The historymaking career of A. Wilson Greene
Wilson Greene accomplished something not many historians can say: he started a museum and a historical park.
In 1992 Greene, in his capacity as executive director of the Battlefield Preservation Organization, now known as the Civil War Trust, contacted Dr. Robert Pamplin with a bold proposal. The trust had been made aware that a 100-acre tract of land, the site of the Breakthrough Battle of the American Civil War, was for sale. The property had once been owned by Pamplin’s ancestors, the Boisseus.
Pamplin came back with his own proposal: the Pamplins wanted to buy the land themselves and establish a park on it. And they wanted Greene to lead the effort.
Between early 1993 and June of 1994, Greene oversaw the planning of the park while maintaining his position with the trust. The first iteration of the Pamplin Historical Park opened in June 1994.
Later that year, the Pamplins announced that they wanted to build a world-class Civil War museum on the property. Pamplin had another proposal for Greene: He asked him to assume the role as executive director of the expanding park and future museum. Greene accepted.
Today, Pamplin Historical Park encompasses 424 acres and boasts four museums and three historic homes. The park has been recognized across the nation for its education programs and its interactive camps for youths and adults.
Greene says it was a team effort to create the park and of course none of it could have been done without the generosity of Pamplin and his foundation, which contributed $43 million to build and to support the park.
Greene, who recently stepped down as the head of Pamplin Park, is grateful for his tenure there. “To be able to, essentially, plan a big park from scratch was an incredibly special experience for me,” he says.
Greene’s remarkable career as a public historian spans over 44 years. He’s authored a multitude of published works on the subject of the American Civil War, including six books and has lectured across the country. Greene began his career with the National Park Service at Petersburg National Battlefield where he remained for 16 years.
He recently completed the first of three volumes of books covering the Petersburg Campaign. The initial installment will published in 2018 and he will begin work on the second volume this year.
For four decades, Greene has been contributing to the area’s Civil War history and helping us understand the conflict that has defined our region and nation. He has helped build one of the top tourism attractions in the area while contributing mightily to our understanding of the Civil War. And he is about to publish what will likely be the definitive history of the Civil War in the Petersburg area. For that, we all owe A. Wilson Greene a debt of gratitude.