Paul Eliot Green was a product of the Cape Fear River farming region of eastern North Carolina. His paternal grandfather, John Green, had owned a plantation and slaves before the Civil War, and his maternal grandfather, William Byrd, was a preacher, singing teacher, and composer of hymns. Green’s parents were William Archibald and Betty Byrd Green (William’s second wife). His father owned and operated a large farm, where, with the other Green children, Paul played, worked, and got to know the sharecroppers, black and white. This rural background provided a rich source of material for Green’s future plays.
After attending public elementary school, Green entered Buie’s Creek Academy (now Campbell College) and benefited from the teaching of the academy’s dedicated founder, James Archibald Campbell. On graduation, Green earned money to attend college by working for two years as the principal of tiny Olive Branch School and as a professional baseball player for the Lillington Cats. (He was an ambidextrous pitcher—a fact in which some critics of his plays might see a symbolic fitness.) He entered the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1916, the same year as Thomas Wolfe, but his university studies were interrupted by volunteer service (1917-1919) in the United States Army Engineers. After serving at the front during World War I and in Paris afterward, attaining the rank of second lieutenant, Green left the engineers to resume his...
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