The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF honors the philanthropic work of Ralph Paige (1943-2018) posthumously with the Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award

The Honorary Committee members include Danny Glover, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Willie Nelson, Mike Espy, and other prominent national leaders.
Birmingham, AL – Over the past several weeks our families, friends and supporters have mourned the passing of Ralph Paige, a strong advocate for black farmers in the rural south and our former Executive Director. Many near and far stopped to recognize his legacy of inspiration and activism for cooperatives, farmers, and minority land ownership. Major national media outlets such as the NY Times, Washington Post and other local print and broadcast media noted his work.

Mr. Paige made a significant contribution to the success of the Federation and an impact on the lives of many.  During his thirty years as the Executive Director, he built the Federation into the premier organization representing Black farmers and low-income rural people in the South. He helped to organize many cooperatives and community development credit unions during his tenure.

Cornelius Blanding, the current Executive Director said, “It was necessary to break tradition and honor Mr. Paige’s legacy even after his passing. We find befitting to acknowledge this great leader with the Federation’s highest award.” The Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award is reserved for honoree’s that work toward social change over a lifetime.  Estelle Witherspoon was a founding member of the Federation and the manager of the Freedom Quilting Bees in Alberta, Alabama. The Freedom Quilting Bee, formed in 1966 by local women as an outgrowth of the Civil Rights Movement, became nationally known for creating colorful quilts. Recently, the patterns were recognized as the inspiration of First Lady Michelle Obama's dress in the National Portrait.
On Thursday evening, August 16th, the Paige family will receive the 17th Annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award at a fundraising banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Birmingham Alabama. Several hundred guests will include rural farmers, landowners, corporate CEO's, high-level government officials, and members of the Honorary Committee. For banquet tickets and more on Mr. Paige’s legacy, see the 50 th Anniversary Capital Campaign website .   In addition to this recognition, a memorial fund will be held in his honor.

After the award dinner we will shift to celebrate our 51 st Anniversary Meeting on August 17-18, at our Rural Training and Research Center(RTRC) in Epes, Alabama. The RTRC is the hub of operations for FSC/LAF and also the base of operations for the Alabama State Association of Cooperatives outreach and technical assistance staff.   The Federation was founded in 1967, by 22 cooperatives and credit unions, arising from the Civil Rights Movement, serving low-income farmers, landowners, and rural people in the South.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, entering its 51 th year, assist limited resource farmers, landowners, and cooperatives across the South with business planning, debt restructuring, marketing expertise, and a whole range of other services to ensure the retention of land ownership and cooperatives as a tool for social and economic justice.