Joe Alford, a small-town lawyer known for valuing people more than money, died May 26 at the age of 67. His wife of 46 years, Charlotte, was with him at his death and as he went through months of cancer treatments.
In an age of lawyers advertising on billboards and television, Joe didn’t even have a sign on his Orange office. People found him, often by referral. His law office for nearly 35 years was a small old building across the street from the Orange County Courthouse. In recent years he added a front porch with rocking chairs. Dozens of people tell stories of how he never sent them a bill for his work.
He considered working as legal counsel for public entities a donation to the community. At times he turned down offers of pay raises from the entities. He was the original attorney for the Orange County Appraisal District, dating back to 1979, and continued in the position until his death.
He was the city attorney for the City of West Orange and previously was the municipal judge. In addition, he represented the Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD and the Mauriceville Municipal Utility District. He had once been counsel for the West Orange-Cove CISD and advised the Deweyville ISD for more than 20 years.
His legal work including representing criminals on trial for capital murder and elderly widows probating wills. He handled divorces, name changes and adoptions. Every client found a shoulder to cry on, sympathy, and a lifelong friend.
Even though he represented the accused in the courtroom, law enforcement officers respected him because he showed them respect.
Joe was born in Port Arthur to J.D. and Joann Alford. He grew up in West Orange and was a 1967 graduate of the old West Orange High School. He and Charlotte Duhon began dating when they were in high school and married in 1970.
He worked his way through Lamar University as an orderly at Orange Memorial Hospital in the days before hazmat medicine. If a patient came in bleeding, the orderlies went home with blood on their clothes. It didn’t matter to him. Helping came first.
The experience made him want to go into hospital administration. But his grandfather in Hemphill, Judge Beauchamp, talked him into studying law. That influence affected generations of people in Orange County who turned to him for advice and help.
Joe is a graduate of the University of Houston’s Bates School of Law. He and Charlotte worked to pay for his studies.
After graduating and passing the bar, he returned to Orange and became a prosecutor in the office of then-District Attorney Sharon Bearden. He later left for a private practice with Wayne Peveto, who at the time was also the state representative for the county. Joe later went into his own practice.
He loved books, music and baseball cards. State District Judge Dennis Powell said Joe always pursued knowledge and the meaning of life. Besides keeping up with the latest legal case law, Joe could polish off two or more books a week. He was always ahead of the musical trends and recommended artists before they became famous. His expertise on baseball cards, along with his collection, was legendary.
He also loved the game of baseball. He coached youth baseball for his son and in recent years coached his great-nephews and nieces in the sport. As a surprise to many, he even ventured into coaching youth soccer. One of his last joys in life was seeing his three-year-old grandson Ronan slug a baseball off a tee.
Joe and Charlotte followed the West Orange-Stark Mustangs and have been football season ticket-holders in the same seats for 40 years.
Funeral services will be at 1:00 p.m. Monday, May 30, at First United Methodist Church, 502 N. Sixth Street in downtown Orange. A visitation will begin at 11:00 a.m. before the funeral. Entombment will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery on Meeks Drive. Pallbearers will be Wade Smith, Ed Smith, Rex Peveto, Eric Peveto, Barry Jones and Brent Alford. Honorary pallbearers are Sharon Bearden and retired State District Judge Pat Clark.
His survivors, besides his wife, are his mother, Joann Alford of West Orange; son Joseph of Los Angeles and daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Sam Watters of Orange, along with grandson Ronan Watters. Also surviving are sisters, Judy Sher of St. Louis and Kay Jones and husband Barry of Tyler; brother, Brent Alford and wife Michelle of Fort Worth; sister-in-law Juanita Smith of Orange and numerous nieces and nephews- Jami Nemec, Kara and Scott James, Derek and Sarah Jones, Lindsey and Jonathan Bolton, Josh Alford, Holden Alford, Wade and Julie Smith and Ed and Kathy Smith.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Joe’s honor may be sent to the Orange Camp Fire Council, 908 Pine Ave., Orange, TX 77630.