News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, JULY 25, 2005


Frugal teacher splurged on things important to him

"The Millionaire Next Door," a 1996 book by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, says that many wealthy people do not look rich because they live below their means while saving and investing unspent money.

The late Whitlowe R. Green could have been a case study for these authors, and he combined his frugality with generosity and a sense of perspective.

Oh, Mr. Green's family and friends would not have considered him generous while he was alive. He was often eager to let somebody else cover expenses and stopped talking for two years to a relative who said Mr. Green owed him $6.76. When his family took a trip, Mr. Green equally divided the gas bill among the adults in the car.

Mr. Green also denied himself — wearing secondhand clothes, buying out-of-date meats, shopping at auctions — according to The Houston Chronicle. He thought he had better ways to spend his money: on education and young people.

A high school economics teacher in Houston, he made $700 a year when he started teaching in 1937 and was making $28,000 when he retired in 1983. His banker said he also received an inheritance and invested in stocks, mutual funds and annuities.

When he died of cancer in 2002 at age 88, he left more than $2.1 million to his alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, for scholarships. It was the largest single-donor gift in the history of the historically black Texas school.

Mr. Green's students recalled him as a popular teacher who taught them how to save and invest. But few of those lessons could have been more impressive than the one he taught by his life and legacy.

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