Raised in the segregated South, this journalist became ‘the voice’ of early Silicon Valley


For decades, local journalist Loretta Green was known as the voice of the community, writing human-interest columns that reflected the pulse of the Midpeninsula.

Green worked for the San Jose Mercury News, the Palo Alto Times and Peninsula Times Tribune and won recognition from the Associated Press, the Peninsula Press Club and the Association of California Newspaper Editors.

But her contributions to the community have gone well beyond her work. The longtime Palo Alto resident has volunteered for the nonprofit The Links Inc. and as senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum of Silicon Valley. She was on the board of directors of the Museum of American Heritage and is a former board member of Stanford University Hospital.

Green, who graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a degree in journalism, said she was attracted to journalism at a young age, penning what she calls “long reportorial letters” to friends and relatives. In high school, she was the co-editor of her yearbook, and she later worked on the staffs of the Duquesne University newspaper and yearbook and as a writer for the school’s radio station.

“I stuck with it because I loved it. There is no other way to justify tolerating low pay, bias against female journalists, loud and cluttered newsrooms, deadlines and both happy and irate readers. For me, there simply was no high like returning from an interview and telling the story,” she said.

Green’s path toward becoming a household name along the Peninsula began in the early 1960s after moving with her husband and two children to the Bay Area, where they bought an Eichler home in Palo Alto. Soon after, Green was hired at the Palo Alto Times.

When the Times was bought by the Chicago Tribune in 1979, Green said the new editor became her mentor. He invited her to write a column, which became legendary in the south bay.

“To my surprise,” Green recalled, the editor, David Burgin, said he liked her work and wanted her to be a columnist and write a column called “Work.”

“I protested that I knew nothing about labor. Not labor, he said — work — and he made it clear that it was not to be a column about different kinds of jobs,” Green said.

Instead, it addressed issues like sexual harassment and the toll on marriages suffered by women in high-tech positions.

Sometime later, the Work column was discontinued, and Green was asked to write a thrice-weekly local news column about issues that local people were talking about.

Green said her editor believed that “my voice was unique: female, Black, a Southerner who grew up in segregation, a wife and mother, a trained, experienced journalist. … That was my voice, and I felt that it was important to add integrity to the mix. And throughout my career, I fought for my voice,” she said.

When the Times Tribune closed in 1993, Green accepted an offer from the San Jose Mercury News. A large billboard on U.S. Highway 101 at the time read: “If you miss Loretta Green, you’ll find her at the San Jose Mercury News.”

Among her many honors, Green has received the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Palo Alto Tall Tree Award for outstanding professional, as well as the Chamber’s Athena Award. She is a senior fellow in the American Leadership Forum and was inducted into the Silicon Valley Black Legends Hall of Fame, where its annual News and Documentary Award is co-named in her honor.

Other honors include the Mid-Peninsula YWCA’s outstanding Black Woman Award, the East Palo Alto Teen Home Positive Image Award, and the Career Action Center’s Woman of Vision Award and the 21st Assembly District’s Woman of the Year.

One of her most rewarding experiences, Green recalled, was volunteering in a mentoring program.

“One of my mentees was a bright little girl who was struggling to learn to read. Once a week, we would sit in the Girls’ Club tiny library, and I would work on phonics and read stories to her,” Green said. “One day, she stopped me as I was about to read to her. ‘No,’ she insisted. She would read to me. And she did! I cannot describe the joy I felt.”

Green, who is 84, said she no longer volunteers. She lives with her husband and her mother, who just turned 108.

“For now, I simply want to relax, travel and enjoy our children and seven grand(children),” who she called “grands.”

“I do love volunteering,” Green said. “Our community is fueled by the generosity of volunteers.”

To Green, a life well-lived is “the love and devotion of family and friends. Work that is not just a job, but a passion and a joy. The ability and willingness to give and share — no matter the size of the gift — and to know that it has made someone’s life better.”

Read more stories on this year’s Lifetimes of Achievement honorees:

Peter Carpenter and Jane Shaw: Carpenter: From motion-sickness patch to IUD consent form, Peninsula couple changed the pharmaceuticals world

Anne Warner Cribbs: Former Olympian launched country’s first female basketball league

Karen Ross: Her love of cooking and science became the recipe for helping cardiac patients recover

Roger Smith: Former bank founder who shook up tech lending now helps victims navigate the court system

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