Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fond Farewell to American Indian Scholar Michael Green

For years now, one of my favorite things about attending the Southern History, Ethnohistory, and NAISA conferences has been seeing my friend Michael Green. He and his wife Theda Perdue, both eminent American Indian scholars, took me under their wing and proved extremely helpful in my development as a scholar, and continued to be sources of encouragement. Mike, in particular, followed my fiction as well as my academic history, and always had kind words for me. One year, when something unexpected came up and I couldn't make it to the Ethnohistory conference to deliver a scheduled paper about Seminoles and race, he graciously read it in my place. His friendly smile, sharp wit, and incisive commentary were invaluable. His loss is keenly felt by everyone who knew him.

For those who have not seen it, here is Mike Green's obituary, which was brought to my attention by historian Kathryn Braund:.

Michael David Green, Professor Emeritus of American Studies and History at the University of North Carolina, died at Duke University Hospital on August 23, 2013, at the age of 72. He suffered from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and underwent a lung transplant on November 18, 2012. His impending death from complications did not diminis...h his gratitude to the lung donor’s family and to the Duke staff who gave him nine months of life that he did not expect to have.

Green was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Myrtle (Brownie) and Merton Green and grew up in Grundy Center, Mount Vernon, and Oelwein. He graduated from Cornell College in 1963, and earned his Ph. D. in history at the University of Iowa in 1973. He taught at West Texas State University, Monmouth College, the University of Iowa, Dartmouth College, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Kentucky, and the University of North Carolina. He was a superb lecturer and a devoted mentor. He retired from UNC in 2009.

Green was a distinguished scholar of American Indians. At Dartmouth College, he chaired Native American Studies for eight years, and at UNC he founded the American Indian Studies Program. He was author of seven books, including The Politics of Indian Removal (1982) and North American Indians (2010). He held fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Newberry Library’s D’Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, among others.

An avid traveler, Green trod on seven continents and waded in five oceans. He never saw a museum or an industrial ruin that he did not want to visit. But he also enjoyed experiencing the places he traveled--wandering through local markets, sitting in cafes, attending performances, and visiting old friends and new. His enthusiasm for travel often coincided with his interest in transportation, and he always found the journey as exciting as the destination. Trains were his favorite, especially the trains from Puno to Cuzco in Peru, Nairobi to Mombassa in Kenya, and Denver to Salt Lake City in the U.S. After his retirement in 2009, he and his wife embarked on a four-month trip around the world by land and sea that took him on the Queen Mary across the Atlantic, the Trans-Mongolian and Tibetan railways across Europe and Asia, and a container ship, the Hanjin Miami, across the Pacific.

Green’s favorite mode of transportation was the automobile. At the age of three he could name all the cars parked on the town square, and over his lifetime, he amassed a huge collection of toy cars, trucks, and buses—a graduate student once remarked that he had more toys than books in his study. He also liked the real thing, and he is survived by his 1954 Carolina blue Chevrolet, 1960 Cadillac, 1972 Suburban, and 1974 Airstream trailer, which he took to Key West every Christmas for a decade.

Green had a strong sense of social and economic justice,which led him to support the Peace and Freedom Party and the Citizens Party before he settled into the Democratic camp at middle age. His keen sense of humor, however, enabled even Republicans to enjoy his company.

His friends and family will remember him for his powerful intellect, his eclectic interests, the twinkle in his eye, and his appreciation of a good joke and a smooth whiskey.

Green is survived by his wife Theda Perdue and Welsh terrier Calamity Jane of Chapel Hill; first wife Andrea Ohl of Terlingua, Texas; daughter Julia Green of Alpine, Texas; son Daniel Green and his wife Neda Shashani-Green of Newark, Delaware; son Thomas Green and his wife Victoria Mountain of Boston; granddaughters Samin Green of Hampshire, Tennessee, Asudeh Green of New York City, and Penelope and Sofie Green of Boston; sister Diana Rasmussen and her husband Paul of Des Moines, Iowa; brother David Green and his wife Caron of Lanai City, Hawaii; a niece and four nephews; two great nieces and two great nephews.

Memorial gifts may be made to the American Indian Studies Fund 60110, Arts and Sciences Foundation, 134 East Franklin Street, CB 6115,Chapel Hill, NC 27514. The family also requests that friends consider becoming organ donors in his memory.


  1. I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your friend, Troy.

  2. Deepest sympathy. So many who were touched by him. What an amazing man.

  3. A lovely obituary for a fascinating man who had a good full life. My sympathy to you, Troy, for the loss of your friend, and of course to his family.