Gafford grew up in Pratt City and studied drafting at Glenn Vocational School. He worked as a structural steel detailer from 1970 to 2001. He enrolled in the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Firefighter Recruit School in early 1984 and joined the department as a firefighter and paramedic on April 30.
Gafford rose through the ranks to become Captain of Birmingham Fire Station No. 16. He also volunteered with the Shady Grove Volunteer Fire Department, serving as Chief from 1989 to 1991. Later in his career he completed Magic City Clown School in order to be able to volunteer at area hospitals. His clown name was "Grampy".
On April 25, 2007 he collapsed while walking on the track at the UAB Track Facility during a fitness check and could not be resuscitated by colleagues at the scene. He was survived by a wife, Cheryl, two sons, Billy and Jonathan, and five grandchildren. He was buried at Crestview Memorial Gardens in Adamsville.
- "Fire captain Gafford dies during training." (April 26, 2007) Metro Briefs. The Birmingham News.
- "Billy A. Gafford, Jr." obituary (April 28, 2007) The Birmingham News.
- Capt. Billy A. Gafford at Dave's Place (dave911.com)