Linguist, athlete, world traveler, Army intelligence officer and witness to civil rights history: this is but a partial description of Douglas Walker Greene, who died at 74 from complications of primary progressive aphasia on July 23 at his Laguna Beach home.
Doug was born to Earl and Alice Greene on Dec. 13, 1938 in Ishpeming, Mich.
A member of the football, track and gymnastics teams, Doug graduated with honors from North Hollywood High School in 1957 after serving as president of the student body and enrolled at Stanford University as a political science major with a minor in international relations. He joined the Army ROTC and, upon graduation in 1961, was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Army’s intelligence and security unit.
Greene was assigned to the University of Alabama where he helped to enroll the first African-American students at the all-white university. As the defiant Gov. George Wallace blocked the entry of James Hood and Vivian Monroe, Greene relayed the events to President John F. Kennedy.
Green’s next assignment was to go undercover, posing as a student to ensure the safety of James Meredith, the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Greene was with Meredith when rocks were thrown through the library windows. Responsible for intelligence operations in eight counties in Alabama, he also worked in Selma, Ala.
The Cuban missile crisis was Greene’s final job in the intelligence field. His commanding officer described him as “one of the finest young officers with whom I have ever served . . . intelligent, mature, capable, most entertaining, congenial, [and] poised.”
After earning an additional bachelor’s degree in international management at the American Institute for Foreign Trade (now Thunderbird School of Global Management), Greene was hired by the Whirlpool Corporation and served as the regional sales manager for Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1994 he founded Commercial Finance Resource in Newport Beach, from which he retired in 2010.
Travel was Greene’s greatest passion. Fluent in Spanish and with a working knowledge of Portuguese, French and Italian, he explored 141 countries, reveling in the opportunity to interact with people from diverse cultures and to study their histories and political systems. He was a scholar, lecturer and collector of historic Guatemalan dance masks and loved to spar with rug dealers around the world about the tribal origins of rug motifs. He was also an avid sailor, fisherman and racquetball player and adored the infectious rhythms of Latin music, especially Mexican classics.
A co-founder of the Collectors Council at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, Greene wrote the council’s monthly newsletter and served on the museum’s board of acquisitions. He met his wife, Miriam Smith, when she joined the council in 1993; the two were also members of an advisory committee of the Laguna Art Museum.
He is survived by his wife; his daughters (by former wife, Judi Foune Greene), Susannah Louise Greene of Stevensville, Mich., and Amanda Kathryn Greene of Chicago, Ill.; and his sister, Gretchen Greene of Oakland, Calif.
A celebration of Greene’s life will take place on Sept. 15 in Emerald Bay.