Written by Connie Eble and Trudier Harris
Dr. J. Lee Greene earned his doctorate from the English Department here at UNC. After a brief stint away from Chapel Hill, he returned and spent most of his professional career as a faculty member in the English Department. He published his first scholarly monograph, Time’s Unfading Garden: Anne Spencer’s Life and Poetry, in 1977. He followed that up with a study of African American novels entitled Blacks in Eden: The African American Novel’s First Century (1996). Dr. Greene was a faithful and generous participant in the College Language Association (CLA), for which he frequently organized panels, including one that brought novelist Raymond Andrews to the Association’s annual meeting. In the mid-1970s when courses in African American studies were still suspect in university curricula and before appreciating diversity was a priority, Dr. Greene created with his students musical performances of African-American literature that they presented to capacity audiences in Memorial Hall. These performances fostered a spirit of community and pride among African American students from all across campus and helped them succeed at an overwhelmingly white University that at that time offered few role models and little appreciation of their culture. Winner of many teaching awards, Dr. Greene was known for his untiring interest in the progress and careers of his students, whom he never failed to greet with his infectious, heart-warming smile. One of his outstanding doctoral students, Keith S. Clark, who has published signature scholarship on Ann Petry and Ernest J. Gaines, is a Professor of English at George Mason University. After his retirement in 2005, Dr. Greene continued his lifelong hobby in woodworking. From adding rooms to and general masonry on his own home, he refined his interests to art and furniture, a signature example of which is the wood table he crafted that is on display in the Stone Center. On Saturday, 28 October 2017, he lost a more than ten-year battle with cancer.