A third-generation newspaperwoman, she followed her parents, Georgia and Russell H. Laschinger, and grandfather, George Tucker, as publisher of The Gilmer Mirror. Mr. Tucker purchased the newspaper in 1915. Founded in 1877, it is the oldest business institution in Upshur County. Its fourth-generation publisher is Mrs. Greene’s son William R. “Russ” Greene.
In addition to her son, she is survived by a daughter, Sally Greene, her husband Paul Jones and their son Tucker Jones, all of Chapel Hill, N.C.; and a sister, Mary Laschinger Kirby, of Gilmer.
Mrs. Greene became co-editor of The Mirror in 1971, co-publisher after the death of her father in 1974 and publisher in 1981. She retired in 2006 but remained actively engaged with the newspaper until 2011, when she began to suffer complications following a heart attack.
Born on Jan. 11, 1929, Mrs. Greene got an early start in the family business. She began selling Mirror subscriptions at age 8 and continued to perform other work for the paper, including running election results to the newspaper office from the courthouse square.
Valedictorian of her Gilmer High class, in 1945 she entered Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., then a two-year college for women. Stephens was a formative influence on her, introducing her to the complexities of the postwar world while solidifying her decision to follow her own professional path in journalism. She completed her formal education at the University of Texas, earning a degree from the School of Journalism.
In June of 1949, she joined The Dallas Morning News, where she worked for three years as a city staff reporter, specializing in education issues. She left for Fort Worth after her marriage in 1952 to Ray H. Greene, then a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter. In 1953 they accepted an invitation to move to Gilmer and join the family business. Mr. Greene was her co-publisher from 1974 until their divorce in the early 1980s. He died in 1986 from complications of alcoholism.
While her children were young, she worked mostly as a reporter, feature writer and proofreader, gradually taking on more duties as they grew up. Although she would demur at the suggestion that she was a pathbreaking woman in the field of community journalism, she unquestionably served as a role model for women in the profession.
In 1996 the Association for Women Journalists honored her and 89 other “trailblazers” with a “Woman of Courage” award for showing “leadership, tenacity and integrity in working to improve conditions for women both in and out of the profession.”
Wanda Garner Cash, senior clinical professor and associate director of the University of Texas School of Journalism, remembers Mrs. Greene as a mentor. “As a novice newspaper owner and publisher, I sought out Sarah's advice and applied the wise counsel she gave, not necessarily from the perspective of a woman publisher, but as a journalist committed to public service,” Ms. Cash said.
“Sarah Greene was an inspiration to generations of Texas journalists, through her work in the newsroom and through her leadership in the Texas Press Association,” she continued. “She was smart and savvy, assertive without ever being strident, and she loved her family, her community and Texas.”
Mrs. Greene was president of the Texas Press Association in 1995-96, the second woman to hold that honor. She was president of the North and East Texas Press Association in 1989-90.
Among her numerous other professional honors, she received the Anson Jones Award of the Texas Medical Association for outstanding reporting of medical news in 1963 and again in 1977. She received the Texas Press Association’s Golden 50 Award in 1999 for her five decades of service in the newspaper industry in Texas.
In 2004, the National Newspaper Association honored her with the Emma C. McKinney Award for lifetime achievement: “Her dedication, knowledge and work ethic continue to inspire all of the men and women who make newspapering their profession, not only in Texas, but all across this great country.” In 2010 she became the first woman inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame.
Interviewed for the Texas Newspaper Oral History project, Mrs. Greene said, “It’s a large responsibility to be involved in a community newspaper in a small town.” She called the newspaper “sort of a quasi-public utility,” in that it “didn’t matter whether you liked somebody or not, they have the right to have their story told, and it becomes a historical resource.”
A career in journalism well suited a woman with such varied interests and passions, which encompassed history, folklore, literature and the fine arts, as the following passage from her writing illustrates.
“How do you improve on a brilliant November day in East Texas, when the skies are the bluest they'll ever be, the leaves are burnished copper and gold, the very air has a delicious taste?
“It's not easy to make such perfection better, but there is a way.
“You step back in time a hundred years or so and resurrect an old-time syrup mill. You hitch up a big brown mule or an old white mare to a long post oak pole with a sugar cane press at the other end.”
So began a 1967 page one feature on a ribbon-cane syrup mill on the Cherokee Trace run by Arthur Buchanan and Alf Moore, both of whom had learned this distinctive regional art from their fathers—a story that exemplifies her love for the East Texas she could not imagine ever leaving.
An abiding interest in the people of Texas and their folkways led Mrs. Greene to join the Texas Folklore Society, of which she served as president in 1988-89. “For many years Sarah Greene was not only a mainstay of the Texas Folklore Society, she was an ornament. Her wit and wisdom cannot be replaced,” said professor, writer and folklorist James Ward Lee.
She was a passionate reader and collector of books by Texas authors, and she contributed to contemporary critical conversations on Texas literature and history. She wrote an afterword to a paperback edition of Shelby Hearon’s novel, A Prince of a Fellow (1992), as well as numerous reviews in literary journals, historical journals and newspapers.
She edited A History of Upshur County, Texas, by D.T. Loyd, published by The Mirror in 1966. In 1993 she co-edited, with Mary Kirby, Reflections of Upshur County, Texas. For The Handbook of Texas, she wrote articles on Stanley Walker and Tommy Thompson. She belonged to the Texas State Historical Association and the East Texas Historical Association, from which she received the Ralph W. Steen Award for distinguished service.
From 1977 to 1981 she served on the Texas Commission on the Arts. Following that interest, she was instrumental in helping organize the Upshur County Arts Council, whose aim was to strengthen the connections between the arts, cultural tourism and economic development. She was a charter member of the Council and a board member.
Mrs. Greene’s commitment to her local community was further evident in decades of service to many other organizations.
She served on the board of the East Texas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. She served as a trustee of the Baylor Medical Center, while it had a presence in Gilmer, and as president of the Upshur County Chamber of Commerce.
Mrs. Greene served on the board of directors of the Gilmer National Bank, and she was a charter director of the Historic Upshur Museum. She was for many years a member of the Bluebonnet Club and the Dahlia Garden Club. She was a charter member of the Gilmer Great Books Club and a longtime member of the Friends of the Library. She was a director of the Gilmer Industrial Foundation. She was among the first women invited to join the Gilmer Rotary Club, where she was a Paul Harris Fellow.
She served as a director of the East Texas Yamboree Association, and in 2008 she was Grand Marshal of the Queen’s Parade. She participated in the inaugural 1972 Yamboree delegation to the Texas Folklife Festival as well as many subsequent festivals.
She was honored for her community service in 1981, when she was named First Lady by Gilmer’s chapter of Beta Sigma Phi.
Mrs. Greene was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church of Gilmer, where she belonged to the Electa Sunday School class and sang regularly in the Chancel Choir. Funeral services will be held at the church at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6. Interment will follow immediately in the Gilmer City Cemetery. The family will receive visitors at the church before the funeral. Croley Funeral Home is in charge of the services.
The family is deeply grateful to Patti Harris and her extended household, who have been like family in their loving devotion as caregivers, and to all who have offered their care and support.
For those wishing to honor Mrs. Greene’s memory, the family suggests making a donation for student scholarships to the Texas Folklore Society, P.O. Box 13007, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Tex. 75962, or to any other charity whose mission falls within the wide range of her interests.
Sarah Greene - Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame