Forsyth’s first black deputy remembered

Forsyth’s first black deputy remembered
January 05
07:00 2017

Alston Family Photo



Eldridge Alston, Forsyth County’s first black deputy, was remembered as a trailblazer who rose to the top ranks of his profession at a service held on Saturday, Dec. 31.

The New Year’s Eve funeral service was held at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church for Alston who was 88 years old when he passed away on Tues, Dec. 27, from surgery complications. Alston joined the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office in 1961, becoming its first black deputy. He rose through the ranks in the 1970s as a sergeant, lieutenant and captain before becoming major of operations in 1985, making him second-in-command. It was a position he held until his retirement in 1991. During his career, he never had to discharge a firearm at a suspect, nor was he ever fired upon in the line of duty.

Alston was remembered for his intelligence, articulation, confidence and calm, gentle nature. He was a giant whose shoulders many stood on.

Former deputy John Polite said he was indebted to Alston for paving the way. The sheriff’s office wasn’t integrated when Alston joined it, working under Sheriff Ernie Shore, and he had to deal with hostile attitudes from some of the white deputies. Polite, who joined the sheriff’s office in 1975, said that Alston knew that he was representing more than himself when he became a deputy.

“He was not welcomed with open arms, but he laid the groundwork for those who followed,” said Polite.

He said Alston could get things done and could handle people both in the office and in the field. He was known for the swagger of his walk and hardiness of his laugh.

Alston left his mark on far more than the sheriff’s office. County Commissioner Walter Marshall, who attended the funeral, was with the local NAACP when he met Alston. They would meet regularly so Alston could keep the civil rights group abreast of what was happening in the sheriff’s office.

Marshall said Alston became a mentor to him, teaching him to work with everyone both Republicans and Democrats, to get things done. He said Alston was one of the people who encouraged him to run for office, something he’d never considered for himself. He said he continues to follow that advice of working across the aisle as a commissioner today.

“He was an inspiration to me,” said Marshall. ” I try to pass on some of the things he passed to me to younger people.”

Alston was married to Shirley Alston and  had three children– Nigel Alston, Angela Alston-Boyd and the late Gloria Alston – along with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Nigel Alston is a well-known columnist and motivational speaker. He fought back emotions as he spoke at the service, saying the family is filled with both sorrow and joy.

“We rejoice because he was a good man,” he said.

Alston was a graduate of Atkins High School and Winston-Salem State University. He served for four years in the Navy. Alston was a faithful life-time member of St. James A.M.E. Church and has his name inscribed on the church’s cornerstone. In addition to his job as a deputy, he also worked at his family’s community grocery store, Carver Road Food Center. He was also a great cook, whose dishes were highly anticipated at family gatherings.

“They say 2016 took a lot of great people, and granddad was no exception,” said Alston’s grandson, Wali.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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