Dwight Raiford has passed away at the age of 75. Mr. Raiford was a volunteer member of the Little League International Board of Directors for nearly 25 years, including three years as Chairman.
A native of Burlington, North Carolina and resident of Atlanta, Georgia at the time of his passing, Mr. Raiford began his affiliation with Little League in 1989. Along with his wife of 52 years, Iris, Mr. Raiford was a founding member of Harlem (N.Y.) Little League.
A decade later, Harlem Little League and a league in Los Angeles joined together with Little League International to establish the Little League Urban Initiative, a program that Mr. Raiford championed and that continues to offer opportunities to children in under-served communities all around the United States. By 2002, the same league led by Mr. Raiford and dedicated to providing opportunities for children in the community made its first trip to the Little League Baseball® World Series after winning the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship.
“Dwight holds a special place in the history of Little League, and his contributions to the program are many,” said Stephen D. Keener, President and CEO of Little League. “We console Iris, while celebrating Dwight’s legacy and unwavering belief in the goals and ideals of Little League. Dwight enjoyed a vibrant life, full of enriching and rewarding experiences and he will most certainly be missed. During this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Dwight and Iris’s children, extended family, and many friends.”
Mr. Raiford joined the Little League International Board of Directors as an at-large member in 1994. In 2000, he was elected as the Chairman of the Board, becoming the first African-American to earn that position, where he would serve from 2001 to 2004.
“Dwight’s dedication and commitment to the Little League program has been an inspiration to all of our volunteers, and he provided respected counsel to the Board of Directors,” said Steven Johnson, Chairman of Little League International Board of Directors. “We are grateful for all of the time, effort, and insight that he shared to make the Little League program what it is today. We offer our deepest prayers and thoughts to Iris and the entire Raiford family, as we mourn together this incredible person and his lasting legacy.”
He was one of the first students to integrate his high school during his senior year and then was one of the first classes of dedicated Black students at Yale University. He continued his education at the Harvard Business School, where he earned his MBA. Mr. Raiford spent his professional career in the financial services industry with senior-level positions at global financial institutions, which provided him with valuable experience and input for his role with the Little League International Board of Directors. With that financial background, Mr. Raiford was highly involved with numerous financial operations of the Little League program during his time on the Board.
In his nearly 25 years of service on the Little League International Board of Directors, Mr. Raiford was at the forefront of important advancements of the organization including the expansion of the Little League Baseball World Series from eight teams to 16 and the construction of Little League Volunteer Stadium, the establishment of the Little League Urban Initiative, increased television coverage of the Little League World Series, developments to the Child Protection Program, and more.
In 2018, during departing remarks prior to his retirement from the Board of Directors, Mr. Raiford said: “My 30-year tenure with Little League Baseball and Softball has been among the most satisfying and enjoyable experiences of my life. Meeting the children and their families, working on this mission, and establishing these relationships have had an indelible impact on my life. I leave the Board knowing the governance, management, and reputation of the organization have never been stronger. Go Little League!”
Mr. Raiford’s dedication to the Little League program wouldn’t have been possible, however, if it weren’t for the shared commitment and passion for the organization by his wife. In addition to her service at the local level with Harlem Little League, Mrs. Raiford also played an instrumental part of the Little League Baseball and Softball program at the highest level. In the early 1990s, shortly after Mr. Raiford’s appointment to the Board, Mrs. Raiford became a Trustee for the now-dissolved Little League Foundation.
Just prior to his passing, Mr. Raiford was elected as a Trustee of the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The family is encouraging those wishing to honor Mr. Raiford to contribute to the Ebenezer Generosity Initiative in Dwight Raiford’s name.
Mr. Raiford is survived by his wife, Iris, son, Joshua, daughter, Leigh, and two grandchildren. He is predeceased by a son, Andrew.