Better late than never, Archie's death finally noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, the town where he owned a home (for 59 years) and did much of his work. There's little new here, but I think the Chronicle's obit should have a home in this thread.
Aaron "Archie" Green, folklorist of labor, dies
John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Aaron "Archie" Green, the former San Francisco shipwright who became an author, folklorist, university professor and labor historian credited with creating the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, has died of renal failure.
Dr. Green was 91 when he died March 22 in the upper Castro house he and his wife bought in 1950, when the neighborhood was filled with blue-collar families.
He had a kind of folksy energy that was impossible to ignore, whether it was at a union hall, a San Francisco Port Commission meeting or in the corridors of Congress.
Hailed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Congressional Record and awarded the Library of Congress' Living Legend Award, Dr. Green leaves behind a coast-to-coast legacy of chronicling the lives of workers and the term he coined to describe it: "laborlore."
He was a pioneer who inspired others to do the same.
"I never in my life dreamed I would write a book," said Michael Munoz, a retired Oakland pile driver and union archivist who met Dr. Green in 1982. His prodding compelled Munoz to write the book "Pilebutt" on the efforts of the laborers who did the tough work of anchoring bridges, dams and skyscrapers.
"All I was doing was collecting the material in the union hall and putting it in a cabinet," Munoz said. "Archie decided I needed to write a book."
And when Dr. Green decided something needed to happen, it usually did, such as when he lobbied Congress to support the American Folklife Preservation Act, which passed unanimously and was signed by President Ford in 1976.
The act created American Folklife Center, an archive of more than 4,000 collections of photos, documents and recordings ranging from American Indian song and dance to tales of "Bruh Rabbit," told in the Gullah dialect of the Georgia Sea Islands.
Born in 1917 in Winnipeg, Canada, to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, he moved to Boyle Heights in Los Angeles with his parents in 1922.
He graduated in 1939 from UC Berkeley with a degree in philosophy and began working on the San Francisco waterfront in 1940. He served in the Navy's legendary Seabees Construction Battalion during World War II and then returned to the shipwright's trade and carpentry while raising a family in San Francisco.
"When he wasn't working on the job, he was working around the house," building a den, fixing up the back porch, adding another room, recalled his son, Derek Green.
In 1958, Archie Green returned to academia, earning a master's degree from the University of Illinois in 1960. He went on to earn a doctorate in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. His first book, "Only a Miner," published in 1971, combined his support for labor and love of country music. He would go on to publish at least eight books, including "The Big Red Songbook" in 2007, featuring lyrics from editions of the Industrial Workers of the World's "Little Red Songbooks" dating back to 1909.
In 1975 he was hired as a folklore professor at the University of Texas. He retired from the university in 1982 and donated his collected materials to the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He returned to San Francisco, wrote and delved into labor issues, most recently the ongoing effort to preserve the five-story Islais Creek Copra Crane at Pier 84. Laborers used the crane, built in the early '70s, to unload dried coconut.
Dr. Green is survived by his wife Louanne, sons David Green of San Francisco and Derek Green of Montara, daughter Debra Morrisof Boone, Iowa, four grandchildren and sister Mitzi Zeman.
A public memorial service is being planned.
The family suggests memorial contributions go to an educational institution of the donor's choice or to the Fund for Labor Culture & History in San Francisco (www.laborculture.org).
E-mail John Coté at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page B - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle