Mr. Ralph Anderson, Sr., was born November 2, 1927, to the late Annie Mae Mattison Anderson and Johnny Anderson of Anderson County, South Carolina. He was the youngest of two children. His sister, Mrs. Johnnye Mae Anderson Robinson, preceded him in death. On Saturday, November 30, 2019, he left his earthly home and received his wings of eternal rest.
Ralph grew up on 9 Calvary Street in the West End Community of Greenville. He attended Sterling High School and after graduating from there, enrolled in Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree from Allen, he joined the U.S. Army as a non-commissioned officer whose duties included Troop Information and Education. He served first at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and later at several bases in Germany during the Korean War.
In the years following his return from Germany, he met the love of his life,Geraldine Lewis, whom he married. Their union was blessed with three children – Ralph, Jr., (deceased), Valerie, and Joel. Ralph was a loving father who took great pride to instill morals, manners, and an unwavering work ethic in his children. His personal work ethic was evident in his own work history which started as a mail carrier in Greenville. After 16 years as mail carrier, Ralph climbed the ranks within the United States Postal Service (USPS) to become a Specialist with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1969. He was responsible for processing cases in Upstate South Carolina and in parts of Georgia. He further climbed the ranks when he made a significant and lasting mark on the employment landscape in South Carolina as the first African American postmaster in Upstate South Carolina in 1973.
He held that groundbreaking position for a decade and after retiring in 1983, he remained influentially involved with the postal service through his tenure on Promotion Review Boards and Postmaster Selection Boards. Additionally, upon retirement from the USPS, it was his intention to pursue his passion in public service in a more active capacity as a public servant in local and state government .
Right away, in 1983, he won the first of his two terms as City Councilman in Greenville. From there, he sought and won election in 1991 to the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he served for five years. His service to the community took another step upward when he won election in 1997 to become the State Senator representing District 7 in Greenville. Winning State Senator of District 7 was especially noteworthy because it marked the first time that a Democratic candidate defeated an incumbent Republican candidate in District 7. Ralph held that seat for 10 years and used his political influence and membership on numerous Greenville-based boards and commissions to help his constituents and the citizens of Greenville find employment, acquire social services, and other requested assistance.
In all of Ralph’s political offices, he was known for being open to ideas other than his own. He was a soft-spoken, quiet, confident man who often worked to build bridges rather than walls among legislators. One of the best ways he expressed concern for his fellow men and women was gaining bi-partisan support for passage of a major bill that required hospitals to collect and report vital information about rates of infectious diseases at their facilities. The passage of this bill earned him the Southern Health Association’s Legislator of the Year Award.
Ralph’s life of service also earned him walls full of other awards and expressions of gratitude, including the Whitney Young Humanitarian Award, an “A+” rating from the South Carolina Education Association for his exceptional support of education throughout the state, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Citizen of the Year Award, and the W.F. Gibson Freedom Fighter Award.
There is so much more that could be said about the many public and private ways that Ralph assisted others and to express full appreciation for the fact that the life of the Honorable Ralph Anderson, Sr. was indeed “a life well-lived in service.”
Left to cherish his precious memories are his wife, Geraldine; a daughter, Valerie Anderson of Greenville, SC; a son, Joel (Darlene) Anderson of Greenville, SC; a daughter-in-law, Diane Anderson of Greenville; ten grandchildren Nikki Anderson, Toni (Tony) James, Joy Anderson, Ralph Anderson, III, Johnny Anderson, Brittany Anderson, Jovan Anderson, J.J. Anderson, Justin Anderson, and Jay Anderson; 16 great-grandchildren, and a host of other relatives and friends.