Although Floyd Alston was a noted businessman and pillar of the Philadelphia community for more than 40 years, his numerous achievements paled in comparison to his accomplishments as a father, friend and mentor. Family, friends, colleagues and admirers filled the pews of Grace Baptist Church to pay their last respects and to celebrate the life of a cherished citizen.
“To most people, he was Mr. Alston,” said Melva Thompson, his niece. “To me, and my family he was always known as uncle, brother.”
Alston died Monday at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Marilyn Alston; son, Craig E.F. Alston; daughter, M. Suzanne Hodges; son-in-law, Keith L. Hodges; and two grandchildren.
For 15 years, from 1990 to 2005, Alston served as president of the Beech Corporation, which dedicated resources to revitalizing the area of North Philadelphia ravaged by years of neglect and poverty. As president, Alston spearheaded initiatives that helped create more than $500 million in redevelopment to the area surrounding the campus of Temple University. Before that, Alston enjoyed a long career in banking, where he served as vice president and director of community relations for First Pennsylvania Bank.
Alston also made history, serving in World War II with the prestigious all African-American Mumford Point Marines, finally earning the Congressional Gold Medal for his service this year.
“How many kids can say their grandfather served in two wars?” said Cameron Hodges, Alston’s grandson.
Yet, these accomplishments barely elicited mention, as family members paid tribute to the traits that made his accomplishments possible.
Of all his lofty titles in life, his son Craig Alston noted one of his favorite titles was “Beach bum number one”.
“Dad always made days at the beach wonderful, not matter how hot it was outside. He loved the beach and explored beaches all over the world.”
Craig also provided a glimpse into his father’s dedication and patriotism, highlighting a particularly grave day in American history.
“November 22, 1963”, he said, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
“Dad planned a 33rd birthday party for my mother that day.”
When Craig arrived home, he noticed his father placing covers over the windows, so the party could go on.
“The very next morning we were off to Washington to see the president.” He said. “It showed his commitment to his wife, and his commitment to his country.”
Floyd Alston also never hesitated to display his playful side.
“He would dress up on Halloween, and come to our home, unannounced, ring the bell and scare my mother.” Said Melva Thompson. “ He would do the same on Christmas, and dress as Santa Clause to ring our bell screaming ho-ho-ho.”
Thompson revealed Alston as more of a father figure than uncle.
His colleague, and president and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, Robert W. Bogle, summed up Alston perfectly, “He was someone you needed to look up to. He exemplified truth and integrity.”