Q. This Canadian TV actor starred in the well known series “Battlestar Galactica” as Commander Adama. What is his name?
A. Lorne Hyman Greene, (February 12, 1915 – September 11, 1987) was a Canadian actor, radio personality, and singer.
His television roles include Ben Cartwright on the western Bonanza, and Commander Adama in the original science fiction television series Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980. He also worked on the Canadian television nature documentary series Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness, and in television commercials.
Greene was born Lyon Himan Green in Ottawa, Ontario, to Russian Jewish immigrants, Dora (née Grinovsky) and Daniel Green, a shoemaker. In his biography, the author, his daughter Linda Greene Bennett, stated that it was not known when he began using “Lorne”, nor when he added an “e” to Green. Greene was the drama instructor at Camp Arowhon, a summer camp in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada, where he developed his talents.
Greene began acting while attending Queen’s University in Kingston, where he acquired a knack for broadcasting with the Radio Workshop of the university’s Drama Guild on the campus radio station CFRC. He gave up on a career in chemical engineering and, upon graduation, found a job as a radiobroadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). During World War II Green served as a Flying officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was assigned as the principal newsreader on the CBC National News. The CBC gave him the nickname “The Voice of Canada”; however, his role in delivering distressing war news in sonorous tones with his deep, resonant voice following Canada’s entry into World War II in 1939 caused many listeners to call him “The Voice of Doom”, particularly since he was delegated the assignment of reading the dreaded list of soldiers killed in the war. During his radio days, Greene invented a stopwatch that ran backwards; this helped radio announcers gauge how much time was left, while speaking.
In the 1960s, Greene capitalized on his image as Benjamin “Pa” Cartwright by recording several albums of country-western/folk songs, which Greene performed in a mixture of spoken word and singing. In 1964, Greene had a #1 single on the music charts with his spoken-word ballad, “Ringo” (which referred to the real-life Old West outlaw Johnny Ringo, not to Ringo Starr of the Beatles), and got a lot of play time from “Saga of the Ponderosa”, which detailed the Cartwright founding of the famous ranch.
In 1973, after the cancellation of Bonanza following a 14-year run, Greene joined Ben Murphy in the ABC crime drama, Griff, about a Los Angeles, California, police officer, Wade “Griff” Griffin, who retires to become a private detective. When it failed to gain sufficient ratings and was cancelled after 13 episodes, Greene thereafter hosted the syndicated nature documentary series Last of the Wild from 1974-75.
Greene was also known for his role as Commander Adama, another patriarchal figure, in the science fiction television series Battlestar Galactica (1978–1979) and Galactica 1980 (1980). Greene’s typecasting as a wise father character continued with the 1981 series Code Red as a fire department chief, whose command includes his children as subordinates.
In the 1980s Greene devoted his energies to wildlife and environmental issues, including hosting and narrating the nature series Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness, a show that promoted environmental awareness.
For nearly a decade, Greene co-hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC with Betty White. He is also fondly remembered as the founder of Toronto’s Academy of Radio Arts (originally called the Lorne Greene School of Broadcasting).
Greene was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on October 28, 1969, “For services to the Performing Arts and to the community.”
Greene was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by his alma mater, Queen’s University, in 1971. He was the 1987 recipient of the Earle Grey Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Canadian Gemini Awards. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 N. Vine Street.
In May 2006, Greene became one of the first four entertainers to ever be honored by Canada Post by being featured on a 51-cent postage stamp. Greene was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2015.