Archie Givens, Jr., was known locally and nationally as a businessman, philanthropist, and a humanitarian. But perhaps more importantly to many of those who knew him personally from other places and spaces, Givens was best remembered as a dependable friend.
“Archie Givens was just a good dude. And he never did it for a show,” recalled Dr. Peter Hayden, founder and director of Turning Point, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit.
Givens died on April 19, 2023, at age 78, after several years of battling Alzheimer’s disease.
“When I started Turning Point,” continued Hayden, “he was always there. He would open his door for you.” When Hayden needed office equipment essential to getting his operation up and running, Givens provided a Xerox machine to use.
Over the years, Givens was a member of many boards, including the University of Minnesota and Penumbra Theatre. “He was never on my board,” admitted Hayden, “but he was always there for me. When I go to see Archie, he always had some time for me.”
Hayden easily recalled how much his friend was there for him in times of tragedy–like when his then 25-year-old daughter Taylor was killed by crossfire in Atlanta in 2016.
“When my daughter was taken from us seven years ago,” said Hyden. “When I rolled up to the church (for the funeral), the first person out there waiting for me was Archie.”
Givens was born in Minneapolis on April 30, 1944, and later graduated from Minneapolis Central High School and the University of Minnesota, where he played football from 1963 to 1966. He was a huge supporter of Gopher sports, especially men’s basketball where he was a regular fixture at games. He also was the only Black member asked to serve on coaching search committees, and once was president of the school’s alumni association.
The Givens family was seen as Minnesota’s first Black millionaires. The family, Archie, Sr. and his wife, Phebe, built a successful real estate development business. As an adult, Archie Jr. took over the reins and led the business into the 21st century.
Givens’ Legacy Management & Development Corp. built 900 homes at the Northside’s Heritage Park housing development, a 123-acre site. He also built the Rondo Community Library in St. Paul, and senior housing projects around the Twin Cities, including Edina.
Archie Jr. and his sister Roxanne, with their parents’ influence, gave back to the community in so many ways, especially in the arts and culture. The Givens family, along with 12 other families in the community, initially put up the money to purchase a 3,000-piece collection of Black literature and other Harlem Renaissance artifacts in the mid-1980s from a New York collection. More than a decade earlier, Givens started The Givens Foundation for African American Literature that would provide scholarships for Black students to attend college. The literary works purchased by Givens led to the founding of the Givens Collection of African American Literature and permanently house it at the University of Minnesota.
Givens’ presence in the arts world included hosting readings and art exhibits at his home.
“He invited me to a reading in the ‘90s,” said Herman J. Milligan, the foundation’s acting executive director and chair. “Then we started talking and then he asked me would I be interested in serving on the Givens Foundation board. I began serving on that board since 1998, then in 2016, I became the acting executive director.”
Givens’ legacy in business, the arts, his longtime devotion to his college alma mater will be lasting. But both Mulligan and Hayden point out that Archie’s generosity was underrated but will be most remembered.
“He was very humble, friendly, always had time to talk to you,” said Mulligan. “He was a loving, caring person. He really cared about all people and really cared about ensuring that Black Americans can be seen as contributors in a positive way like any other cultural group.”
“He was a great guy,” said Hayden, who added that Givens’ illness sadly took him away from the community he loved and served. “It was almost like we had lost him a long time ago,” he observed.
Archie Givens’ survivors include his wife Carol Meshbesher, his daughter Sunny (his other daughter from his first marriage, April, died in 2004), and sister Roxanne. A memorial service was held on April 30.