When I woke up in the middle of the night Monday and read that Dr. J. Lee Greene had died, my heart broke a little. I don’t even know how to explain what this man did for my little provincial teen-aged mind. His lecture topics ranged from Toni Morrison to Richard Ellison to Eldzier Cortor to Hughie Lee-Smith and were jewels not just for the anointing he put on works of literature and art, but for the solid-gold aphorisms he dished in between.
During the years in which we lost touch after I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, both Dr. Greene and I discovered a ministry in the preservation of local African-American history and heritage. He offered early and much-valued encouragement of my mission with Black Wide-Awake, and today I made a donation in his honor and memory to Rutherford County’s African American Heritage Museum, which he founded in 2012.
Rest in peace, Lee Greene.