Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Ralph Paige, former Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, dies at 74. Ralph Paige, a native of LaGrange, Georgia was the ninth of 14 children born to the late Edward Paige and Dora McGhee Paige.
He attended the local schools of LaGrange and graduated with a bachelor of art’s degree in education from Fort Valley State University in 1967. He was active in football and swimming during his college years. Ralph served as a school teacher and coach, later becoming a cooperative organizer with the Federation in West Georgia in 1969. He later spearheaded the Federation’s business development office in LaGrange, Georgia, giving advice and loan packaging services to cooperative and small businesses in the area.
In 1985, he became the executive director of the Federation. During his 30 years as executive director, he built the Federation into the premier organization representing black farmers and low-income rural people in the South. Mr. Paige led the Federation in a 1992 Black Farmers Caravan to Washington, D.C. to highlight the discriminatory policies of the United States Department of Agriculture. Additionally, Mr. Paige spearheaded efforts to file a suit against the USDA for discrimination, which yielded $2.5 billion in payments to thousands of black farm families while supporting discrimination settlements for Native American, Hispanic and women farmers. Ralph also worked on legislation to reform farm and rural policies to allow for the formation of the National Co-op Bank and the creation of the Rural Cooperative Development Program. Despite obstacles, financial problems and many times a hostile and racially charged environment, Ralph maintained the Federation, an annual budget of $3 million, and staff of 30 or more trained specialists around the South.
In 2015, he retired to take care of his health. His greatest legacy is that the Federation has continued and flourished, celebrating its 50th anniversary in August 2017. Ralph served on many boards and received many honors in his lifetime. Among the boards were Nationwide Insurance Company, National Cooperative Business Association, Cooperative Development Foundation, Cooperative Business International, the President’s (George Bush) Twenty-first Century Agriculture Commission, Rural Policy Advisory Committee to President Barack Obama and many more.
He received numerous awards including induction into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2004, Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award from SCLC, George Washington Carver Hall of Fame at Tuskegee, Congressional Black Caucus Leadership Award, NCBA Co-op Month Leadership Award and many others. Ralph served as executive director for 30 years from 1985 to 2015. He began working for the Federation in 1969 and served the organization for 46 years. Ralph Paige died Thursday, June 28, 2018, at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Mrs. Bernice Paige; two children, Bernard and Kenyatta; five grandchildren and many relatives and friends. Visitation will be held at Warren Temple U.M.E. Church on East Depot Street on Thursday, July 5, 2018, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Friday, July 6, 2018, at 11:30 a.m. at New Community Church on South Davis Road. Pastor Wender Parrish of Eppes, Alabama, will officiate with burial at Rest Lawn Memory Gardens.
Condolences may be expressed or you may sign the guest book at westgeorgiamortuary.com.
West Georgia Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.