|U.S. Representative from Arkansas's 5th congressional district|
January 3, 1959 - January 3, 1963
|Position eliminated by reapportionment|
|Little Rock School Board|
Thomas Dale Alford
January 28, 1916
New Hope, Pike County, Arkansas, USA
|Died||January 25, 2000 (aged 83)|
Little Rock, Arkansas
|Resting place||Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock|
|Spouse(s)||L'Moore Smith Alford (married 1940; deceased)|
|Children||Thomas D. Alford, Jr. (died 1989)|
L'Moore Fontaine Alford (died 2001)
|Alma mater||Arkansas State University|
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Thomas Dale Alford, Sr. (January 28, 1916 - January 25, 2000) was an American 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.
Alford was born to Thomas H. Alford and the former Ida Womack in the small township of 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 first attended Arkansas State College in Jonesboro in eastern Arkansas, followed by 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 was offered the opportunity to become a national broadcaster but ultimately turned it down to concentrate on his medical career.
Alford served as a captain during World War II in the United States Army Medical Corps from 1940 to 1946. He was on active duty as a surgeon in the European Theater of operations. Afterwards, from 1947 to 1948, he was an assistant professor at Methodist-affiliated Emory University College of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.
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 to 1958.
From 1955-1958, he served on the elected Little Rock School Board during the desegregation crisis, believing in a gradual desegregation of schools beginning at the elementary level. He was also an appointed trustee of what became the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
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 who had 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).
Osro Cobb, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, recalled that:
There were loud protests and allegations of irregularities and fraud from Hays supporters. Because it was a federal election, I had a grand jury impaneled, and an order was obtained from the U.S. District Court that impounded all of the ballots cast for review by the grand jury. When the grand jury completed its minute review of all the votes cast, it was established that the count had been unusually accurate for each candidate [Alford and Hays], and the grand jury was so outraged by the allegations made and the lack of evidence to support them that it seriously considered indicting those who had made the accusations. I was surprised by Hays' defeat because I did not realize the extent and commitment of the majority of the voters in the Fifth Congressional District to separate-but-equal schools in lieu of integration, which they feared would destroy their schools.
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 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 U.S. 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.
Alford's Little Rock-based district was merged with Arkansas's 2nd congressional district, represented by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur D. 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 Governor 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 segregationist, 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. Alford, was far outpolled by African-American Thedford Collins, a Little Rock banker and former aide to U.S. 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 of 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 Arkansas; a sister, Joyce Alford Gardner of Bryant, the seat of Saline County south of Little Rock; five grandchildren, Robert Wheat Goss II (Made Kelly-Goss in marriage to Robin Kelly-Goss), Elizabeth Fontaine Goss Leonard, William Winans, Alexander Winans and namesake Thomas Dale Alford, III; One great-grandchild Pearl Fontaine Kelly-Goss.