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Minnesota hero Alan Page honored at White House

Alan Page, former professional American football player and Minnesota Supreme Court justice, is presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump on Friday. Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer

WASHINGTON, D.C -- Less than two months after the death of his wife, Alan Page on Friday, Nov. 16,  received the nation’s highest honor for a civilian in an emotional ceremony at the White House.

Page, a Minnesota Vikings hall of fame defensive tackle and the first African-American justice to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, had the Presidential Medal of Freedom placed around his neck by President Donald Trump.

In speaking about Page, Trump said his wife, Diane, who died on Sept. 29 of breast cancer, “is looking down on you right now and she is so proud with love.’’

“That was hard,’’ Page said in a phone interview when asked about what Trump said. “I envisioned the whole time holding Diane’s hand. The whole thing was emotional for that reason.’’

Alan and Diane Page raised more than $14 million for college scholarships through the Page Education Foundation, which was launched in 1988.

Page played in the NFL from 1967-81, including 1967-78 with the Vikings, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. He served on the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1993-2016.

Attending the ceremony were 15 of Page’s relatives, including three of his four children. Also on hand was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., whom Page said played a role in nominating him for the medal.

“I thought it went well,’’ Page said. “It was interesting to me that in the final analysis being on stage with the other recipients, you sort of figure out we’re all just people trying to live our lives and it was from that standpoint that it felt good.’’

Page was one of seven recipients. The others were doctor, philanthropist and major Republican Party donor Miriam Adelson; Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Elvis Presley; former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia; and fellow sports legends Babe Ruth and Roger Staubach. Relatives accepted for the late Presley, Scalia and Ruth.

Presidents have total discretion over whom they honor with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Page has been critical of Trump, including saying last year that his administration  “has played to people’s racial insecurities.” However, he had vowed to put aside politics for the ceremony, saying “this honor is far more important than my personal beliefs.’’

Page said he had no personal interaction with Trump during the ceremony. There was a reception afterward at the White House but Trump did not attend.

During the ceremony, Page sat next to Staubach, a Dallas Cowboys hall of fame quarterback. And, yes, Staubach did mention to him the dramatic “Hail Mary’’ last-second pass he threw to Drew Pearson for the winning touchdown in a 1975 playoff game against the Vikings. Page was not in the game for that play.

“It’s not something that would have occurred to me to even think about but he mentioned it and we chatted about it,’’ Page said.

Page said he’s not sure where he eventually will place the medal. On Monday, he plans to show it off at an assembly at Justice Page Middle School, the Southwest Minneapolis school that was named for him last year.

“It was honor to get the medal,’’ Page said. “I think it can be used to inspire (the students).’’