WILMINGTON, N.C. — Ralph Harding, the second president of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., died April 7 of natural causes in Wilmington, N.C. He was 79. Harding led SPI from 1967-1981. He steered the organization through the initial years of the environmental movement, including early solid waste debates.
The industry also was challenged with issues of combustibility and energy shortages, so Harding crafted SPI's first issue-management group, the Public Affairs Council.
He also developed SPI's 1969 Plan for Growth, which restructured the group.
Harding suffered a stroke in 1980, SPI said.
He "left an indelible mark on my respect and appreciation for the plastics industry and SPI," Lew Freeman, SPI's vice president of government affairs, wrote in announcing Harding's death to colleagues.
"He was a man who lived his life with grace and dignity," Freeman added.
Harding was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame, and while he was at SPI, served on the board of the American Society of Association Executives and was secretary general of the International Plastics Association Directors.
Before joining SPI, he was vice president of marketing for Pittsburgh National Bank.
Harding served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-46, and received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1947.
A memorial service was held April 11.