Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Memories of an Aggie Original–The Legendary Harry J. Green, Jr. '52

On April 16, 1930, Harry Joyce Green, Jr. was born in San Antonio, Texas, to parents Cecilia M. and Harry J. Green, Sr. Harry grew up in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in 1948.

Proficient in track and field, Harry earned an athletic scholarship to Texas A&M College, where he was part of Company B. He lived in Hart Hall and ran track for A&M in the Southwest Conference. When the Korean War broke out in summer 1950, Harry left A&M and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served for four years. Upon receiving his honorable discharge in March 1955, he returned to Texas A&M to complete his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Education in 1957.

After graduation he returned to Houston and reconnected with old friends when he joined the Houston Aggie Club. Harry served as a Co-Class Agent for the Class of 1952 for many years.

His first job was with Browning Ferris, the waste management company, and his Aggie training found him moving up the company quickly as a safety engineer. Ultimately he struck out on his own and bought a Honda motorcycle dealership.

Because of his visibility in Houston, Harry was the perfect candidate to be chosen by Buck Weirus as the first Field Director for the Association of Former Students, whose growth potential would require greater statewide participation among fellow alumni. Equipped with a company car and persuasive speaking skills, Harry Green quickly became the one Aggie who basically knew every other Aggie in the state.

When he spoke, Harry commanded attention as he enthusiastically shared exciting news and updates on how great Texas A&M University was becoming, as it entered a new era where nonmilitary students and women entered the Aggie family. “Joining the Aggie Club and supporting A&M through endowed scholarships was one of the best ways to help our school,” he said, as he traveled up and down the highways and back roads of Texas every day.”

Meanwhile back at the office, one of the Aggie Club employees that Harry would be able to count on was a lovely woman named Nelda. She and Harry were kindred spirits who were meant to find one another. Working together daily, their mutual respect and indefatigable work ethics as both were devoted to Texas A&M eventually developed into devotion towards each other as best friends. Nelda once shared that they were having dinner one evening, when the subject got around to marriage. Posed with Harry’s question, “What are your thoughts on marriage?” Nelda replied, “I think people should marry their best friends,” to which Harry, without missing a beat said, “I fully agree, will you marry me?” Her answer of course was “Yes,” and the two were married in 1980.

Anywhere in town there was an Aggie function, you never saw one without the other. They rarely addressed each other by name. It was always Harry saying, “Dearest, are you ready to go?” and she’d said, “Yes, love.” Always. Whenever she was speaking of Harry to another, she would talk about “Harry J” in a soft, caring tone that revealed her devotion to her “knight in shining armor.” Most often when he spoke of her to others, he referred to her as "my bride." They were blessed with 37 years of joy until Nelda’s passing in October 2017.

They traveled the road together those decades, as Aggie clubs vied for Harry to be “their” Muster speaker each year, and the asks for “next year” went out just as soon as the current year’s Muster concluded. His ability to show people what a difference they could make in the permanently endowed athletic scholarship program was his gift. His name is synonymous with the moniker the Aggie Club, as he became its Executive Director in 1979. The organization had modest beginnings from its start in 1950. A 2012 interview in the 12th Man Magazine noted that in 1975 there were approximately 1200 members with revenues about $275,000. By the time Harry retired in 1992, the newly renamed 12th Man Foundation had 6,500 members and millions in revenues.

Harry preferred modesty, forever boosting his classmates and fellow Aggies for accolades rather than accepting credit, but he should be remembered as the one who broke fundraising records for Texas A&M athletics, for his graceful behind-the-scenes introduction of future friends of a lifetime to each other, for encouraging young men to become their best selves, and to remember forever that Aggies always help Aggies whenever they can. He had equal, welcome access to CEOs and Aggie retirees who were working as security guards in chemical plants. He knew the name of every ticket taker and custodian in all of the athletic facilities on campus and was greeted warmly by all. Everyone loved Harry.

One of the most beloved “newer” traditions at Aggie football games is the 12th Man towel. In 1985, two leaders in the 12th Man Student Aggie Club went to Harry as Executive Director of the 12th Man Foundation and Jackie Sherrill, then TAMU Athletic Director and head football coach, who gave their approval and the towel debuted in the first home game of the 1985 season. By the time TAMU beat UT in the final home game, Kyle Field was ensconced in a sea of white. It took the approval of Ol’ Army to help make possible a beloved new tradition.

Harry’s devotion to his Aggies never waned. Even though the past 12 months were filled with health challenges, Harry’s extended family made sure he attended every home game in the 2021 season and even one home game this year, which meant the world to him.

Not one to take retirement seriously, Harry accepted his friend Don Adam’s offer to serve as his Executive Vice President and Director of Marketing for First American Bank of Bryan, which grew quickly in the institution’s market share, thanks to Harry’s unparalleled enthusiasm and marketing talents. Everyone loved Harry.

Harry was a 32nd degree Mason and very active in fundraising, first in Houston and then locally. He was dedicated to the mission of the Shriners International Children’s Hospital in Houston for many years before its relocation to Galveston.

He was a vital part of the College Station Noon Lions Club locally.Asked one day how it was he was so successful in the Lions’ trademark project, selling light bulbs to friends and coworkers, Harry explained his pitch. “Well, I took all the light bulb boxes they gave me to sell into the bank one evening after work and I had attached a little note to each coworker that read, ‘Thank you for your support of the College Station Noon Lions Club annual light bulb fundraiser. The amount due is $X and you can bring a check or cash to me by the end of this week at your convenience.” When his coworkers finished laughing, they all put their checks in envelopes on Harry’s desk by week’s end.

In the community, Harry and Nelda supported the American Heart Association, and they served the American Cancer Society's Cattle Baron's Ball for several years, even serving as co-chairs for the Ball one year. [Photo below: Alice and Dick Hickerson and Nelda and Harry Green].

Together, Harry and Nelda were members of the Texas A&M Association of Former Students Endowed Century Club for their philanthropy through the years. Harry continued his service to A&M as a past-president (2012–2013) of the Sul Ross Group of Aggies, who celebrate the passing of at least 55 years since graduation with an annual reunion in College Station.

As the six core values of Texas A&M are identified present day as respect, excellence, loyalty, leadership, integrity, and selfless service (RELLIS), the Core Values Coin was introduced in 2013 by the Association of Former Students “to recognize Aggies who live and reflect the core values of Texas A&M.” Since their inception, only 148 coins have been presented. In the program’s second year, Harry was one of six past presidents of the Sul Ross Group to receive a Core Values Coin. Fifteen of the 148 coins were placed on the graves of Aggies killed in World War II and buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.

In the community, Harry and Nelda were faithful members of First Presbyterian Church in Bryan, and always signed up to be greeters for a month each year, an activity they took seriously. Each week they recognized newcomers and welcomed returning visitors and introduced them to other longtime members there, which resulted in many new church members joining because they felt at home. To be recognized, remembered, and regarded—that was the “Harry J.” way.

New athletics coaches, of any sport, were sure to meet Harry and Nelda during their first week here, as they would take them to dinner and learn what was important to new families and coaches relocating to BCS. They made it a point to connect them with others of matching interests to make their assimilation easier. They never sought credit or acknowledgment for what they did. It was simply who they were, two Aggie angels with hearts of gold.

Visitation for Harry will be from 11am–1pm at Callaway-Jones Funeral Center in Bryan on Thursday, December 15. A guestbook is available Tuesday for those wishing to sign early. Following a private burial ceremony, a memorial service will be held on Friday, December 16, at First Presbyterian Church in Bryan, with the Rev. Ted Foote presiding.

Harry was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Dorothy Green Lovelace, and his beloved wife, Nelda. He is survived by niece Margaret Lovelace Brooks and husband Karl, and their sons, Tom Booker and Mike Booker.

Harry is also survived by Nelda’s loving family, nephews, Tracey Smith and Travis Smith, great-niece Chelsea Jones and husband Cody, and their son Rowen Michael Jones; and great-nephews Austin Smith and Wyatt Smith, as well as a host of Aggies to whom Harry and Nelda were indeed considered “extended family.” [Photo: Cody and Chelsea Jones, Nelda and Harry Green].

From that extended family, serving as pallbearers are Jim Peterson, Bill Carter, Steve Stevens, Arno Krebs, Arnold Hayes, Kyle Lednicky, Tom Kennerly, and Kent Caperton. Honorary pallbearers are Don Adam, John Sharp, Kyle Lewie, Bookman Peters, Dick Hickerson, James Connor Smith, Dick Witherite, Otway Denny, Ron Lueck, Bill Housman, Karl Brooks, Tim Booker, Mike Booker, and all Past-Presidents of the 12th Man Foundation.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Texas A&M Foundation, 12th Man Foundation, or the charity of choice.

Today, Harry and his Nelda are reunited in Heaven, and undoubtedly there are legions of Aggies standing in long lines to welcome him home. The strains of “The Spirit of Aggieland” should be wafting through the clouds. This coming April 21st, for Muster 2023, when the name of Harry Joyce Green, Jr. ’52 is announced, the response “HERE” is sure to reverberate throughout Reed Arena. And so it is that Harry J. Green, Jr. ’52 is home at last.

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