Mention Judge George Greene to veteran lawyers in Wake County, and there might be a story about an unconventional punishment given a client, or a funny comment the judge made in the course of deciding a case, but inevitably, there will be a smile. Greene, who died Sunday at 82, loved being a judge.
He took up that part of the law after coming up, the son of educators, through the hard and unfair times of racial discrimination, and casting his lot as an attorney in the 1960s with civil rights workers seeking to desegregate local businesses. Greene represented them for free.
Greene did some desegregating of his own, becoming in 1974 the first African-American elected to a District Court judgeship in Wake County. He later served in Superior Court.
In both places, defense attorneys appreciated his sense of humor (he once offered sentencing breaks for all facing minor traffic offenses the day before Christmas) although his free-spirited behavior sometimes ruffled feathers. But most shared the view of the countys most respected attorney, Robert McMillan of Raleigh, who underlined the fact that with his flamboyance, Greene was always fair. And thats what counted.