Ralph McDaniel Paige was born on July 28, 1944, in LaGrange, Ga., to Edward and Dora Paige, maintenance workers at local businesses. He graduated from high school in LaGrange and attended Fort Valley State University, a historically black college in Fort Valley, Ga., where he played on the football team.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1967 and was a high school teacher and coach before joining the federation.
Mr. Paige first worked as a co-op organizer in Georgia before heading the federation’s business development office.
In 1985, the federation merged with the Emergency Land Fund, an organization dedicated to protecting black-owned land, to become the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. In becoming its second executive director that year, Mr. Paige succeeded Charles Prejean.
He retired in 2015, citing health issues, but Mr. Blanding said he had remained involved with the Federation.
Mr. Paige, who lived in Pine Mountain, Ga., is survived by his wife, Bernice (Jones) Paige, whom he married in 1965; a son, Bernard; a daughter, Kenyatta Carter; two brothers, Robert and Arnold; three sisters, Elizabeth Paige Thornton, Maxine Key and Emma Paige; and five grandchildren.
In 2001, at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Mr. Paige bemoaned the diminished number of black farmers in America, which he put at around 19,000.
That number has increased in recent years. According to a 2012 Agriculture Department census, the most recent available, there were 33,371 farms with an African-American principal operator, up from 30,599 in 2007.