In memoriam: Dr. Johnny Lee Greene.

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.

3 comments

  1. Lisa, thank you so much for sharing this story about my uncle. He loved his students. Thank you for the donation towards the project he so cherished, African-American Heritage Museum of Rutherford County.

    1. It was absolutely my pleasure. I really cannot overstate the impact he had on my way of seeing the world. I’m so glad that we reconnected via Facebook and bonded over a shared love of local history.

  2. Dr J Lee Greene was the best professor I had at UNC-CH. I just now learned of his passing, as I have been living out of state. So many times I have thought to write him and thank him for helping to transform my teenage brain into an adult mind. He is one of the main reasons I majored in English education and went on to teach middle school and high school in Atlanta. I quoted him so many times in my classrooms! His gentle guidance was with me in 2006 when I started working on an educational charity in Johannesburg South Africa, and I’m still involved today. It’s been over 40 years since I had the pleasure of sitting in his classroom for not one, but two semesters. I was also in his play “Great Jones Street”. Wow I can still remember all the songs!
    I miss you Dr Greene and I wish your family all the best.
    Kindest regards,
    Beth Patterson Masters

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