ROCKINGHAM — Miriam Frances Greene, reared at a time when young ladies learned their lot was to marry, have babies and cook endless dinners, would not have considered herself a feminist icon.
Yet, as the first woman to occupy the office of Richmond County Clerk of Courts/Superior Court, she seamlessly succeeded a man, then beat back two male challengers in order to serve 36 years and groom at least three successors.
She died a week ago Friday at age 93, and most likely was on time and well spoken when she met the Maker to which her obituary referred.
“She was just a fine lady … with a lot of wisdom,” said Vickie Daniel, current clerk of Superior Court. “She had that little, funny wit about her, (but) she was a great leader.” Greene hired Daniel two years before she retired.
Former Clerk Cathy Wilson remembered Greene as “wonderful — professional, serious at times” but always ready “to enjoy life.” Because most clerical work before the advent of computers was performed manually, Wilson said, “it was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun” when Greene was in charge.
The word that crops up most in remembrances of Greene is “professional.” Also: “Unparalleled.” “Strong.” “Deliberative.”
People who encounter a clerk of courts usually aren’t in the best frame of mind. They’re filing for divorce or bankruptcy, appearing in family court or fighting in probate court for a share of Grandpa’s bequest. They’re nervous, sometimes irksome, often rude.
“People coming in there, they’re not happy, and sometimes they’re not the nicest people,” said Michael Beale, a retired judge with both Richmond County’s superior and district courts who worked with Greene for 10 years. Greene could handle all comers with aplomb and, of course, professionalism, he said.
Beale met Greene when he took his first position in Richmond County, as an assistant district attorney.
“I can remember the day I (first) went to work,” said Beale, who delivered the eulogy at Greene’s funeral on Monday.
Beale’s boss had suggested he make friendly with the women in the clerk’s office. They would be the ones who helped him with the filing and researching of court documents, so it was best to be on their collective best side.
“She welcomed me with open arms,” Beale remembered, introducing him to all the women in her own office, then taking the time to hustle him downstairs at the courthouse to meet those in the criminal division.
Greene also was “one who really recognized talent,” Beale said. Three women for whom she was a mentor have become clerks of court or trial court administrators.
“That really is virtually unparalleled,” Beale said.
And Greene was “as respected in the community as she was in court,” he said. “She was a strong woman. She didn’t have to talk it. She (just) was” — “handily” beating back two challengers for the office early in her tenure.
In probate cases, Beale said, Greene bore a trace of Solomonic wisdom.
“She may have been slow” in crafting a decision because she made sure to allow everyone concerned to have a say, Beale said, “but she was always right.”
Greene died last Friday at Richmond County Hospice. She is survived by cousins, nieces and nephews but not by a husband or children.
Miriam Greene left a different kind of legacy. And she left it to all of Richmond County.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]