Bogalusa mourns loss of former educator Green

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 5, 2016

Ada Hannibal Green knew nothing about the city of Bogalusa in 1951, when she was recruited to work as a teacher in the city’s segregated school system at Central Memorial High School. She had grown up on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, and as it turned out, was ready to step out of the large shadow of her mother, who was a master teacher at Dillard University there.

Green moved to Bogalusa and would spend the next 39 years as a teacher and guidance counselor, mentoring thousands of young people at Central and later Bogalusa High School. Her former students are among the many who are feeling her loss, as Green, who died Jan. 29 at 87 years old, is laid to rest Friday, Feb. 5 in New Orleans.

Green’s funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. at her church, 2309 Dryades St. in New Orleans, and officiated by the Rev. Dr. Martha Orphe. Visitation will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and interment will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in New Orleans.

“She was the teacher of teachers,” said Janifer B. Peters, one of Green’s former students at Central. “She was our mentor, role model, had great expectations for her students and accepted only our best efforts.”

Peters, who works as Assistant to the Dean in Southern University’s College of Engineering in Baton Rouge, said Green had no biological children but “accepted all of us (too numerous to count) and treated us as her children.  Her influence on our lives in the Bogalusa community impacted us positively.”

Green was attending graduate school at Atlanta University in 1951, when fellow graduate student, A.L. Jordan, then a principal in Bogalusa, talked her into relocating to Bogalusa to work at Central. It turned out to be just the opportunity Green was seeking.

“Mama knew everybody in New Orleans,” Green recalled during an interview last year. “I wanted to go out on my own and make a name on my own, not because I was somebody’s daughter.”

She quickly made a name for herself, earning awards across the state as a powerful drama teacher. As a guidance counselor, she eventually connected to a recruiter at her alma mater, Dillard University, and began steering students there. Green is credited for sending more than 100 students to Dillard. Last May, Dillard honored Green and created the annual Ada Green Recruitment Award to recognize the alumni chapter or individual who recruits the most students to enroll at Dillard in the preceding fall and spring semesters.

“I never did it to receive any glory. I just wanted to help young people get a college education at a place where I knew they would have the best chance to be successful,” Green said at the time. “To God be the glory!”

Former Varnado High School principal Emma Ross was among those who often referred students to Green.

“She was such an asset to the community,” Ross said last year, after hearing about the award. “She invested a lot of her life to children of the community.”

Green often said she felt a special affinity for average students, who were willing to work hard to earn their way, because they reminded her of herself.  She was just 15 years old and in the 11th grade in 1945, when she graduated from McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans. She barely knew what college was, but she landed at Dillard and managed to graduate with a scholarship to attend Atlanta University. She earned a master’s degree there and later earned a specialist’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.

In Bogalusa schools, Green and music teacher Barbara Conrad Butler co-founded a high school girls’ club, called the Spartanettes, where they helped to usher generations of girls into womanhood with practical instructions on how to navigate life. The club met monthly and produced an annual Black History Month program and talent show, initially called The Big Broadcast and later Extravaganza. Members raised money throughout the year for cultural experiences, such as an annual trip to the Ebony Fashion Fair and dinner at the famous Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans and summer trips to major American cities.

Former journalist and author Lisa Frazier Page, who was a member of the club from 1976 to 1980, said Green’s impact on the lives of countless young people, including herself, should not be underestimated.

“She gave me the greatest gift—the world,” said Page, public information officer for the district attorney’s office in St. Tammany and Washington parishes. “She showed me the world was much bigger than Bogalusa and pushed me to find my place in it. Many of the firsts in my life, such as my first plane ride, was with the Spartanettes. More than anything, Mrs. Hannibal (as we knew her) and Mrs. Butler sparked in me a desire to experience that great big world.”

Green also was a longtime active member of Thirkield United Methodist Church in Bogalusa, where she played the piano and often took the lead in planning various programs. “She was a mentor for my daughters and me through the church,” said Bogalusa resident and retired teacher Marsha Kim Spikes, a member of Thirkield.

After retiring from Bogalusa schools in 1989, Green returned to New Orleans and went to work at Dillard as Coordinator of Career Planning and Development. She served the New Orleans community through her church, First Street Peck Wesley United Methodist Church in Central City, the New Orleans Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Top Ladies of Distinction.

Green was preceded in death by her parents, longtime educator Irene Hannibal Greene and jazz great Jerome Greene, Sr.; and her husband, John Milton Green. She is survived by three sisters, Betty Greene Gibson (Kenneth), Lyndia Green-Faust, and Andree Cazenave Reese (Donald); two brothers, Jerome Greene, Jr. (Zelda), and Noel Cazenave; and a host of nieces, nephews, godchildren, other relatives, and friends.