Boyce Alford (1923–2002)
Boyce Alford was a well-respected optometrist who also had a long career in public service. Active at both the local and state levels, the conservative Democrat served in the Arkansas General Assembly for a decade, while holding various local offices for an additional twenty years.
D. Boyce Alford was born on November 13, 1923, in Cove (Polk County). His first initial is something of a mystery, as his tombstone reads “Boyce Alford,” and there are apparently no records that reveal his full first name. He was the son of Thomas Franklin Alford, a one-time state commissioner of education, and Ida Womack Alford, also an educator. Boyce Alford grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated from Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys in 1942. Following graduation, he attended Georgia Military College and then the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) before earning his degree from the Northern Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. During World War II, Alford served in the U.S. Navy and was a tail gunner on a bomber in the Pacific Theater.
He married Dorothy “Mandy” Mandell on May 9, 1948, in Chicago, and the couple had two sons.
In 1950, the Alfords moved back to Arkansas, settling in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) where Boyce Alford started an optometry practice. He soon entered a partnership with Dr. Fletcher Baugh, one that lasted until Alford’s retirement in 1988.
Alford quickly got involved with the Pine Bluff community, becoming a member of the Jaycees, the Lions Club, and Rotary International. Alford was also active with Little League baseball at the national and local level, serving as president of the Pine Bluff Little League. He also served as an umpire for almost thirty years. Alford was also active in Pine Bluff’s Grace Episcopal Church.
His civic involvement ultimately led to politics. Alford was a Pine Bluff alderman from 1954 until 1958. He then served as a member of the Pine Bluff Civil Service Commission from 1960 until 1968. Moving on to the state legislature, the longtime Democrat was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1969 until 1979, at which point he returned to the Pine Bluff Civil Service Commission, serving on that body until 1988.
As a member of the legislature, he was known for his colorful character, flashy sports coats, and sense of humor. A case in point was the time he led the opposition to a proposal to that would have allowed prison inmates to receive training in transcendental meditation (TM). Quoting an old song whose lyrics proclaimed, “If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly,” Alford warned that the prison denizens would use the TM training to float away to freedom.
In addition to his service as the chairman of the Legislative Audit Committee, he was the driving force behind the process of the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N) being made part of the University of Arkansas System in 1972. Typical of Alford’s service-based legislative style, his introduction of the bill that led to Arkansas AM&N becoming the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) came in response to members of the school’s faculty telling him that they were receiving lower salaries than faculty at other Arkansas schools and were having difficulty securing needed equipment. Alford was also known for his passionate approach to the legislative process. In the 1970s, an era in which the floor of the House was renowned for its raucousness, Alford was reported to have thrown a punch at a passing colleague in the midst of an uproar.
While his older brother Dale Alford served in the U.S. Congress from 1959 to 1963, Boyce Alford was satisfied representing his local constituents while still being able to practice optometry.
In 1988, Alford retired from both public office and his practice. Alford died on February 27, 2002, in Pine Bluff. He is interred in the town’s Grace Church Memorial Garden. Colleagues and political opponents alike remembered him as someone who, although a hard-driving and determined political conservative, was always upbeat, friendly, and helpful despite disagreements.
For additional information:
“Boyce Alford, Legend, Legislator and Tail-Gunner.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 2, 2002, p. 10B.
George, Emmett. “Optometrist Active in Politics 30 Years.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 2, 2002, p. 8B.
Obituary of D. Boyce Alford. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 1, 2002, 9B.
William H. Pruden III
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