 1967, King wrote to him: “What you and your courageous associates are doing in Milwaukee will certainly serve as a kind of massive nonviolence that we need in this turbulent period.”

After leaving the priesthood, Groppi married in 1976. In 1979, he became a bus operator for Milwaukee County Transit System. During his time with MCTS, Groppi served as president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998. He passed away in 1985.