Lillian Green, 73; Educator Oversaw GED Program at UDC

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 29, 2007

Lillian Johnson Green, 73, a Washington educator, radio host and community leader, died June 20 of cardiopulmonary arrest at her home in Washington.

Ms. Green, a District native with deep roots in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, led the GED program in the Division of Continuing Education of the University of the District of Columbia for many years. She was also the host of a radio talk show and jazz program, the owner of a jazz club and a member of the D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

Ms. Green began her career in education in the 1960s as an assistant to the president of the Institute for Services to Education, an organization that helped devise policies for and distribute grants to historically black colleges.

After working at Washington's old Federal City College, Ms. Green became assistant to the director of women's programs at the new UDC in 1977. A year later, she became director of the university's GED program.

She developed the curriculum, hired teachers and supervised the daily operations of the program until her retirement in 1992. Under her tutelage, hundreds of students from the District and from countries all over the world were able to continue their educations after receiving high school equivalency diplomas.

"She was a wonderful educator," said Verna Collins, a friend and former UDC colleague. "Lillian could take the most despondent student, someone who was almost incorrigible, and before you knew it, he or she would be the best student.

"She was very patient. She would just listen and look and ask a few questions, and the next thing you know, she'd solved the problem."

Lillian Dorothea Johnson was born and grew up in Adams Morgan, then a predominantly black neighborhood. When she graduated from Cardozo High School in 1952, her motto in the class yearbook was "He profits most who serves best."

She held secretarial positions with the National Science Foundation and with several federal agencies in the 1950s and '60s, then became a community activist, representing her neighborhood on the city's Advisory Neighborhood Council.

While working full time, Ms. Green enrolled in college and graduated from the Washington satellite campus of Antioch College. In the early 1980s, she received a master's degree in education from UDC.

She developed an early love of jazz by taking part in backyard stage shows as a girl. Her mother, Ms. Green said in a 1978 interview with the Pacifica Paper, could play piano like Fats Waller, and an aunt could sing like Billie Holiday.

Jazz became a cornerstone of Ms. Green's life, and in 1967 she and her husband opened Dingane's Den, a music club and African-themed restaurant on 18th Street NW. The club, named for a Zulu king, operated until the mid-1970s.

For more than a decade in the 1970s and '80s, Ms. Green had a weekly Monday afternoon jazz program on WPFW-FM, "Green Dolphin Street." Previously, she had a talk show and was the station's special projects director.

Since the 1970s, Ms. Green had been a member of the D.C. chapter of For Love of Children, an organization aimed at providing opportunities to young people. She and her husband were foster parents to more than 50 children over 15 years.

Ms. Green also helped set up summer education programs, community clinics and literacy programs for inmates. She volunteered at Brightwood Elementary School and participated in many neighborhood projects. A 1993 Washington Post article described the tulips, irises and begonias she planted along her sidewalk.

"We should instill pride in our children, and there is no better way to do that than with our neighborhoods," she said in The Post. "I believe in fixing up and beautifying."

Her husband of 35 years, Charles E. Green, died in 1988.

Survivors include four children, Stephan Green, Carla Green, Antoinette Green and Corey Green, all of Washington; a sister, Nellie Cooke of Silver Spring; two brothers, the Rev. Ermine Johnson and Romeo Johnson, both of Washington; a half-sister, Joanne Carter of Washington; a half-brother, John Carter of Washington; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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