My paternal grandfather, Willie Taylor, wasn’t the only popular Maxwell House Man in my family tree. My great uncle Jesse Earl Green from Chappel Hill, Texas, with only a third grade education, went on to become the “first” African American Assistant Department Head of the Roast and Blend Division at Maxwell House!
Uncle Jesse, the youngest of seven children was born December 29, 1911 to Lula Routt and Jim Green in Chappel Hill, Texas. He was just 18 years old when he left Chappel Hill in 1929 and came to Houston seeking employment and a better life. He worked odd jobs consistently until he was hired at Maxwell House as extra help in 1930. Once at Maxwell House, uncle Jesse was on the move! He quickly moved up the ranks as porter, coffee blender, sub roaster, regulator roaster and finally as special roaster where his special blend was a mixture of Brazilian and Colombian beans. His final promotion made Maxwell House history — he became the first African American Assistant Department Head of the Roast and Blend Division! He held this position until he retired in 1977.
According to the inscription on the back of the photo above, everyone featured represents 244 years of service to Maxwell House. Standing (left to right) is Jesse Earl Green (42 yrs), Lillian Riddle (43 yrs), C.W. “Tex” Cook (30 yrs), Willie Taylor (42 yrs), Frank Lenich (32 yrs), and George Curtis (35 yrs).
My uncle worked for Maxwell House for forty-seven years! Can you imagine working for any company forty-seven years? People just don’t work jobs for long periods of time anymore. Heck, companies don’t maintain internal departments long enough for anyone to work that long anymore! Well, forty-seven years is a very long time and his colleagues often said they were blessed to have had someone of his character for forty-seven years of service. At uncle’s retirement gala, his gift from Maxwell House was a batch of coffee of his own special blend — Brazilian and Colombian beans — put into cans labeled “Green House Coffee” with a picture of him on the label wearing his trademark — red bow tie!
While working at Maxwell House, Uncle Jesse went on to earn his Doctorate in Theology from Southwestern Theological Seminary. This advanced degree enhanced his service and leadership as Senior Pastor of Blessed Hope Missionary Baptist Church, a church he organized in May of 1950 in Houston, Texas.
Uncle Jesse Earl Green passed away on March 21, 1998 and was laid to rest in the Golden Gate Cemetery, 8400 Hirsch Road, Houston, Texas 77016