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A County Legend Passes

McCreary County’s longest serving Judge Executive, Jimmie Greene, passed away last week at the age of 88 after battling a long illness.

Greene, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, served a total of four terms as Judge Executive of his home county, first being elected in 1978, serving until 1981. Running for a second time in 1989, Green held the post another three terms until 2003, ultimately serving 17-years in the position.

But his impact on McCreary County extended past his terms in office.

Born in Detroit in 1928, Greene’s parents moved back to Parkers Lake when he was just two-years old, and he remained a McCreary Countian for his entire life.

Greene served in the United States Air Force from 1947 through 1971, being stationed in Japan, Korea and Vietnam during his tour of duty.

After retiring, he worked at the Pine Knot Job Corps and served for a time as Postmaster at Honey Bee prior to entering the political realm.

First elected to the Judge Executive position in 1977 and served one term.

He returned to the office in 1989, and won re-election twice for a three-term stay, before retiring in 2002.

But Greene wasn’t done with politics yet.

Saying he believed his county needed him, he ran for the position again in 2006 and 2010, but did not get past the Primary elections and returned to his writing and spending time in his beloved cabin on the river.

Though his terms in office were not without their share of difficulties, Greene never seemed to let the pressures of his position diminish his ever-present smile and cheerful nature, greeting everyone he met with a handshake or a hug.

Known for his gregarious nature, Greene played the part of Judge Executive with a particular flourish – famously signing proclamations and documents with green ink.

Perhaps Greene’s most infamous impact on local government was his controversial posting of the 10 Commandments in the Courthouse, bringing on a lawsuit from the ACLU and an eventual trip before the United States Supreme Court.

Though ultimately losing the case, Greene’s faith never waivered and he proudly stood behind his decisions and even helped to raise money to pay off the county’s legal debt from the lawsuit.

Even after leaving office for the final time Greene remained part of his community, staying active in civic organizations and remaining active in many public causes – serving as VFW Post Commander, President of the McCreary County Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion and belonging to several other boards and organizations.

He was inducted in to the Kentucky’s Fifth District Republican Hall of Fame as well as the McCreary County “Fighting Forty” Republican Hall of Fame.

A prolific writer and author, Green published several books after retiring from public office.

His first, “Light side of Parkers Lake” (2003) contained a collection of journal entries and writings.

Other books followed, including “A day in ward 2-w (or) Who said What?” (2004) observations, poetry and artwork collected during his stay at the VA Hospital in Lexington detailing his battle with alcoholism.

His final book “Bridge Builder” (2011) examined the years of Greene’s first term in office.

The book jacket summed up Greene’s political career thusly:

“His four terms altered McCreary County politics. Although plagued by personal demons and unrelenting opposition by political opponents, he never waivered from his commitment to transparency in local government.”

Following his passing, several current and former county officials expressed their thoughts on Greene’s legacy.

McCreary County Judge Executive Doug Stephens called Greene an ambassador for the county.

“Judge Greene was first and foremost a gentleman,” he said. “He was a good friend to the people and served wholeheartedly as an ambassador for our county, representing us well for many years. He was my friend and will be greatly missed and long remembered.”

Former Judge Executive Blaine Phillips, who took office following Greene’s retirement, released a statement expressing his grief over his predecessor’s death:

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of our former Judge Executive Jimmie Greene,” he said. “He was a true McCreary Countian who loved this county. My deepest sympathy is extended to the family.”

“Judge Greene was by definition a true politician, writer, author and a good Christian man. I always welcomed his opinion and advice.”

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell released the following statement:

“Elaine and I learned the sad news of the passing of our friend Jimmie Greene,” he said. “Through his service to this nation in the Korean War and to McCreary County as its longest serving Judge/Executive, Jimmie strived to improve the lives of the people in his community.  Jimmie stood up for his beliefs, and he even made headlines doing so. I am proud to have known Jimmie, and I know that there are many of us that will dearly miss him. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Lois, their children, and the entire Greene family.”

Funeral services were held Tuesday at Greene’s beloved Walkers Chapel Baptist Church and he was buried in the church’s cemetery.

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