Carol and John Zippert at work at the Greene Co. Democrat weekly newspaper
Four outstanding cooperative leaders will receive the cooperative community’s highest honor on May 3, 2017, when they are inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame.
The inductees are Rita L. Haynes, CEO emeritus of Faith Community United Credit Union, John D. Johnson, retired president and CEO of Cenex Harvest States Inc. (CHS) , the largest agricultural cooperative in the nation; Richard Larochelle, retired senior vice president of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation; and John & Carol Zippert, cooperative activists with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.
These cooperative leaders will be recognized at the annual Cooperative Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on the evening of May 3, 2017. In conjunction with the ceremony, a public forum on cooperative development and leadership will be held in the afternoon.
“Induction into the Cooperative Hall of Fame is reserved for those who have made genuinely heroic contributions to the cooperative community. The 2017 inductees join a host of extraordinary Hall of Fame members who have contributed significantly to the advancement of the cooperative movement,” said Gasper Kovach, Jr., board chair of the Cooperative Development Foundation, which administers the Hall of Fame.
John and Carol Zippert to be recognized as a couple
John and Carol met while working in the civil rights and cooperative movement in southwest Louisiana. John was a volunteer and later field staff with the Congress of Racial Equality in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. John was working on registering minority voters, integrating public accommodations and helping sweet potato and vegetable farmers to develop a cooperative to market their produce.
Carol was working with the Southern Consumers Cooperative, while attending the University of Southwest Louisiana. She participated in a special program to study cooperatives and credit unions nationally and internationally in Canada and Turkey.
When John and Carol decided to get married in 1967, they had to sue the State of Alabama to remove the state’s ”miscegenation statute” to allow them to get a marriage license in Louisiana as an interracial couple. Partners in both life and the pursuit for racial, social and economic justice in the U.S. South, John and Carol (Prejean) Zippert continue to embody the principles and priorities of the two movements that shaped their lives—the civil rights movement and the cooperative movement.
Father A. J. McKnight, himself a Cooperative Hall of Famer deeply involved in community and cooperative development across Louisiana, first kindled the couple’s passion and commitment to the cooperative movement. The same year they were married, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund was chartered. John and Carol were involved as community organizers with the cooperatives and credit unions and the meetings that resulted in the formation of the Federation
From the 1960s onward, John and Carol’s lives progressed in parallel with the mission of the Federation and the growth of the cooperative movement in the South. Over the years they have worked with many members of the Co-op Hall of Fame including McKnight, Ralph Paige, Woodrow Keown, G. L. Twitty, Melbah Smith, Shirley Sherrod, Earnest Johnson and Jessica Gordon Nembhard.
For five decades, John has worked with the Federation. For the past quarter century, he served as the Director of Program Operations for the Federation at its Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama, where he promotes cooperative economic development for low-income and minority people in ten Southeastern states. In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, John expanded the center’s reach to include relief work, enlisting cooperatives to help individuals, families and other co-ops recover and rebuild along the Gulf Coast.
During his career at the Federation, John has trained staff, mentored countless young people and designed programs to further sustainable small farming and cooperative development. The Federation honored John’s dedication with its Staff Award in 1977, 1978 and 1996.
John is a champion of cooperative development, a co-op policy analyst and a cooperative historian currently writing a book about the Federation. His career highlights also include contributions to housing co-ops and affordable housing for low-income people in Alabama. As a member of the Southern Cooperative Development Program staff, he helped former tenant farmers form the Panola Land Buyers Association and buy 1,164 acres of land in 1970. In 1980, the association established a housing cooperative. John also played a critical role in the Southern Grassroots Economics Project, which works to build democratic ownership in the U.S. South and hosts CoopEcon, an annual training institute for cooperative members.
Serving on the board of numerous state and national organizations, like the Rural Coalition, Rural Development Leadership Network, Alabama New South Coalition, Alabama Black Belt Commission, and others, John has been involved in advocacy and public policy development for family farmers, rural and cooperative development. John also assisted hundreds of African-American farmers in filing successful claims in the Pigford Class Action discrimination lawsuits.
Since 1985, John and Carol have together published the Greene County Democrat Newspaper, a weekly publication to inform and educate their primarily African-American community.
In 1985, Carol earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Supervision and Curriculum Development from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. As a self-described “community worker,” she dedicated five decades to building leadership and developing co-ops with the Federation—where she continues to volunteer—as well as supporting grassroots community groups in their work to achieve social transformation. Carol has served as an adjunct research professor and resource specialist for Tuskegee University’s Community-Based Youth Partnerships. She has been involved with the 21st Century Youth Leadership movement since its inception in 1986 and continues to serve on its board.
Carol is also president and founder of the Federation of Greene Country Employees (FOGCE) Federal Credit Union. Under her leadership, in one of the poorest counties in the U.S. built a credit union that has accumulated more than $1.4 million in assets. In addition, Carol’s poetry and leadership in cultural organizations such as the Black Belt Community Foundation and the Greene County Society for Folk Arts and Culture strengthen connections and trust among people, their co-ops and their communities.
The Co-op Hall of Fame ceremony is a major fundraising activity for the Cooperative Development Foundation. Persons and organizations interested in supporting the fundraiser or purchasing tickets for the dinner, should contact: www.heroes.coop.