by Michael Robert Mounter

Born on January 30, 1844 in Philadelphia, Richard Theodore Greener was raised from the age of ten in Boston. He attended the Broadway Grammar School in Cambridge, Massachusetts until he was fourteen, then dropped out of school to help support his family, working as a porter, clerk and night-watchman in an assortment of jobs. With help from two of his employers, August E. Batchelder and George Herbert Palmer, Greener attended preparatory school at Oberlin College from 1862 to 1864 and Phillips Academy at Andover from 1864 to 1865. Batchelder arranged for Greener’s admission to Harvard in 1865 as an experiment in the education of African-Americans. In 1870 Greener graduated from Harvard with honors, the first African-American to do so.

After teaching for two years at the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia and then serving as principal at the Preparatory School for Colored Children in Washington, D.C. in 1873, Greener accepted the professorship of mental and moral philosophy at the University of South Carolina in October of 1873. On September 24, 1874, Greener married Genevieve Ida Fleet. When the university was closed in June of 1877 by Wade Hampton and the newly elected Democratic regime, Greener moved to Washington, D.C., where he took a position as a clerk in the Treasury Department and as a professor in the Howard Law School. He served as dean of the Howard Law School from 1878 to 1880 and opened a law practice. From 1885 to 1892, Greener served as secretary of the Grant Monument Association and from 1885 to 1890 as a civil service examiner in New York City. In the 1896 election he served as the head of the Colored Bureau of the National Republican Party in Chicago. In 1898, Greener was appointed as the United States Commercial Agent in Vladivostok, Russia, a position he held until 1905.

Greener left the foreign service in 1905, settling in Chicago with relatives. He held a job as an agent for an insurance company and practiced law. He occasionally lectured on his life and times for the remainder of his life. Richard Theodore Greener died of old age in Chicago on May 2, 1922.

Copyright 2001
The Board of Trustees
University of South Carolina

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