- Dale Alford
Thomas Dale Alford, Sr. Dale Alford United States House of Representatives, Fifth District of Arkansas In office
Preceded by Brooks Hays Succeeded by Position eliminated by reapportionment Little Rock School Board In office
Personal details Born January 28, 1916
New Hope in Pike County, Arkansas
Died January 25, 2000(aged 83)
Little Rock, Arkansas
Political party Democratic Spouse(s) L'Moore Smith Alford (married 1940; deceased) Children Thomas D. Alford, Jr. (died 1989)
L'Moore Fontaine Alford
Anne Maury Alford Winans
Occupation Ophthalmologist Religion Episcopalian
Thomas Dale Alford, Sr. (January 28, 1916 – January 25, 2000) was an ophthalmologist and politician from the U.S. state of Arkansas who served as a conservative Democrat in the United States House of Representatives from Little Rock from 1959 to 1963.
Early years and education
Alford was born to Thomas H. Alford and the former Ida Womack in tiny New Hope near Murfreesboro in Pike County in southwestern Arkansas. He attended public schools at Rector in Clay County in far northeastern Arkansas. He graduated from high school in 1932, a year ahead of schedule.
Alford attended Arkansas State College in Jonesboro in eastern Arkansas, the Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway, and received his medical degree in 1939 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock. He served his internship at St. Anthony's Hospital in Oklahoma City and his residency in general surgery at Missouri Pacific Hospital in Little Rock. He received post-graduate training at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
While he was in college, Alford was a radio sportscaster who covered the American football games of the Southwest Conference. He turned down an opportunity to become a national broadcaster to concentrate on his medical career.
Military service and medical practice
Alford served as a captain during World War II in the United States Army Medical Corps from 1940-1946. He was on active duty as a surgeon in the European Theater of operations. Afterwards, he was an assistant professor at Methodist-affiliated Emory University College of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1947-1948.
On his return to Arkansas, he opened a private practice of ophthalmology and was also the chief assistant in ophthalmological surgery at the Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. He was active in all levels of the Arkansas and American Medical Association as well as the American Board of Ophthalmology, College of Surgeons, International Surgeons, and Cataract Refractive Surgeons. He served on the teaching faculty at the University of Arkansas Medical School at Little Rock and from 1948-1958. From 1955-1958, he served on the elected Little Rock School Board during the desegregation crisis. He was also an appointed trustee of what became the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Elections to Congress, 1958 and 1960
Alford was elected as a write-in candidate in the 1958 general election that occurred in the aftermath of the Little Rock Crisis. He was only the second write-in candidate ever to have been elected to the House. (The Republican Joe Skeen was thereafter elected to the House from New Mexico as a write-in candidate in 1980.) Alford jumped into the election against incumbent U.S. Representative Brooks Hays endorsed the integration of Little Rock Central High School. Alford supporters printed thousands of stickers with his name on them and handed them out at polling places. Hays maintained a lead during the counting until an extra twenty boxes arrived bearing ballots with Alford stickers. Ultimately, Alford prevailed, 30,739 (51 percent) to Hays' 29,483 (49 percent).
In 1960 Alford won his second term in the House with 57,617 votes (82.7 percent) to Republican L.J. Churchill (1902–1987) of Dover in Pope County in northwestern Arkansas, who received only 12,054 ballots (17.3 percent). Churchill was a highly regarded civic and political figure in Dover. A Cumberland Presbyterian and a Mason, Churchill served as mayor of Dover and on the municipal school board, both nonpartisan positions. He had been state chairman of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. He operated L.J. Churchill's General Merchandise Store and was a member of the board of directors of the Bank of Dover.
As a congressman, Alford appointed future General Wesley D. Clark, a confidant of later President Bill Clinton, as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Clark later headed forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.
Two gubernatorial races
Alford's Little Rock-based district was merged with the 2nd District of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Daigh Mills after the 1960 census revealed that Arkansas had grown at less than the national average during the 1950s. Rather than face certain defeat in the 1962 Democratic primary against Mills, at the time an icon in Arkansas politics, Alford instead chose to enter the primary against incumbent Orval Faubus. In an active campaign, Faubus polled a narrow majority over Alford, former Governor Sidney Sanders McMath, Vernon H. Whitten, and two other candidates. Faubus received 208,996 ballots (51.6 percent) to McMath's 83,437 (20.6 percent), Alford's 82,815 (20.4 percent), and Whitten's 22,377 (5.5 percent). Faubus then prevailed with ease over the Republican nominee, Fayetteville pharmacist Willis Ricketts.
Alford ran for governor again in 1966 and finished fourth with 53,531 votes (12.7 percent). He received fewer voters than his old nemesis Brooks Hays, who with 64,814 (15.4 percent) finished third in the primary balloting. The runoff positions went to former Arkansas Supreme Court Justices James D. Johnson, a segregatonist, and Frank Holt. Johnson narrowly defeated Holt in the Democratic runoff but then lost to Republican Winthrop Rockefeller in the general election. In 1984, Alford entered the Democratic primary election for Congress in Central Arkansas's Second District for the open seat being vacated by Republican Ed Bethune. Appearing to many voters as a throwback to another era, Alford ran a distant fifth in a race ultimately won by Pulaski County Sheriff Tommy Robinson. In an ironic twist, Alford, the old segregationist, was far outpolled by African-American Thedford Collins, a Little Rock banker and former aide to Senator David Pryor.
Alford was a founding member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Little Rock and an active member of Trinity Episcopal Church. He was a former trustee of All Saints Episcopal School, location uncertain. He was a past president of the Arkansas State Opera Association and the Association of the University of Illinois Eye Alumni. He was a member of Phi Chi medical fraternity and also Phi Kappa Alpha. He was past state commander of the Arkansas American Legion and an officer the organization's National Commission on Americanism. Alford was also a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans. He was a Mason and a member of the Little Rock Country Club and the Yacht Club.
Alford died in Little Rock of congestive heart failure. Alford outlived his wife, the former L'Moore Smith, whom he married on July 27, 1940., and a son, Dale Alford, Jr. (died 1989). Survivors included two daughters, L'Moore Fontaine Alford and Anne Maury Alford Winans, both of Little Rock; daughter-in-law Kay Alford, widow of Dale, Jr., also of Little Rock; a brother, Dr. D. Boyce Alford (1923–2002) of Pine Bluff, the seat of Jefferson County in southern; a sister, Joyce Alford Gardner of Bryant, the seat of Saline County south of Little Rock; five grandchildren, including namesake Thomas Dale "Tad" Alford, III, and one great-granddaughter.
- ^ a b Social Security Death Index Interactive Search
- ^ a b Thomas Dale Alford, Who's Who in America, 1962-1963, pp. 62-63
- ^ a b ALFORD, Thomas Dale - Biographical Information
- ^ Thomas Dale Alford obituary, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 26, 2000
- ^ a b c d e f Thomas Dale Alford obituary, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 26, 2000
- ^ a b c Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections
- ^ "L.J. Churchill, 84, dies at Dover", Arkansas Gazette, October 3, 1987, obituary section
United States House of Representatives Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arkansas's 5th congressional district
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