Greene was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and began acting while attending Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He gave up on a career in chemical engineering and upon graduation found a job as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). His deep voice earned him the nickname "The Voice of Doom". Many Canadians who remember the World War II years can recall listening to Lorne Greene read the latest war news on the radio.
The first of his American television roles was as family patriarch on the long-running series Bonanza (1959). His portrayal of Ben Cartwright made Greene a household name. He received the role after having turned in a highly-regarded performance as Big Brother in a production of Nineteen Eighty-Four for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
His next best-known role was as that of Commander Adama on the science-fiction series Battlestar Galactica (1978), another patriarchal figure. The part of leader of the surviving remnant of humanity seemed particularly well suited to Greene. He carried the role with a gravity that is not often found in television acting.
He is also known as the host/narrator of a nature series, Lorne Greene's New Wilderness.
He was married twice, to Rita Hands (1938-1960, divorced) and to Nancy Deale (1961-1987, Greene's death). He has two children by Rita Hands, Belinda Susan Bennet (née Greene) and Charles Greene; and one by Nancy Deale, Gillian Greene.
Lorne Greene has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1559 N. Vine Street.