SFWeekly Feature
Sign of the Cult-Buster (Page 4)

The eldest of four children born to wealth and privilege in Marin County, Greene has a rogue reputation as a cult-buster that could hardly be more distant from the legacy of his corporate attorney father, the late A. Crawford Greene Jr. Both his father and grandfather were partners at San Francisco's venerable McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. At Yale Law School, Craw Greene, as Ford's dad was known, was part of an enduring clique that included former Reagan administration Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldridge and ex-New York City Mayor John Lindsay. Another of Craw's pals, former U.S. Sen. James Buckley, was Ford's godfather.

Craw and Daphne Greene were a dynamic duo. He served for years on the boards of both St. Luke's Hospital and the Legal Aid Foundation of San Francisco; she was a charter member of the advisory panel set up for the fledgling Golden Gate National Recreation Area. They raised their son and three daughters in a late-19th-century mansion atop Willow Hill, in the upscale community of Ross, where one or another Greene had been prominent in local affairs since the 1880s. Ross' Natalie Coffin Greene Park, a redwood and eucalyptus oasis, bears the name of Ford's paternal grandmother.

The fortresslike house, with its expansive views of Ross Valley, became a kind of intellectual crossroads during the Greene children's formative years. The parents played host to the likes of architect Louis Kahn, existential psychologist Rollo May, Catholic diarist John Tracy Ellis, "and countless other fascinating people my mother gathered 'round the dinner table," recalls Tina Greene, a Sacramento attorney. It was at the house, she says, that Joseph McGucken, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, and C. Kilmer Myers, the Episcopal bishop of California, met for the first time.

"From the outside, our lives growing up appeared really enviable, but the reality is that we were a family of secrets," Tina says.

A particularly explosive secret involved Ford Greene's father, whom both Greene and his sister describe as "emotionally remote" and who, despite his professional and social success, never forged a bond with the children. After nearly 40 years of marriage, Craw Greene dropped a bombshell on his wife shortly before Christmas of 1990. Acknowledging that he was gay, he confided that he had been in a 17-year relationship with a heroin addict three decades his junior named Joseph Miller. They'd met during one of the elder Greene's clandestine trips to Cape Cod when Miller was still a teenager. Craw Greene brought Miller to San Francisco and set him up in an apartment in the Richmond.

Shortly after her husband's revelation (he had already become sick and three years later would die of AIDS), Daphne Greene summoned her children to the office of a family counselor and broke the news. She then scribbled letters to two dozen of her closest friends to inform them of the circumstances of the couple's separation. After someone gossiped to Herb Caen at the Chronicle, news of "the senior partner in a most prestigious law firm" taking up with his gay lover became the talk of the town.

But Ford Greene says he carried an even darker secret.

He says his father's incestuous inclinations toward him were first manifest during a fondling incident when he was 12, recurred when he was 16, and culminated in his father's performing a sex act on him when he was 19. The latter incident occurred after the two of them had smoked marijuana while sharing a hotel room in Monterey during a weekend event at his sister Catherine's boarding school, he says.

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sfweekly.com 10-05-2005 Sign of the Cult Buster

Unorthodox Law Library: Books on Scientology and other so-called new religious movements line the walls of Greene's office.

Photo: Paul Trapani

Hub Law Offices 711 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960-1949 415-258-0360 ford@fordgreene.com