Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Rod Paige (2001–2005): Secretary of Education

When Rod Paige became the first African American secretary of education, it was only the latest step in a lifelong commitment to educating the young. Paige, the son of a librarian and a school principal, was born in Monticello, Mississippi. He graduated from Jackson State University in 1955, coached football at Utica Junior College, and earned his doctorate in physical education from Indiana University.

From 1962 to 1969, he worked as the head coach of the Jackson State football team, followed by a ten-year stint as football coach and dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, where he founded the school's Center for Excellence in Urban Education.

In 1989, Paige became an officer and trustee of the Houston, Texas, school board and was named superintendent in February 1994. In that capacity, Paige elicited suggestions and criticisms from professionals and academics in order to improve Houston's Unified School District.

Paige has served on upper-level state educational committees, and also chaired the Youth Employment Issues Subcommittee of the National Commission for Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor. He also was a member of the Houston Job Training Partnership Council, the Community Advisory Board of Texas Commerce Bank, the American Leadership Forum, and the Board of Directors of the Texas Business and Education Coalition. A firm believer in accountability and standards, Paige sailed through his Senate confirmation to become secretary of education.

Paige announced his resignation after the 2004 election. Bush nominated Margaret Spellings to succeed Paige who was confirmed by the Senate in the beginning of 2005.