In the 1950s, when Robert Green and his wife Roslyn were thinking about moving north from Biloxi, Miss., they considered New Jersey or Minnesota.
They chose Minnesota because of Hubert Humphrey.
In an era of segregation, the Black couple were hoping to find a place where their children could get a good education.
Green knew that the young mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert Humphrey, gave a groundbreaking civil rights speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention.
So they moved to the Twin Cities, where Green had a long career in high-tech as an engineer, manager and plant director with Sperry UNIVAC (later Unisys Corp).
Green, a Maplewood resident, died Oct. 6 after contracting lymphoma. He was 90.
One of nine children, Green was born at the start of the Great Depression in Brookside, Ala., a coal mining town near Birmingham. His father worked as a coal miner and, as a kid, Green worked part-time in the mines, too.
“He did not want to do that the rest of his life,” said his daughter Sharon Clark-Williams of Maplewood.
He graduated from high school at 15, then got B.S. degrees in physics and math at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“Education was very important” to his family, said Green’s daughter Donna Rockette of Maplewood.
“He loved mathematics. He loved numbers,” said Clark-Williams.
At Morehouse, Green met another math scholar, Roslyn Grier, who was attending nearby Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University). They married in 1950.
They were instructors at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, teaching math and physics to servicemen, when they learned about tech job opportunities in the North.
“Hubert Humphrey. That’s what they knew about Minnesota,” Rockette said.
“They just thought their kids would have all kinds of opportunities in Minnesota,” Clark-Williams said. “They were relying on this one speech by the mayor of Minneapolis.”
Green worked for more than 34 years with Sperry UNIVAC/Unisys Corp., developing and implementing computer systems used by NASA and the military. He also led and taught an evening electronics program at St. Paul Technical Vocational Institute for several years.
“Teaching was always his love,” Rockette said.
Green was an early adopter of cutting-edge technology: color television, satellite dishes and home computers that you had to assemble yourself.
“As soon as something came out, my dad would be the first in line to buy it,” Clark-Williams said.
When they moved to Minnesota, they lived in the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul. When they bought a home in Maplewood, they were one of the first African American families to move to that suburb.
“There were issues. There were definitely issues. You can get the looks, ‘Why are you here?’ ” Rockette said. “But they fought past them. Things worked out in Maplewood.”
Green adopted the Minnesota lifestyle, rooting for the Vikings, going ice fishing and relaxing at the cabin, although he loved to cook Southern dishes like gumbo and ribs.
He and Roslyn raised kids who became lawyers and engineers.
Along with his daughters and his wife of 70 years, survivors include his brother Carlton Green of Birmingham, Ala.; son Ronald Green of Woodbury; seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Due to COVID-19, a memorial celebration will be announced later.