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Dr. Gene Daniel Lanier

March 13, 1934 August 14, 2019
Dr. Gene Daniel Lanier
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Obituary for Dr. Gene Daniel Lanier

Dr. Gene “Pop” Daniel Lanier, 85, of Atlantic Beach, NC, passed away in the presence of his loving family at Carteret Health Care on Wednesday, August 14, 2019, after a brief illness.

The family will receive friends on Sunday, August 18th from 5-7pm at Wilkerson Funeral Home in Greenville, NC. A memorial service will be conducted on Monday, August 19th at 11am at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, also in Greenville, NC. Enichement will follow in the columbarium at the church, and a reception to celebrate his life in the Parish Hall afterwards.

Born in Conway, NC on March 13, 1934, Gene was the son of the late J.D. “Genie” Lanier and Gertrude Martin Lanier. He graduated from Conway High School in 1952 and went on to East Carolina University, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1955. He taught high school in Hillsborough for a year and received his master’s degree in library science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1957. He later got his Ph.D. in higher education and library science from UNC in 1968.

In 1957, Gene was drafted into the Army and was placed in a clandestine role as a counterintelligence specialist with the Army in Western Europe. He was trained as a plain-clothes agent working in Europe to counter Soviet Union and East German espionage. It was the involvement with people who had lived in Nazi Germany and their tales of book burnings in the Hitler era that sensitized Gene to the importance of free speech and expression.

Gene returned to ECU in 1959 as assistant librarian and served as head of acquisitions from 1960 to 1963. While there he met and married Susan Anne Roberts of Washington, NC, on August 19, 1962. He was appointed chairman of the Department of Library Science in 1966 and served until 1981 when he returned to the classroom as a professor until 1999.

Throughout his lifetime and career, Gene continued to have a deep passion for the protection of freedom of speech, intellectual freedom and the right to read. Not only did he make significant contributions to protecting the intellectual freedom of North Carolina’s citizens, but also that of his nation’s. He served 8 years on the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the American Library Association, which gave him an opportunity to become acquainted with the censorship picture nationwide. He received many invitations to speak on the subject to civic and professional organizations on radio, television and on stage in over forty states. He served as the chairman of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the North Carolina Library Association for over twenty years and also was on the Board of Advisors for the People for the American Way for 11 years, serving as chair for four of those years.

Over the years, Gene was the recipient of many intellectual and free speech awards, including the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Education, the Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom, the NC Press Association Free Speech Award, the Mary Peacock Douglas Award from the Association of School Librarians, the American Library Association (ALA) John Immroth Memorial Award for Intellectual Freedom, the State Program Award for Intellectual Freedom (SIRS), the NCLA Intellectual Freedom Award, the SIRS Intellectual Freedom Award, and the William C. Lassiter First Amendment Award from the NC Press Association. He also was the recipient of the ALA Legislative & Grass Roots Library Champion Award, the NCLA Distinguished Library Service Award, and the ECU School of Education Distinguished Professor Award. He was added to the Educators Hall of Fame at East Carolina University in 2000 and his name was added to the Freedom Wall on Veteran’s Day in 2013. He served on and chaired many committees at ECU and served as Bearer of the Mace at graduations and on Founders Day from 1995-1999. He was also featured as “Tar Heel of the Week” in the Raleigh News & Observer in May 1984.

He often reminisced about his fun college days, going to Nags Head playing in a band called “Sons of the Beaches.” He bartended at the old Carolinian Hotel several summers, entertained guests with his incredible piano-playing skills, and was a cast member in The Lost Colony outdoor drama starring Andy Griffith. His brotherhood with the Kappa Alpha Order was also extremely important to him and he loved gathering at reunions with his KA brothers over the years. Over the years, his friendships in the Last Drop Bridge Club brought Sue and him endless laughter and He was appointed chairman of the Department of Library Science in 1966 and served until 1981 when he returned to the classroom as a professor until 1999.

In 1998, Gene and Sue bought a home in Atlantic Beach to spend their retirement days. His morning crossword puzzles, jumbles and cryptoquotes from the newspaper brought him much joy, as well as his daily walks “to the pier and back,” where he would collect shells and stop to talk to his many friends along the way. He also was proud to be appointed the “Mayor of Swindell Lane” and loved entertaining family and friends on “Pop’s Party Porch” at cocktail time. One of his favorite sayings was “Life is such a dream…sh boom, sh boom” and his amazing presence on this earth will be greatly missed.

Gene is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years, Susan Roberts Lanier; daughter Leigh Lanier Hrazdira and husband Ivan Frank Benjamin Hrazdira of New York, NY; daughter Nicole Lanier Burnette and husband Hunter Holmes Burnette of Raleigh; 4 granddaughters whom he adored, Olivia McLean Burnette, Ashley Martin Burnette, Katherine Alexandra Hrazdira, and Lily Lanier Hrazdira; and several dear cousins and in-laws.

If desired, memorial contributions may be made in Gene’s honor to UNC Children’s Hospital (123 West Franklin Street, Suite 510, Chapel Hill, NC 27516) or St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (401 East Fourth Street, Greenville, NC 27858).


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Previous Events

Visitation

Sunday

18

Aug

5:00 PM 8/18/2019 5:00:00 PM - 7:00 PM 8/18/2019 7:00:00 PM
Wilkerson Funeral Home & Crematory - Greenville

2100 East Fifth Street
Greenville, NC 27858

Enichement will follow in the columbarium at the church.

Wilkerson Funeral Home & Crematory - Greenville
2100 East Fifth Street Greenville 27858 NC
United States

Memorial Service

Monday

19

Aug

11:00 AM 8/19/2019 11:00:00 AM
St. Paul's Episcopal Church

401 East 4th Street
Greenville, NC 27858

Enichement will follow in the columbarium at the church.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
401 East 4th Street Greenville 27858 NC
United States

Memorial Contribution

UNC Children’s Hospital

123 West Franklin Street
Suite 510
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

401 East 4th Street
Greenville, NC 27858
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