VAIDEN – The community is mourning the passing of a former Carroll County Superintendent of Education. James Murry “Son” Alford, who served as superintendent from 1983 to 1996, died January 3 following a short illness.
"He was a great man,” said Billy Joe Ferguson, who succeeded Alford as superintendent in 1996. “He was very much a model that you would hope would lead. He was hardworking and honest. He was a friend and easy to get along with."
Alford, a lifelong resident of Carroll County, graduated from Vaiden High School, Holmes Community College, Delta State University, and Mississippi State University.
Daughter Kristen Kotecki said her father grew up in a modest household, but his strong work ethic in life and in the classroom led to him to the top of his field in his home county.
Alford began his teaching career at Vaiden High School, where he also served as principal, as well as federal programs director for the district. He was elected as Carroll County superintendent of education in the 1982 election and was sworn in January 1983.
Alford’s legacy in education affected many students. Carroll County Beat 2 Supervisor Rickie Corley remembered his former Algebra I and Geometry teacher fondly.
“As a school teacher, he was a good teacher, but he was strict,” Corley said. “He could swing a paddle, but even as a student, you couldn’t be mad at him very long.”
Ferguson said he never had the privilege of being Alford’s student, but Alford was Ferguson’s coach when he was a football player. Alford even drove the school bus for the football team during the season.
When Alford retired in 1995, Ferguson was elected to fill his seat. The transition was a smooth one, thanks to Alford’s success in the office and attention to detail.
“He made it easier for me when I became superintendent. He had everything going on the right road,” Ferguson said. "It's a daunting task to be over that many employees and a thousand kids. But, he had the district going in the right direction. I respected his advice."
Ferguson remembers Alford speaking to the Carroll County Lions Club. It was then he learned that in Alford’s 12 years in office, he never received a dissenting vote from the school board and never recommended raising property taxes.
"He was a man of his word and he was very frugal, not a wasteful person,” Ferguson said. "He wanted to help people in general. He was a good-hearted person.”
Corley, who became friends with his former teacher as an adult, remembers Alford as an extremely community-minded person. Not only did Alford garden, he gave away the fruits of his labor to those in the community.
“He was a great worker in the church and in the community,” Corley said. “I appointed him to serve on the Holmes Community College Board of Trustees, and I always got positive feedback [on Alford’s service]. There has never been a better fellow who lived [in Carroll County].”
Alford was an active member of the Vaiden United Methodist Church, where he taught Sunday school for more than 40 years. He was also a member of the Carroll County Lions Club and a Carroll County Farm Bureau director.
Corley said Alford’s humor was one of his best attributes.
“He could never run out of jokes,” Corley said. “He had a pocket full of them.”
Apart from education and community service, Alford left another legacy to the people in his community. An avid woodworker, Alford handcrafted walking sticks and gave them away to friends and family. Last year, Alford presented the five members of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors with their own walking sticks.
“[After he retired, Alford] made walking sticks and just gave them out. There's no telling how many of those he made. He had a big garden. He was an extremely hardworking person," Corley said. “I’m using mine right now. He will be greatly missed.”
Alford is survived by his wife, Phyllis Alford; daughter, Kristen Kotecki of Winona; and granddaughter and namesake, Murry Catherine Alderman of Winona.
Kotecki said that her father adored his family, but his family adored him even more.
“He was such a good man,” Kotecki said. “He so loved people. He loved everyone.”