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Born July 13, 1908, in Frostburg, he was the son of the late Milton Race and Clara Gunnett Race and the last survivor in his generation of either family. His beloved wife, Martha Taylor Race of 66 years died October 2000. They had no children.
Ralph graduated from Beall High School; attended St. John's College, Annapolis, Bowman Technical School, Lancaster, Pa., and short term courses in banking practice at the University of Virginia. His working experience began with sharing weekend duties with his Father's workers in the M.R. Race Livery and Livestock business. Teen years found him operating horse-drawn farm machinery; moving on to motorized equipment and finally trucks. The depression ended college, and he worked for a year at the Celanese Plant. Ralph opened a Soda Fountain Sandwich Shop with a dance floor, music provided by a huge nickel-in the-slot record player. “Ralph's” became popular with older high school and college students and the sandwiches with traveling salesmen. Side activities included helping publish “The Frostburger,” a “Give-Away” weekly local newspaper, and acting as a rental agent for absentee landlords.
In 1933 he was employed at The Fidelity Bank as a trainee. That was the only bank in Frostburg to survive President Roosevelt's “Bank Holiday,” and one of the few in the County to reopen promptly with no restrictions. The pressures on this small operation to handle all the banking once shared by two much larger and older institutions was a revealing training school. Ralph retired 44 years later as president and chairman of the board, having affiliated Fidelity with Mercantile Bankshares Corp., an association of more than two dozen community banks. He was active in the Maryland Bankers Association and served for three years on a Committee of the American Bankers Association available to Members of Congress desiring “hands-on” information on banking legislation from working bank officers.
Also in 1933, he became a member of The Rotary Club of Frostburg, and began a life-long commitment to Community Service. He also served a term as treasurer of Potomac Council BSA, selling Christmas trees among other money raising activities. Now retired after 65 years of active membership in Rotary, including President, 1942-43, he was honored by the Frostburg Club as a honorary member.
Ralph enlisted in the Navy during World War II, serving in the Pacific for three years. He was a life-long member of First Presbyterian Church, an elder treasurer and trustee and was chairman and a member of Mountain Lodge No. 99, A.F. & A.M., and 32nd degree Scottish Rite Freemason.
Active in erecting the building at West Main and Water Streets, he served for many years as treasurer of the Frostburg American Legion, receiving award of life membership in Farrady Post No. 24, American Legion. For his service as co-chairman of a State Convention of Volunteer Firemen held in Frostburg, he was made an honorary member of the Frostburg Volunteer Department.
In the 1930s, he helped charter the Frostburg Chapter of the National Jr. Chamber of Commerce, serving as president. The following year he helped organize the Maryland State Jr. Chamber as treasurer, later its president and national director. Shortly thereafter, he was member of the Committee organizing the Beall High Alumni Association, first as treasurer and later president.
Following his discharge from the Navy, he with other service members and concerned citizens learned of plans to close Frostburg State Teachers College. He was active in committee that developed economic and educational reasons for continuing, and improving the College. For the rest of his life he worked to advance that cause, including as an off-campus participant in Frostburg State's 50th Anniversary Program. In 1978, he became treasurer of the FSU Foundation Inc., a post he held for 12 years. At the 1993 December Graduation Ceremony, President Gira bestowed on Race the first “Pinnacle Award,” established by the Foundation to recognize service to the University through the Foundation.
With the late the Rev. George L. Wehler and others, he helped found the Frostburg Museum Association and, with support from the Mayor and City of Frostburg, obtain the historic Hill Street School Building. He was a charter member of the local Historic District Commission, retiring as chairman in 1999. Always interested in history, Race became treasurer of the Council of the Alleghenies and, after serving in that and other capacities over 40 years, retired from the board and was named “Director Ex Officio” by that board. The Percy Cemetery Commission, Inc., awarded a similar honor in 2001, in recognition of his and Martha's support of the hard-working cemetery volunteers.
During retirement, Ralph was invited by Mayor Bambacus to join in the mid-1990s effort to build a new library in Frostburg. With the support and encouragement of his wife and participation of dozens of Frostburg citizens and organizations, the Foundation for Frostburg Inc., was chartered and continues as a valuable asset to the community. He became the first president.
Ralph Race exemplified responsible business leadership and a life-long dedication to church and community that is rare.