Alfred “Al” Whitesides, a graduate of Stephens-Lee High School, used his education to make history. Mr. Whitesides is recognized throughout Asheville as a successful businessman, a community leader, and a living touchstone to the city's struggle to eliminate segregation. 

During his time at Stephens-Lee High School in the early 1960s, Mr. Whitesides and his classmates co-founded ASCORE (Asheville Student Commission on Racial Equality). The civil rights group organized nonviolent demonstrations aimed at desegregating Asheville’s lunch counters, libraries, swimming pools, and parks. 

Mr. Whitesides remained active in the civil rights movement while attending college at North Carolina College, now known as North Carolina Central University. He served in the United States Navy before returning to Asheville and working at First Union Bank. During that time, he became a member of the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees and served as a member of the Asheville City Schools Board of Education.

In 2016, UNC Asheville renamed one of its academic buildings after Mr. Whitesides. His contributions as a young man fighting for equality and desegregation of Asheville businesses and institutions were noted during the renaming ceremony.

"As I stand here today, it would not be right for me not to recognize all of those whose shoulders I stand on. A lot of people sacrificed, a lot of people died so my name could be on this building," the Asheville Citizen-Times reported Whitesides saying during the ceremony. "It is an honor, but we still have a ways to go and we still have a lot of work to do."

Later that year, Mr. Whitesides became the first Black Buncombe County Commissioner after being chosen to serve out the term of Brownie Newman. He was elected to a full four-year term in District 1 two years later and was elected again in 2022 at the age of 77.