OLIVER PERRY ALFORD III
1904 KY – 1995 AL
At AAFA’s 1995
meeting in Decatur, AL
We have been unsuccessful in obtaining an
obituary for O.P. Alford. We published his first “In Remembrance” article in
the Winter 1996 issue of AAFA ACTION, when we had only an invitation to
a memorial service held 17 January 1996 at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute at
Auburn University, Auburn, AL, with which O.P. was associated. Here is that In
We have not yet received an
obituary for Oliver Perry Alford, but, Sally Stoewer of Baton Rouge, LA,
received a card with the heading “Ludwig Von Mises Institute” and printed
thereon: “A memorial service for O.P. Alford, III, will be held at seven o’clock
in the evening, Wednesday, January 17, 1996, at the Auburn University Chapel,
College Street and Thach Avenue, Auburn Alabama.” She sent the card to Gil
Alford, who sent the following message to a number of people via the Internet:
Those of you who were in
Decatur will remember Perry Alford from our recent meeting. His sister,
Virginia Alford Johnston [AAFA #0811], and her son were there for the reception
Friday evening. I’d corresponded with her some about ten years ago—also
corresponded with one of his sisters-in-law. I knew of him because I’d seen
references to the chair or scholarship (don’t remember which) that was
established in his name at Auburn. [The O.P. Alford III Prize in Libertarian
Scholarship awards $1,000 to the author of the paper best advances libertarian
scholarship. The O.P. Alford III Fellowship is awarded to undergraduates
studying during the summer.]
Paul Alford, of Decatur,
made contact with Mr. Perry, recruited him in AAFA and was pleased when he
learned he would come to the meeting. I remember him well. He sat on the front
row during the workshop on Friday. And on Sunday we had a real nice visit, one
In the Spring 1996 issue of AAFA ACTION, we
published a second In Remembrance that Gil Alford adapted from an article
published by the Mises Institute in the March 1996 issue of The Free Market.
That full article is reproduced below.
“A Hero For All
By Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., President
of the Mises Institute
In 1984, at a Mises Institute
conference in Houston, some of us met O.P. Alford, III, for the first time. He
was a quiet gentleman dressed in unassuming khaki trousers and shirt. His
intelligence was evident and his manners were strikingly aristocratic.
Those who visited with him
that weekend noticed something very special, even remarkable, about him. It was
his old-world sense of honor and principle, and his independence of mind. Mises
had those qualities as well. And, as it turned out, Mr. Alford had been reading
Mises and liked what he had to say.
Thus began Mr. Alford’s
long association with the Mises Institute. But we had only just begun to
discover the greatness of this man, and the drama of his life. As time went on,
he became a central figure in the Mises Institute.
He was a tremendously
generous benefactor who also worked full-time with us in his last five years.
The week before he died at age 91, he was still reading everything he could get
his hands on, contributing at seminars, compiling mailings, and doing whatever
other tasks were necessary, even while discussing books and research with our
Mr. Alford didn’t believe
in retirement. He wouldn’t let FDR tell him when it was time for him to stop
working. “The New Deal was all wrong as far as I was concerned,” he told us in
an interview. “The AARP is always asking for my money, but I wouldn’t give a
dime to an organization that blocks all reform of social security. It is
patently impossible to get something for nothing, but we keep trying.”
Mr. Alford believed in
work, and his constant advice to all of us was “work hard.” He certainly did.
His first job was bailing water from boats at a yacht club to which his father
belonged. He eventually became a world-class competitive sailor who taught
sailing at Oxford and ran the Flying Dutchman class.
He was a seaman, a
mechanic, and a tugboat captain. He was also a pilot who built and flew his own
experimental aircraft when he was in his 70s. And he was an airplane restorer
for the Confederate Air Force, which he always wished had been around in 1861.
He was a grain and dairy
farmer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, producing a national champion Golden
Guernsey. And he was the co-owner of a hotel in Cleveland, the publisher of a
sailing magazine, and the producer of yacht racing movies. He was a great
conversationalist, a witty dinner companion, and the greatest friend you could
Mr. Alford was a committed
libertarian in the tradition of Mises and Rothbard, and a strong believer in
the gold standard, the free market, and the power of ideas in general. He
received a Ph.D. in meteorology from the University of Chicago and an M.A. in
journalism from Northwestern, where he founded the campus radio station. He
also studied flying at the Curtis Wright Aeronautical University.
At the end of his life, Mr.
Alford was doing research on the real cause of the War Between the States: high
taxes. A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, he wanted to help undo the
old smears of the South. The Confederacy, he said, fought for the right of self
government, and so should we.
Mr. Alford was a descendant
not only of Confederate officers, but of John Randolph of Roanoke and St.
George Tucker, and he had studied their lives and works. But it was his
dissatisfaction with the present state of economics that led him to the Mises
“The one thing Keynes was
right about,” said Mr. Alford, “is that most politicians are slaves to some
defunct economist.” These days, he added, it’s Keynes himself.
Mr. Alford set out to correct
the problem. Through his generosity, students were given access to great books
in economics and to our journals, newsletters, and conferences. He also made it
possible for students to attend graduate school and supported important
research and teaching, all through our Alford Center for Advanced Studies in
Austrian Economics. How many lives he changed.
Yet Mr. Alford lived very
simply. His trailer had only a tiny living space, but that was just the way he
liked it. He believed that the most important things a man can have are his
moral principles, his health, and his liberty. With those, he lacked for
nothing, and indeed, he did.
He liked to tell the story
of Oliver Perry, another ancestor after whom he was named. Commodore Perry was
ordered to proceed to Lake Erie during the War of 1812, construct a navy, and
beat the British. He was given some axes, saws, rope, and canvas, and with them
he built four vessels. On the night before the battle, the Commodore took a
needle and thread and made a flag. It said, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
Mr. Alford commented: “Early
on I was taught that you have one hand for yourself and one hand for the ship.
The theory is that if you neglect the ship and the ship sinks, you go with it.
The same reasoning applies to your country.”
As a benefactor, scholar,
entrepreneur, and member of the natural elite, he was an example to our
students, and to all of us. No matter how strong the storms, Mr. Alford never
gave up the ship of liberty, and neither should we.
AAFA NOTES: SSDI
records show that Oliver P. Alford (SS# issued in IL) was born 1 July 1904 and
died 26 Dec 1995, last residence is listed as Auburn, Lee Co., AL.
Oliver Perry Alford III was born in Baltimore, MD.
He was the first son and second child of Oliver Perry Alford II and Laura
He was not married but he did have a younger
brother and two sisters, including Virginia Carmichael Alford Johnston, AAFA
Though proud of his Alford heritage, he and
others in his family were named for other great ancestors. He was the third
generation named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who was famous for coining
the phrase, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” during the War of 1812. His brother, John
Randolph Tucker Alford, was named after two other famous ancestors, and Mr.
Perry was influenced by them throughout his life. They were The
Randolphs—William, Sir John, Edmund, John of Roanoke—and Henry St. George Tucker,
men who had great influence in early Virginia.
Those who were present at the 1995 AAFA meeting
in Decatur, Alabama had the privilege of meeting Mr. Perry Alford in person. He
was present in every session sitting on the front row for the workshop on
Friday. After the meeting he wrote a note to the Association: “Dear Gil: Thank
you for a great meeting and for your kindness to me. It was an honor to be
included in such distinguished company. I did not know that there were so many
nice people left around, they were very kind to me.... many thanks and Best
Wishes” Under his signature he typed, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” It appears he
applied his theory of keeping a hand on the ship to AAFA as well.
For more information about this family, see
AAFA’s published genealogy, Known
Descendants of James Alford & Lucy Bailey.
His lineage: Oliver Perry 1904 MD1,
Oliver Perry 1880 LA2, Oliver Perry 1827 KY3, Nathaniel
1785 ?? 4, Charles 1752 VA5, James 1715 VA6.