Little Rock 9 Senior | Class of 1993
Ernest Green made history as the only senior of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Green’s place in Arkansas’s civil rights history was solidified when he became the first African American to graduate from the now historic landmark.
Ernest Gideon Green was born in Little Rock on September 22, 1941, to Lothaire Green and Ernest Green, Sr. Green has two siblings: brother, Scott, and sister, Treopia Washington.
An active member of the community from an early age, Green regularly attended church and was involved in the Boy Scouts. He eventually became an Eagle Scout. He was a student at Dunbar Junior High School until he transferred to Horace Mann the year before volunteering to integrate all-white Central High School. Green persevered through a year of daily harassment by some of his fellow students to become the first black Central High graduate on May 27, 1958. Sitting with Green’s family at the event was Martin Luther King, Jr., who attended the graduation virtually unnoticed. In an interview, Green said, “It’s been an interesting year. I’ve had a course in human relations first hand.”
After he graduated from Central, Green attended Michigan State University. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) in social science in 1962 and a Master of Arts degree (MA) in sociology in 1964. Afterwards, Green served as the director for the A. Philip Randolph Education Fund from 1968 to 1977. He then was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of Labor during the Jimmy Carter administration from 1977 to 1981. In 1987, Green joined Lehman Brothers, an investment banking firm in Washington, D.C., where he became a Senior Managing Director. He has served on numerous boards, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
In 1958, Green, along with other members of the Little Rock Nine and Daisy Bates, was awarded the prestigious Spingarn Medal, which is presented annually for outstanding achievements of African Americans by the NAACP. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented one of the nation’s highest civilian awards, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the members of the Little Rock Nine. He is married to Phyllis Green, with whom he has a daughter, in addition to two children from a previous marriage. Green is the subject of a Disney movie entitled The Ernest Green Story, produced in 1992 starring Morris Chestnut and Monica Calhoun. In 2011, Green was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.