Even in death, Joseph Greene continues to blaze trails. Previously, Prof. Greene was recognized as the first African American to become the president of the Augusta Rotary Club and to be elected to the McDuffie County Board of Education in the 1970s.
And last Tuesday night, he became the first African American to be awarded the Darrell Johnson Award by the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce. During the award presentation, former Thomson Mayor Bob Knox fought back tears as he described Prof. Greene's life.
"Many people are takers in this life and many are givers," Mr. Knox said. "And nobody can deny that Joe Greene was a giver."
Years ago, Prof. Greene came to McDuffie County from Emanuel County "with just a few dollars in his pocket and a job offer from Pilgrim Life Insurance," according to Mr. Knox. Prof. Greene quickly moved up in the company until he was the vice-president.
His biography, From Cotton Fields to Board Rooms, was published in 2005 and recounted his journey that included becoming chairman of the University System Board of Regents, serving as Augusta State's Customer Service Champion and the Cree Walker Professor of Business, in addition to sitting on many other boards and receiving countless other accolades.
After being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1982, treated for lymphoma and losing siblings to the disease, Prof. Greene became a national spokesperson for the American Cancer Society in 2006. Prof. Greene passed away in November of last year.
"After having shown us how to deal with personal problems as they occur in our lives, he lost his battle with cancer," Mr. Knox said.
Prof. Greene's characteristics of improving the quality of life and serving others while being successful made him the obvious choice for the Darrell Johnson Award, according to Mr. Knox.
Developed in memory of Darrell Johnson over 20 years ago, the award is given to outstanding individuals who contribute to making McDuffie County a better place.
Mr. Knox said Mr. Johnson was very hard working and civic minded, and he had a "knack for being able to sell you a car, and then two or three years later, sell you another one."
Prof. Greene's widow, Barney, and children, Cathy and David, accepted the award in his honor. Mrs. Greene said she knew her husband was happy to receive the award in Mr. Johnson's memory.
"In fact, we bought our first car from Darrell Johnson," she said. "And believe it or not, we bought my second one from him, too."
Mrs. Greene thought the overcoming-obstacles message of the banquet's keynote speaker, Judd Basiatto, was similar to the message of her husband's memoir. At the end of the banquet, she purchased a copy of one of Dr. Biasiotto's books, which he autographed for her. In turn, she presented him with Prof. Greene's book, which she autographed for him.
"Your husband sounds like somebody I'd really like to meet," Dr. Biasiotto said as he accepted the book.
"Well, after you read this book, you will have," Mrs. Greene replied.