Vernon Oakes and John Holdsclaw honor the memory of Ralph Paige, with many listeners, who call into the Everything Co-op to pay tribute to this tireless Civil Rights leader. Mr. Paige was the former director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. He was a consummate advocate for disenfranchised farmers, worked tirelessly to keep families and farmers on their land, and constantly promoted a more just system of agriculture.
Mr. Paige played a major role in creating cooperatives encompassing many sectors, including: credit unions, agricultural, housing and worker cooperatives and alternative agricultural development for minority farmers. He worked for the Federation for more than 45 years from 1969, and served as Executive Director for thirty years from 1985 to 2015.
Initially, Mr. Paige worked as a field organizer developing cooperatives among family farmers and rural residents in Georgia and throughout the South. He led measures to secure new public and private resources to support cooperative development, and in the 1970s, he served as director of the Federation’s Business Development Office. From 1977-1981, Mr. Paige served as director of the Federation’s VISTA project involving over 100 volunteers at 60 cooperative and credit union sites. He then became the national field director of the Federation/LAF.
During his leadership, the Federation received the Martin Luther King, Jr., Humanitarian Award; a United Nations award for significant contribution of shelter to the poorer segments of the community; and the first Fannie Mae “Excellence in Low Income Housing Development Award.” Mr. Paige studied extensively at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his bachelor’s degree in education from Fort Valley State University in Georgia.
Mr. Paige retired as Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives on February 28, 2015. Shortly after his retirement he received the ‘Stanley Dreyer- Spirit of Cooperation Award’ from the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) at their annual meet in in Washington, D. C. This is the highest award conferred by NCB for a person with a lifetime of achievement with cooperatives. Certainly his contributions shall be felt in the cooperative world for many years to come.