JAMES BARBEE “HOSS” ALFORD
1924 NC – 2004 NC
Photo from The Franklin Times,
Louisburg, Franklin Co., NC, 27 October 1990
NEWS & OBSERVER
Raleigh, Wake Co., NC—Friday, 4 June 2004
ZEBULON [Wake Co.]—James Barbee “Hoss” Alford, 79, of 623
Clyde Pearce Rd., the Pilot Community, died Thursday [June 3] at his home.
Funeral service will be held 3 p.m. Sunday at
Pilot Baptist Church. Burial, Upchurch, Alford, Bunn Cemetery…. Arrangements by
Strickland Funeral Home, Wendell.
EASTERN WAKE NEWS
Zebulon, Wake Co., NC—Thursday, 3 June 2004
PILOT ICON BATTLES CANCER
By Michael A. Bell, Staff Writer
PILOT—There has always been a fire burning within James
Barbee Alford to provide for his family and his community. But cancer is
smothering those flames as “Hoss”—a name that has become synonymous with Pilot
and surrounding areas—fights his last battle.
With deep blue eyes peering into everyone’s
heart, the 79-year-old Pilot man now awaits his final call to venture into the
heavens. It’s a place he knows he is destined to go. It’s a place he knows he
will be well-received.
Last Wednesday, as oxygen channeled from tubes
to his body, Alford remained covered beneath his Pilot Baptist Church
embroidered blanket - the church he dedicated his entire life to. Even though
his body is slowly succumbing to the effects of kidney cancer, his mind is
still sharp and his ability to tell a story is uncanny.
“I’m fading fast,” said Alford, his weary body
resting genially in his home—a place hundreds of his friends and family have
frequented as their loved one slips away.
The doctors gave him three weeks to three months
to live. But they don’t know everything, he contends. They claim he will perish
soon, but Alford believes he is in God’s hands—for God is the only one who
knows when Alford will take his last breath.
For his Master, Alford doesn’t feel any
“It’s not that I’m not ready to go,” he said,
struggling. “I’m ready to go. I just hate to leave my family, you know?”
So far, he said he has not experienced any pain,
and the doctors believe he is likely to die in his sleep. On Monday, May 24, he
was placed in hospice care.
With laughs from everyone visiting him last
Wednesday, Alford shared stories of his accomplishments in the work force, his
gifts and faithfulness to his church and community—memories he will carry to
As his quivering hand reached for a tissue to
wipe the tears from his eyes, he gazed about the living room full of those who
have meant the most to him and smiled at his life—one he calls “impressive.
A HUMBLE SERVANT
Born Dec. 21, 1924, to farming parents Zollie
and Lala, it wasn’t until the fourth grade that a childhood friend coined the
nickname “Hoss.” He carried the identity throughout school at the former
Wakelon School in Zebulon, to his more than 38 years working for the state
Department of Transportation, to the present.
Although the state job didn’t pay that well, it
was very important to him—and he made sure he always arrived promptly…. By the
time he retired a year’s worth of sick leave was accumulated, and he was
credited for more than 39 years of service.
In the 1950s, chosen from a select few because
of his “leadership” abilities, Alford was granted a temporary ob of widening
the portion of U.S.64 from Zebulon to Raleigh. The project won him an award….
From being a member of every committee of Pilot
Baptist, to his 50-year on-and-off service to its deacon board, to his singing
60 years in the choir, Hoss Alford was always there. From helping construct the
church’s picnic area, to planning practically every July 4th celebration and
Pilot Fireman’s Day festivities, Hoss Alford’s guiding hands were needed.
In 1971, when Bunn High School officials said
they didn’t have enough money for an activity bus, Hoss Alford came to the
rescue. Organizing a barbecue fund-raiser where students from Bunn Elementary
and the high school were each given 10 tickets to sell, the amount raised for
the vehicle doubled to $12,000. When someone says it can’t happen, Hoss Alford
said me makes it happen.
As a Franklin County commissioner from 1986 to
1990, Hoss Alford oversaw the inception of a community college, an airport, two
senior citizen centers, and a new school in both Youngsville and gold Sand.
A staunch Democrat in a highly conservative
area, Hoss Alford said getting involved in politics was something for which he
had a knack. During his days in office, even though he still carried his
original nickname, someone also crafted another phrase suiting him to a T.
“They called me Mr. Democrat,” he said,
grinning. “I’d probably have some of my kin roll over (in their graves) if they
knew I was a Democrat.”
As his interest in politics dwindled away, Hoss
Alford decided to put his effort into another area he deemed invaluable: the
church youths. “It’s the most important thing you could ever do,” he said.
For the church young people to have all they
deserve, Hoss Alford wanted them to have outdoor activities, doing 90 percent
of the work for the church’s multiple tennis and basketball courts.
If there was ever anyone who couldn’t afford a
youth activity, Hoss Alford wanted his phone to ring.
“Let me know,” he would tell them. “I’ll pay
THE GATES OF HEAVEN AWAIT
In January, doctors found a lump in Hoss Alford’s
kidney, son Gus said. It was immediately contained, and the prognosis was
positive. However, doctors did not predict the cancer’s likelihood of
spreading. And two months later, the disease invaded the rest of Hoss Alford’s
As Hoss Alford fights daily to see another day
and breathe another breath, almost 300 get-well cards fill his single-story
Clyde-Pearce Road home—hope and daily affirmation that although he will soon be
gone, he will never be forgotten.
Though his time on earth will soon end, Hoss
Alford said he has lived a graced life. With two children, sons Jim and Gus,
six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and a slew of statewide and
community accomplishments, he believes he will be well-received at the gates of
“I’m ready to go,” he said, eyes beginning to
well with tears. “I just hate to leave my family behind.”
Wife Merle Alford, 74, is at peace with her
husband’s future death. She is battling congestive heart failure, but knows she
will be in good hands when Hoss Alford passes….
Though it is uncertain what day he will die,
what is sure is the place he will be buried: the Upchurch-Alford-Bunn cemetery.
On April 15, 1996, a tornado with wind speeds
estimated at 200 mph swept through the Pilot and neighboring communities,
damaging or destroying 92 homes and other property, particularly that
tree-lined cemetery on Shepard School Road.
Hoss Alford spent countless hours restoring it,
planting 19 Bradford pear trees where tall oaks and pines once stood and other
foliage to bring out its historic beauty….
In April 2003, the Easter Wake News interviewed
him after he restored the cemetery gardens. Then, as the Bradford pear tress
were in full blossom, he joked when asked about his nickname, sarcastically
saying he got the name because he was “so small.”
But for the many lives he was touched, Hoss
Alford’s towering spirit will remain for generations to come.
from Nathaniel Greene Family Cemetery, Pilot, Franklin Co., NC—www.findagrave.com
granted by the photographer, Dennis Holder
AAFA NOTES: SSDI
records confirm the birth and death dates for James B. Alford (SS# issued in NC).
We included the obituaries of his wife, Merle
Bunn Alford; his mother, Lala R. Batchelor Alford; and his brother Floyd Shelby
Alford Sr. (AAFA #0271) in North Carolina Obituaries.
AAFA ACTION, Spring 1999, includes
an article written by the daughter of Floyd’s sister Dorothy, describing life
on her grandparents’ farm: “Zollie and Lala Alford of Franklin Co., NC,” p. 50.
1993, an article about James was included in “Alfords in the News.”
His lineage: James Barbee 1924 NC1,
Zollie Floyd 1900 NC2, James Berry 1872 NC3, Berkley
Moses 1849 NC4, Kisar 1814 NC5.