DETROIT (AP) — Chuck Green was a witness to one of the 20th century’s biggest stories — and first to report a key piece of it to the world.
The former Associated Press correspondent and chief of bureau, who died Tuesday at 82 of a blood disorder at his home in Ypsilanti, Michigan, called his editors from a Dallas hospital on Nov. 24, 1963, to file a flash — AP’s first word of a breaking story of transcendent importance — that Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, was dead.
“At about 1:10 one of the doctors attending Oswald made the announcement. I ran from the room and down the hall with the United Press reporter — the competition — at my side,” Green wrote in an account he provided in 2014 for an AP retiree newsletter. “As we turned the corner I ran him into the wall. He grabbed my coat pocket and ripped it off. I got the phone and told the bureau the news. … As that cleared the wire the competition — he had to fish out a dime, dial the phone and wait for someone to answer — was just getting connected.”
Green was hired as a correspondent in his native Houston in 1960 and soon transferred to San Antonio to become a correspondent. He flew to Dallas on Nov. 22, right after Kennedy was shot in a motorcade, his plane circling Love Field as Air Force One departed with the president’s body.
He went to the Texas School Book Depository and up to the sixth floor, where investigators said the shots originated. He saw the rifle and firing nest, and interviewed workers. Later, he was one of the reporters in the police station hallway as officers moved Oswald from place to place inside.
Green was gathering his personal effects and preparing to return to San Antonio when he saw Oswald on television being transferred from the station to the county jail. Green saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald in the stomach, which sent Green to follow Oswald to the hospital.
“Most AP reporters retire without ever filing a flash,” Green wrote in the account. “I was 26 and in my third wonderful year with AP.”
Green, who worked for the AP from 1960 to 1984, led bureaus in Detroit; Mexico City; Caracas, Venezuela; and Albany, New York. His work included covering deadly uprisings and wars in Central America; traveling the globe with a Mexican president; overseeing coverage of the 1968 Olympic games; and immersing himself in the work and lives of impoverished, itinerant farmworkers for an influential series.
Green later launched and managed Florida International University’s Central American Journalism Program.
“Chuck had great influence on journalism throughout Central America,” J. Arthur Heise, who hired him, said in a remembrance written by Doug Tucker, Green’s cousin and a retired AP sports writer. “We were trying to build a school of journalism and one of the ideas was to focus on Latin America and Spanish-language journalism. Chuck headed a team that spent six months down there trying to figure out what was needed.”
“Chuck managed it on a daily basis and did a magnificent job,” Heise said.
He also would serve as a visiting lecturer at universities in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Colombia.
“He knew Central America inside out,” Heise said. “He spoke the language perfectly. He knew everybody in the business of journalism down there.”
Green and his wife, Sylvia, both were ordained as ministers in the interdenominational Protestant church Voice for Jesus.
“Chuck is proud of and relished all he did in his career,” Sylvia Green said in Tucker’s remembrance. “But he is absolutely the proudest and the most grateful for the love and support of his friends and family that he has had through the years. That is a gift from God!”
Green also is survived by a daughter, Catherine Huebner; sons M. Sean Green, Timothy Green and Charles H. Green; and a sister, Bettye Green Peterson.