Mary Elaine "Meg" Greene, born Jan. 1, 1950, was reported to be the first baby born in Wyoming in the '50s.
Meg died at the Fairbanks Pioneers' Home on April 27, 2019, from Alzheimer's disease.
Meg grew up in Mountain View, Wyoming, with her parents, Orme and Zelda Greene, and her brother, "Butch." Her father was killed in an industrial accident when she was 3. Zelda supported Meg and Butch as a small town telephone operator, though times were tough financially for them. She taught Meg to love the great outdoors with car trips and camping, and this love transferred immediately to love of Alaska.
As a youngster, Meg excelled in school, was the choir leader in her church and worked as a janitor and answering service operator on nights and weekends. She graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1972 with honors in mathematics. She was in the marching band at Wyoming and a student senator. She was then accepted at Harvard Law School on scholarship and took her first plane ride. Harvard Law and the people there were like going to another planet for Meg. She graduated with honors and was hired by a Chicago law firm, doing securities and antitrust, working at the Sears Tower.
When Alaska Supreme Court Justice Jay Rabinowitz offered her a law clerk position, she took a leave of absence from the law firm and began a lifetime of public service to the state of Alaska. After working for Justice Rabinowitz, Meg went to work as a public defender during the pipeline days. She represented individuals in criminal cases, child protection and juvenile crime cases, and sanity hearings. She was the first lawyer to call an outside expert on "battered woman syndrome" in an early case in 1979 representing a teenage girl who killed her abusive husband. She spent days in the courtroom and evenings and weekends visiting clients in jail and flying in small planes to villages. She became skilled at finding clients and witnesses in bars and motels, and tried the patience of some judges. The story is that she and a prosecutor once did six jury trials in Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow, in four days.
In 1980, Meg went to work as the assistant attorney general and advised Alaska on the natural gas pipeline. She laughed that it is now almost 40 years later and even she couldn't get it across the finish line. She returned to the public defenders later and became a legal legend as a trial and appellate attorney. Her encyclopedic knowledge of Alaska law and hard work resulted in her handling 80 cases before the Alaska Supreme Court and the Alaska Court of Appeals in a little over three years. That number is an amazing amount of work by one person.
Gov. Bill Sheffield appointed Meg as a Fairbanks Superior Court judge in 1985. She was the first woman in that position in Fairbanks and later the first woman presiding judge in Alaska. Meg served as a Superior Court trial judge for 17 years in Fairbanks. Early on, she was assigned the six McKay contract murder cases from Anchorage. She refereed Alaska's best prosecutors and defense lawyers in this tabloid worthy story. Her hair turned from brown to white during those trials. She was later assigned the Mental Health Lands Case, which alleged that the executive and legislative branches had improperly given away Alaska land that had been dedicated for mental health care before Statehood. Its documents filled an entire room of file cabinets in the Fairbanks courthouse at 604 Barnette. In the end, Judge Greene, with the help of counsel, fashioned the Mental Health Lands Trust, as we know it today.
Meg was a serious and committed judge. Lawyers learned quickly that being late or being unprepared brought sharp rebuke. She did not suffer fools or slackers. Her humor often caught them off guard. Lawyers liked to be in front of her for complex and difficult cases. She could see through the details to the path the law required.
After 17 years on the bench, Meg Greene went to the University of Alaska legal office. UA General Counsel Mike Hostina writes, "From 2003-2007 Meg shared her keen intellect and formidable legal acumen with the university. She embraced challenges and took on the most complex legal issues facing the university with wry wit and humor."
Meg joined the gang of Fairbanksans who worked to create Raven Landing so that seniors could retire in their home community of Fairbanks. Karen Parr writes, "Meg was central to the enormous tasks involved in launching Raven Landing. She met with officials in local and state government, wrote policies and contracts and consistently made sure our actions were legal and ethical as we built our homes and strived for strong community. On occasion, she leavened the work with quick, acerbic and hilarious remarks."
Meg always went to Mountain View, Wyoming, over Memorial Day to honor her family at the local cemetery. She traveled to England, Scotland, Australia and Turkey, and loved those days. She drove all the roads in Alaska in her little red Toyota truck and went to Dawson to gamble twice each summer if she could. She loved canoeing, animals and single malt scotch. She was an introvert whose joy was to be able to afford new murder mysteries from her favorite authors, in hardback, as soon as they were published. Her cremains will rest at the Fort Bridger Cemetery in Wyoming with her family. She left instructions that there be no services. Her wonderful Aunt Elaine Phillips and her adult children, John Phillips, Clare Tayback, Gregory Phillips, David Phillips and Lisa Herold, survive her.
Any funds in memory of Meg Greene should be donated online or sent to Justice, not Politics, Civics Education Fund, P.O. Box 231473, Anchorage, AK 99503, 907-240-3802 or Breadline Inc., P.O. Box 73715, Fairbanks, AK 99707, 907-452-1974. Memories and remembrances may be posted at www.blanchardfamilyfuneralhome.com.
Published by Daily News-Miner on May 17, 2019.