May 18, 1950 to February 25, 2016
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey to Grace Watson Williams Lowery and Vasico Delin Williams, Lorraine Williams grew up listening to her grandmother offer help in problem solving with neighbors and strangers who came to her door in the evenings and on the weekends. Raised in a family of civil rights advocates, she learned the fine points of advocacy and principled negotiation from her family connections. As a young teenager she attended the 1963 March on Washington with family and church elders where she was imbued with a sense of service to others and social justice.
After high school she attended college at the University of Detroit and joined the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, a national service organization with which she would stay actively involved as a leader for the rest of her life. She graduated with majors in psychology and social work and then moved to Atlanta to work as a school psychologist for the Atlanta Public Schools. During this time, she earned her Masters in Educational Psychology at Atlanta University and simultaneously completed her School Psychology Certification at the University of Georgia at Athens.
She dreamed of developing a community mental health center and knew that to do so she would have to pursue the doctoral degree. Even though she had married Henry Greene she would not be deterred. During her first year of doctoral study at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Henry lived and worked in Atlanta and they commuted to see one another. As she finished her doctoral studies she decided that research and program development would be her first focus, never giving up the idea of practice but wanting to ground herself in science.
She left Vanderbilt to work with Dr. Henry Foster at Meharry School of Medicine and became Deputy Director of Meharry’s ‘I Have A Future’ program for African American youth. Because of her grant writing and research design skills, the program achieved national prominence and was named one of President George H. W. Bush’s Thousand Points of Light. Dr. Foster went on to become President Bill Clinton’s nominee for Surgeon General and Lorraine credits his losing nomination battle with showing her how important it is to “know the politics and watch the partisanship”. It was then that she decided to deliberately broaden her community base.
For the rest of her life, she would be involved in her community through her church, her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Incorporated, The Nashville Prevention Partnership and the Coalition of One Hundred Black Women, national and local service organizations. To these organizations she brought creative and resourceful talent to every project she undertook. After a year of internship at the Psychological Servicers Unit of the Atlanta Department of Public Safety with Dr. Guy Seymour and Dr. Russell Boxley, she won a contract to offer services to the Nashville Police Peer Support program where she worked for nine years. Her work was so effective and well received that when Emmett Turner became Nashville Davidson County Police Chief in 1996, one of his first actions was to appoint her as the first Director of the Behavioral Health Service Division of the Department. She worked in this role until retiring in 2012 maintaining a focus on the behavioral health of police officers and their families.
In conjunction with Dr. Ellen Kirschman of California she wrote grants to establish a national program to provide accessible on-line support for police families and to provide mental health service support to officers from initial police academy training to in-service recertification. She has worked tirelessly to enhance psychology’s offerings in the service of competent, fair, thoughtful and bias-free policing, including developing innovative cutting-edge training involving both community members and police and video vignettes related to decision-making to use violence in intercity scenarios. She also engaged in activities to reduce domestic violence and to combat efforts to suppress voting in local and national elections. Civil rights concerns and professional integrity were always at the core of her civic, social and professional activities.
In organized psychology she has been a powerhouse. She has served the American Psychological Association’s Division of Psychologists In Public Service (18) first as Chair of the Police and Public Safety Section, then as the Division’s representative to APA Council, and most recently was elected President-Elect of the Division. In 2014 she was given a Presidential Citation by APA President Nadine Kaslow for her dedicated service to law enforcement. Just this past August she was honored with the highest award the Division can make as the Harold Hildreth Awardee for Distinguished Public Service. She has also served on the executive boards of the American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology, the Council Of Police Psychological Organizations, and held leadership positions in the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Association of Black Psychologists and the American Red Cross.
More significant though than even the variety of her organizational service has been the fact that across all her organizational service she was repeatedly described as “passionate”, “insightful”, “principled” and “courageous” and “balanced in her advocacy”. Several colleagues praised her as “smart”, “kind”, “committed and generous, with her time, friendship and support”. Her legacy is indeed “rich and deserving” of enduring recognition. In her career she has fundamentally improved the lot for police officers and their families and for communities, especially communities of color, which they serve.
Dr. Greene cherished her mother Grace, her husband Henry and her son Omari, the rest of her family and friends and reaffirmed it through meaningful engagements and the most thoughtful acts of kindness imaginable. With all of her professional activities, she was also very deliberate in maintaining the balance between work and family. At Unity Church she preferred to serve as a Greeter because she loved talking with the people. It was at Unity that she became aware of the ‘Master Mind Principle’ and how to use the tools of self-discovery, growth and transformation to embrace each day of life with efficiency and clarity of purpose.She formed a Red Hats Society Chapter and served as the ‘Queen Mum’. She attended the Ebony Jazz Festival each year with family and friends and cruised with Tom Joyner. A few days before transitioning, she joined her sisters of the Nashville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta in honoring the Founders of that illustrious organization
Her values and principles, her commitment to actively living in the present, her positivity, and her fearlessness were most manifest in her long hard struggle against a very rare cancer, during which she never stopped fighting, and never stopped giving to her profession, community, and family and friends. Making a difference in the here-and-now, and living life fully and with gusto, were always her top priorities, and it was for these she lived. With gratitude, we honor Lorraine Williams Greene’s life her, contributions, and her spirit.
Guy Seymour, PhD
Adrienne Bradford, PhD
Bertha Holliday, PhD
In lieu of flowers, a contribution in her memory and honor can be made to:
The Danita Marsh Scholarship For Women in Public Service
The Nashville Coalition of 100 Black Women Foundation. Inc.
P.O. Box 331986
Nashville, Tennessee 37203