A memorial service honoring the life and legacy of Alfred K. Whitehead is scheduled for Friday, September 17, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. at Cottonwood Church, 4505 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, CA 90720. The day before, on September 16, a flag service will be conducted at Fire Station 27, 6031 Rickenbacker Rd. in Commerce.
The IAFF is greatly saddened by the death of IAFF General President Emeritus Alfred K. Whitehead. He was 91.
A fire fighter who dedicated his life to the labor movement, Brother Whitehead passed away September 4, Labor Day weekend.
“He was a great union leader,” says General President Edward Kelly. “We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his innovation and dedication to the firefighting profession and the labor movement. Our members were always rest-assured that he would continue to fight with everything he had for better occupational disease protections, working conditions and benefits. The IAFF is as strong and robust as it is today because President Whitehead tirelessly fought for our members every single day. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone who knew him well. He will be missed.”
“The IAFF did not have a line-item budget when Al Whitehead was elected to General Secretary-Treasurer in 1982,” says General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma. “Then-GST Whitehead saved the IAFF from becoming insolvent; he began the policy of assigning per-capita to every IAFF Convention resolution that had a cost factor. He coined the phrase, ‘If you want it, you have to fund it.’ IAFF President Emeritus Whitehead was an incredibly tough labor leader, friend to many and my mentor. Brother Whitehead inspired me to run for General Secretary-Treasurer and I will always hold him and his teachings near to my heart. May perpetual light always shine upon him, the Whitehead family, Local 1014 and the IAFF.”
Whitehead served more than 20 years as a Los Angeles County, California, fire fighter and dedicated himself to Los Angeles County Local 1014 before he retired in 1982 to serve as IAFF Secretary-Treasurer. Six years later in 1988, Whitehead was elected the union’s eighth General President, a position he held until his retirement in 2000.
“The fire service lost a labor legend this Labor Day weekend,” says Los Angeles County Local 1014 President Dave Gillotte. “My good friend and mentor was one of the most dynamic, passionate and dedicated leaders in the IAFF. He fought on behalf of each and every one of us with a fire in his heart. Our thoughts and prayers lie with his family and close friends. Al is likely negotiating terms in heaven for future fire fighters.”
During his tenure in the union’s highest office, Whitehead made political action a top priority, working hard to establish allies at the local, state and federal levels.
He became involved in the labor movement as a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He joined the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1954 and joined Los Angeles County Local 1014, where he was elected president in 1970.
At the state level, he helped what was then called the Federated Fire Fighters of California (later renamed the California Professional Firefighters) develop an effective political action program and worked to save the state association from bankruptcy.
When Whitehead retired in 2000, Convention delegates renamed the IAFF Legislative Conference the Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference.