This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Carolina Law
When K. Edward Greene ’69 was growing up Biscoe, N.C., the Montgomery County town had a population of 1,000 people, none of whom were lawyers. Greene enrolled at East Carolina University (ECU) with the goal of becoming a school teacher. But that plan changed when Greene—then president of the ECU student government—met the chair of the ECU board of trustees, the first attorney Greene ever met.
That lawyer was Robert Morgan, a committed public servant who served North Carolina as a state legislator, attorney general and a U.S. senator, among other civic and political posts. “Robert Morgan was the person who suggested I might want to go to law school,” says Greene. “He told me, ‘If you think you’d like to help people, you need to be a lawyer.’”
Greene took that advice and graduated from Carolina Law in 1969 before going on to earn a Master of Law degree from the University of Virginia. Greene says that Morgan’s message of public service was reinforced by Dickson Phillips Jr., who served as dean of Carolina Law during Greene’s years as a student there. “The dean encouraged students to be involved in their community while they were in law school,” says Greene. “He told us, ‘When you leave this place, go out and make a difference in people’s lives.’ That’s what I did and what a lot of my classmates did.”
Greene did that by serving eight years as a trial judge in District Court in North Carolina in Harnett, Johnston and Lee Counties. He followed that with 16 years on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, retiring in 2002 as that court’s senior associate judge.
“My career has been about trying to help people solve their problems,” says Greene. “As a district court judge, I enjoyed listening to the people in my courtroom because I felt like I could make a difference in their lives.” When the vacancy arose on the court of appeals, Greene says that he ran because, “I thought that if I could help people in a three-county area as a district court judge, I would be able to make a difference all across the state as a court of appeals judge.”
Since stepping down from the bench, Greene has continued as a community leader through volunteering and through his work with Raleigh law firm Wyrick Robbins, which he joined in 2003. In addition, he taught as an adjunct professor at Carolina Law from 1992 to 2004 and at Campbell Law School from 1982 through 2004.
With the desire to encourage the next generation to give back to the community, Greene and his wife recently made a generous gift to the UNC School of Law for the Judge K. Edward and Joan P. Greene Public Service Scholarship. “When Joan and I decided to do this scholarship, we wanted to encourage people to go to law school and then encourage those who attend to commit to making a difference in people’s lives through a public service position,” says Greene.
“I think that lawyers are uniquely qualified to be in government, so I’d like to see more Carolina Law graduates serve as legislators, county commissioners, school board members and judges,” he says. “But there are many ways to serve the community. I hope that what Joan and I have done will encourage more students to do that. Being a lawyer in public service has been very satisfying to me.”
-June 12, 2017