Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr. was a black TV and radio talk-show host. Greene was an ex-convict, convicted of armed robbery in January of 1960. He became a disc jockey in the prison and became well-liked by the other prisoners. Greene was released from Lorton Reformatory in Fairfax County, Virginia, after “saving” a fellow inmate from committing suicide. In 1966, Greene was hired by Dewey Hughes to host his own talk-show at AM radio. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Greene made statements on air that were credited with quelling the riots in Washington D.C.” according to NPR News. Between 1976 and 1982, Greene hosted his own television show Petey Greene’s Washington, making him even more of a household name.
Ralph Waldo Greene, Jr. was born in Washington D.C. to Ralph Waldo Greene, Sr. And Jacqueline Abernathy Greene. Greene was raised by his grandmother , or “Aunt Pig”, as he called her. According to PBS News, “Greene attended Stevens Elementary School and Cardozo Senior High School in Washington.” In the ninth grade, Greene dropped out and enlisted in the United States Army. He served as a medic in the Korean War and was discharged in 1953 for heroin use. In 1960, Greene was sentenced ten years in Lorton Reformatory for armed robbery after locking himself in a freezer locker while running from the police. Soon after imprisonment, Greene became the disc jockey for his ward. In May of 1966, Greene allegedly persuaded a fellow inmate to climb atop the prison water tower and threaten to kill himself. In doing so, Greene would “save” the prisoners life by talking back down to the ground. “It took me six months to get him to go up there,” he would later joke on his talk-show.
After being released from prison, Greene was hired by Dewey Hughes (the brother of an inmate Greene befriended while serving time) to host a radio talk-show Rapping With Petey Greene at AM radio station WOL-1450. He often talked about controversial topics such as racism, poverty, drug usage, and the civil rights movement. Greene joined the United Planning Organization and founded the Ralph Waldo Greene Community Centre and Efforts for Ex-Convicts. Greene often rallied against poverty and racism on his shows. During the riots occurring in Washington after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Greene made statements on air that helped contain the riots. Greene was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1982 and died January 10, 1984.