After 23 years, Associate Justice Alan Page’s second illustrious career is coming to a close.
The justice, who endeared himself in the hearts of many Minnesotans as the leader of the Purple People Eaters – the defensive unit of the Minnesota Vikings of the 1970s – is retiring from the Minnesota Supreme Court on Aug. 31. The retirement is mandatory as state rules say no justice can serve after the month of his or her 70th birthday. Page turned 70 on Aug. 7.
Page, who was elected to the state’s high court in 1992, was the first African-American to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court. And while Page was named NFL MVP in 1971 (the first for a defensive player) and has been enshrined in both the college and pro football Halls of Fame, it may be his second career as a lawyer and jurist for which he is most known. Page’s election and subsequent reelections to the Minnesota Supreme Court speak volumes to how highly he is respected; not as a football hero, but as a great legal mind.
Also of significance is the fact that throughout his career, Page was a vocal advocate for African-American causes – mostly centered on education. In 1988, Page and his wife Diane Page launched the Page Education Foundation with a goal of introducing more students of color to higher education. To date the foundation has awarded more than $12 million is scholarships. Page said once his service to the state concludes he will devote much of his time to the foundation.
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life,” said Page. “I will be more involved in my foundation because I’m no longer bound by judicial conduct rules that limited how much contact I could have (with the foundation). I want to look at how we can do a better job at educating children of color, particularly males of color.”
A graduate of Notre Dame and the University of Minnesota School of Law, Page said his academic accomplishments far outweigh what he was able to achieve on the gridiron.
“My parents instilled in me a strong sense that education was an important tool to achieving success,” said Page, who has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates for his legal accomplishments. “Education is a tool no one can ever take away from us.”
When Page retired from the NFL in 1981 he said he never looked back. Asked if he missed the game, Page said not in the least.
“I haven’t had time to miss it,” said the retiring justice. “When my (football) career ended I was ready to move on. Long before football I had interest in the law. Law is about solving problems and helping people; and that was my passion.”
While Page said he did not miss football all that much, he did say he would miss serving on the state’s High Court.
“There’s nothing like struggling with a difficult and complex legal question along with six people and then writing an opinion that is concise and hopefully helpful to the public,” said Page. “And I will miss that. That’s the hardest part of the job, but that’s the part I will miss the most.”