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Albert Clay Alford, Sr.
1903 KY - 1998 KY
His ALFORD lineage:
Albert Clay 1903 KY1
John W. 1870 KY2
John Russell 1839 KY3
John c. 1807 NC4
"Albert Alford of Knox County, Kentucky."
One-Room Schools: Mr. Alford Remembers Well
By David Cole
THE MOUNTAIN ADVOCATE
Barbourville, Knox Co., KY, 11 March 1993
This article was also published in AAFA ACTION, Summer 1993.
Who has taught in the most one-room schools in Knox County?
This reporter doesnít know for sure but would like to put forth the name of Apple Groveís Albert Alford, who turned 90 on March 10, as a candidate. Albert retired in 1966 after teaching 40 years in the Knox School System, nearly all of which was in the Artemus-Kay Jay area. He started teaching in 1924.
Among his one-room school assignments were Lower Coal Port (his first position), Upper Coal Port, Trosper, Lower Little Brush Creek, Upper Little Brush Creek and Big Brush Creek, the latter in an annex to the regular classroom, in a nearby church house.
Albert also taught 20 years at Kay Jay Elementary, three years at Artemus Elementary and one year at Knox Central.
In an interview last week, a reporter asked the longtime teacher the biggest changes heís seen in the education world. He answered, "I believe the biggest trouble today is the discipline problem. Back when I started, the parents would tell you that if their child needed correcting, you could use the beech limb on them.
' "Today itís different," he said. "The parents would help you then, so you didnít have as much trouble with the children."
Asked to recall a funny experience, Albert recalls once overhearing two young boys arguing on the playground at Kay Jay. The boys were playing "jibs" or marbles and were quarreling. One of the boys was heard to say, "If youíre going to cheat, cheat fair."
Over the years, Albertís taught under five Knox County Schools superintendents, including Walter Evans, George Messer, Chester (C.A.) Bargo, Jim Bright and Jesse D. Lay.
Among his students was Floyd Sowders, longtime Knox Circuit Court Clerk, who attended Lower Coal Port. He also remembers Rob Bays, who retired from the mines, among others.
Another of his students, Barbourville barber shop owner Homer Merritt, recalled last week that Albert Alford never drove or owned a car and "walked everywhere."
Asked why, Albert said, "I donít know. I just never did."
Albert also talked at some length about his church work, which involves his teaching over 60 years in Sunday school. Currently, heís a deacon and adult Sunday school teacher at Apple Grove Baptist Church.
"We have one of the finest churches youíll find anywhere," he said. "B.F. Jackson is our pastor, and we welcome all visitors in our church."
He has been an active member of the Apple Grove church since he and wife Ruth moved to the community 21 years ago. Before that, he was active at Coal Port Baptist Church on Brush Creek and, before that, at Liberty Baptist Church on Brush Creek.
Albert said it had to be John 3:16: "So God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son...."
Although he spent most of his life in the Brush Creek area, Albert was actually born in Corbin on March 10, 1903. His parents were J.W. Alford and Alice (Williams) Alford. J.W. worked at the railroadís "round house" in Corbin.
Albert said last week he is the only one living out of his family, which included brothers Jason and Green Alford and sisters Lizzie Thomas and Hazel Wilde.
When he was very young, the Alford family moved to Poplar Creek, and when he was 6, they moved to Brush Creek to an area then called "Myrick Switch," located about three miles above Artemus.
Albert completed the eighth grade in a one room school on Brush Creek and then attended old Barbourville Baptist Institute. Next he attended Union College to earn his first teaching certificate.
"To earn the certificate," he said, "I walked from three miles above Artemus to Union College for nine months. Two other men walked with me, Herk York and Dan Foley. It was a 12-mile round trip "
In 1924, Albert Alford had his first teaching assignment at Lower Coal Port. He recalled last week that school ran seven months at time in those days and that in the off-season, when he wasnít renewing his certificate, he worked at local mines, including the Congletonsí mine at Warren and Bryan Whitfieldís mine at Kay Jay. From this mining experience, Alford said he "worked out a retirement," which derives from "Black Lung" benefits.
Early important dates for Albert Alford Include his fatherís moving to Barbourville in 1925 to the present Alford Lane at Apple Grove; and Albertís marriage in 1926 to Ruth Bolton, born in Barbourville on March 23, 1909 to John and Louise Bolton.
Albertís father J.W. is remembered as having been elected Knox County Judge in 1933, in the prime years of the Depression.
After teaching at numerous locations over his 40-year career, Albert Alford retired from full-time teaching in 1966, although he substitute-taught for two more years.
He also worked for one year on the Knox Libraryís Bookmobile and one year for the University of Kentucky as an interviewer following his teaching career.
Albert said he and his wife raised "three fine children," including their youngest son, Albert Clay Alford Jr., who died of lung cancer last June at age 61. Their oldest son, John Williams Alford, lives with his wife Lois in Florida; and daughter Hazel Christianson lives with her husband Roland in Corbin.
Albert and Ruth have eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.
Asked what he was going to do on his 90th birthday, Albert said, "I told my children no gifts. I just want to be with them."
Albert said he is also looking forward to spring and the return of his purple martins, "who get pretty noisy sometimes" but keep the mosquitoes down.
Last year all 24 of Albertís purple martin gourd houses were full, occupied by 48 of the birds.
Orville Alford, AAFA #0390, sent this additional background on Albert Alford:
Albert Alford is the uncle of Orville Felton Alford, AAFA #0042, of Lake Station, IN, through Albertís brother, Green Berry Alford (30 June 1889 - 16 Dec 1973).
Albert is the son of John W. Alford (25 Dec 1870 - 10 Dec 1949) and Alice K. Williams (1 July 1881 - 15 Oct 1969). Alice and John m. 22 Apr 1902 in Bell Co., KY, the second marriage for each. [In Orvilleís lineage, published in AAFA ACTION in March 1992, p. 5, John W. is listed as John William, b. 15 Nov 1870, and Alice K. Williams is listed as Rachael Williams.]
Albert is the grandson of John Russell Alford, b. May 1839 in Whitley Co., KY, and d. 15 Dec 1909 in Knox Co., KY. He m. Elizabeth Golden on 13 Oct 1867 in Campbell Co., TN. She was b. July 1847 in KY and d. Oct 1929 in Knox Co., KY. John Russell was a WBTS [?] veteran. [In Orvilleís lineage, Johnís birthplace is listed as Knox Co., KY.]
Albert is the great-grandson of John Alford, b. circa 1807 in NC and d. after 1882 in Knox Co., KY. He m. Dirisa Lunsford in Rutherford Co., NC, on 12 Jan 1826. Dirisa was the daughter of Daniel Lunsford, b. circa 1807 in NC and d. between 1870 and 1880 in Knox Co. [In Orvilleís lineage, Johnís date of death is listed as circa Feb 1841. Dirisaís name is spelled "Diarissa.Ē]
John Alford is at present the ultimate ancestor. Those seeking the parentage of John are myself, Kenneth Ray Alford of Colorado Springs, CO, and Orville Felton Alford. Kenneth and I descend from John Russell Alfordís brother, Daniel L. Alford, b. circa 1830 in NC and d. 1883 in Knox Co., KY.
Albert Alford holds the distinction of being the eldest living descendant of John Alford, and the only living great-grandson.