Tom Ashford

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Thomas Ashford in 1895

Thomas Tate Ashford (born September 27, 1857 in Limestone County; died February 9, 1930 in Birmingham) was president of the Birmingham Paint, Glass and Wall Paper Company and a member of the Birmingham Board of Aldermen.

Ashford was the third of five children born to Thomas Harrison and Caroline Tate Ashford and raised at the Tate family's home, called "The Plantation", settled by Enos Tate at a site near Mooresville (between Huntsville and Decatur). He attended private schools before entering the East Tennessee University at Knoxville. He graduated in 1877 and continued to study at a commercial college in Lexington, Kentucky. He began his career as a bookkeeper for the Little Rock, Arkansas firm of Hendricks & Ables.

In 1882 Ashford took a job as a traveling salesman for the Cole Manufacturing Company of Memphis, Tennessee. He resigned after eight months to partner with H. H. Mayberry in the Mayberry & Ashford decorator's supply business in Birmingham. The partnership dissolved with Mayberry's withdrawal in October of 1886. Ashford reincorporated on October 22 as a public stock company and attained great success with the business, which was headquartered at 2016 3rd Avenue North.

Ashford married the former Susie Swoope, daughter of Charles Carroll Swoope of Wheeler (Lawrence County) on December 31, 1885. The couple resided at 1715 13th Avenue South and had one daughter, Etoile Virginia, born October 4, 1886.

Ashford was elected to the Board of Aldermen under Mayor James Van Hoose in 1894. He supported the hiring of a prosecuting attorney to work in the city's police court.

On December 23, 1897, Ashford, still serving on the Board of Aldermen, shot traveling salesman Felix Brown in downtown Birmingham. Brown had killed Ashford's brother Frederick a year before in Courtland, the result of a feud over a remark about a widowed sister of Ashford's. Tom Ashford confronted Brown outside Rosentihl's Jewelry on 20th Street North and shot him once in the cheek. He then followed the injured man into the store and shot him twice more; once in the left arm, and once in the back, penetrating his lung. Ashford was arrested for assault with intent to kill. At a preliminary hearing in Judge N. B. Feagin's police court, witnesses affirmed that Brown had made a motion towards his pistol pocket, providing justification for self-defense. Ashford was released on $1,500 bond pending a Grand Jury hearing, but the case was never brought to trial. Brown, who was in fact unarmed, having left his pistol at the Morris Hotel, recovered from his wounds at the Wilson & Brown Infirmary and provided testimony in the preliminary hearing.

Ashford, who had served as president of the Alabama Field Training Club, retired to his family home in Limestone County and raised champion sporting dogs. He died in 1930 at a Birmingham hospital and was buried in the Tate Cemetery on the grounds The Plantation.

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