Silas Green, Modesto's first black mail carrier and a pioneer in the real estate field who made himself a multimillionaire, died Friday. He was 82.
Mr. Green came to Modesto in 1946 after serving in the Army Medical Corps for seven years. He wanted to become a doctor and applied for a job as a surgical technician, but he was told there were only openings for bedpan cleaners.
After graduating from Modesto Junior College and earning his business degree from the University of the Pacific, Mr. Green became a real estate broker, a profession he would continue in for 37 years.
The Board of Realtors at first refused his membership, and Mr. Green once wrote he "rocked the town" by placing the first black family in a home in north Modesto.
"I am a living example that if you want to make it, Modesto is a place where one can be successful," Green wrote in The Bee in 1992. "It definitely takes a formula of determination and hard work."
But, Mr. Green wrote, "racism still exists in Modesto."
Charlie Crane, the founding pastor of Greater True Light Baptist Church in west Modesto, said he was working washing cars at a used car lot when Mr. Green helped him take out a loan and buy his first house in 1962.
"He would try to help anyone he saw that needed help, especially in the black community," Crane said. "He was well-known, and when he started prospering, he would always look at the guys around him and help them prosper also."
Peter Johansen, who served as Modesto's mayor from 1963 to 1967, appointed Mr. Green to the city's first Human Rights Commission.
"He really cared about the entire community, not just the west side of Modesto," Johansen said. "He was just a good public servant."
Mr. Green is survived by wife Gayle Green of Honolulu; daughters Khani Gustafson and Mayo Lunt of Modesto, Michele Green and DeMuriel Green of Las Vegas, and Dercia Green of Honolulu; and sons Rodrick Green of Modesto, Theron Green of Minnesota, Michael Green of Las Vegas and DeBasil Green of Honolulu.
A viewing will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Salas Brothers Funeral Chapel, 419 Scenic Drive, Modesto. A funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Christ Unity Baptist Church, 1320 L St., Modesto.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.