Living Legends Series

Alexandria Living Legend Nelson Greene, Jr. Righted Wrongs and Got Things Done

Nelson Greene Jr.

Alexandria, VA – In the 1950s, being “progressive” may not have had the same meaning as it does today. But it stood for taking a stance, and that was the spirit of Nelson Greene Jr., a founding member of the Departmental Progressive Club who took a stance throughout his lifetime in Alexandria and got things done.

His voice against injustice in Alexandria went a long way and through that, he righted a few wrongs along the way, including his service at the club, three terms on the Alexandria City School Board and work as an adjunct professor in the Mortuary Science program at the University of the District of Columbia. The Departmental Progressive Club works frequently with Carpenter’s Shelter and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority to provide food to many of the area families.

In 1954, his father Nelson Greene Sr. started the Greene Funeral Home with his wife Gloria. Greene Jr. took over after his father’s death in November of 2014. Although he had a tough exterior, friends knew him as a big old teddy bear.

“Nelson had the biggest heart and was the most giving person I knew,” said Merrick Malone, who served as an officer with Greene at the DPC.  “He was an incredible asset not just to our club but to the entire city. He comes from a tremendous family legacy and he advanced that legacy but he was never in anyone’s shadow. He created his own legacy.”

Greene briefly attended Parker-Gray High School before graduating from what is now Duke Ellington High School in Washington. He spent three years serving as an officer in the U.S. Army before returning to Alexandria to work in the family business.

“Nelson loved the City of Alexandria,” said Donita Greene, his wife of nearly 25 years. “He did what he could to make the city the best it could be.”

Greene received his Mortuary Science education from John Tyler Community College in Chester, Va., and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Virginia State College.

Greene was well-known for his dedicated service in the funeral industry as well as to the many organizations he served in the community.

He served as National President of Epsilon Nu Delta Mortuary Fraternity and chapter president, as chairman of the Life Membership committee and District Governor of National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association, and on the Scholarship Committee and State President of Virginia Morticians Association, as well as Chairman of the Board.

When Greene was a member of the school board he supported the various sports programs as a way for high school students to have a good start and to know the value of teamwork. One thing he did was to make sure all athletes maintained a C average at school. This didn’t go over well with some of the parents but he stood by his rule and in the end, everyone benefited.

Greene also supported the talent shows at school as another way for the students to express themselves. Mentoring young men was a big part of his efforts, and he hoped they would become the next police and firemen in the city.

He was a member of Meade Episcopal Church, where served as Licensed Lay Preacher. He also served as Junior Warden eight other times, and as Senior Warden three times. He was a life member of Omega Psi Phi since 1974.

“Nelson served this community in all kinds of capacities,” added Malone. “Some people may have thought he was gruff but he was never afraid to be a voice against injustice. He was very forceful and a champion in that.”

The Greene Funeral Home is located on Franklin Street between South Washington and South Patrick Streets and the city is considering naming one of the side streets after Greene to uphold the legacy that he and his family have instilled on the City of Alexandria. Donita Greene said this was in the works and is hoping it comes to fruition soon.

Said Donita Greene, “Nelson truly wanted to do whatever he could to help the people in his community.”

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