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Gwinnett County Public Schools

Alford Elementary School

Fast Facts


James Arthur Alford, son of James Alvin Alford and Emma Kelley Alford, was born in the Bethesda Community on February 24, 1894. The fourth of nine children, young Arthur, along with his brothers and sisters, attended the original Bethesda School, located next to the Bethesda United Methodist Church.

Education was important to the Alford family. All of the children attended college, with the older siblings supporting the younger ones. Arthur attended Georgia Tech, and served in the Navy during World War I before returning to the classroom as a teacher.

Arthur taught at his alma mater, Bethesda School, as did brother Walter and sister Allice. All of J.A. Alford’s children and grandchildren attended the school, and his daughter, Carolyn Beaty, taught at the original Bethesda School for 19 years. During World War II, Arthur’s wife, Celia, helped to organize a Victory Garden to grow food for the school lunchroom.

In addition to teaching, Arthur served as comptroller for a chain of general merchandise stores that he operated with his brothers and sisters. Stores were located in Gloster, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Loganville, Scottdale, Fayetteville, Palmetto, Douglasville, and Duluth. The Gloster store, where Arthur often worked, was the only general store between Lawrenceville and Lilburn. People came from miles around for everything they needed from seeds to food to clothing. If the customers didn’t have enough money to cover their purchases, Arthur worked with them to trade goods and services so they might get the store-bought items they needed. The store also housed the post office, so it was the center of life in the Gloster community.

A leader in his community, Arthur was chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Education and director of the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce. He was instrumental in opening the school that now serves the community in which he lived, the present-day Bethesda Elementary— donating land, timber, and other materials for the school. In addition, Arthur provided financial support to build the gym at the school.

As an educator, community leader, businessman, and native son, Mr. James Arthur Alford (1894–1949) made significant and lasting contributions to the community that is served by J.A. Alford Elementary School which opened in August 2003. The school’s official dedication occurred in October of 2003.

In 2015–16, the school transitioned to a new cluster as a result of redistricting, moving from the Berkmar Cluster to join the new Discovery Cluster. As a result, the school’s colors and mascot changed from the red, white, and blue Stars to the lime green and navy Titans.

Over the years, Alford Elementary’s enrollment has remained stable, hovering around 900 students. Also consistent has been the school’s commitment to serving its students and their families. In addition to traditional activities, the school has offered a Boy Scout STEM program, a mentoring program, and has engaged students in events as rewards for demonstrating positive behavior. In addition to PTA and its Local School Council, the school encourages parent participation through fun and engaging programs to support student learning, including Literacy Night, STEM Night, and International Night. Instructional workshops, facilitated by teachers and the parent involvement coordinator, teach parents strategies they can use at home to support student learning. Additionally, the school is a site for the district’s Play2Learn program which supports families, providing them with educational tools for their preschool-aged children in order to support and ensure school readiness.