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 Remembrance article:
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 on 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.
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 students.
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 ever have.
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 Institute.
“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 Tucker Carmichael.
He was not married but he did have a younger brother and two sisters, including Virginia Carmichael Alford Johnston, AAFA #0811.
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.