Like so many members of the fabled “Greatest Generation,” Doris embodied the ideals of strong family values, education, hard work and integrity. Undeterred by the poverty that engulfed those around her, she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School at the early age of sixteen. She then married prominent high school teacher, Dr. Melvin O. Alston. Melvin, a vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement, had successfully challenged the discriminatory pay practices of the Norfolk City Public School District in 1945 and made the equalization of salaries for African American teachers in that area a dream no longer deferred.
Encouraged by her success in the classroom and spurred on by an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge and self-improvement, Doris began pursuing a graduate education at the University of of Minnesota, where she earned a Master’s degree in educational psychology. She then matriculated at Florida State University’s graduate program, earning a Ph.D. with a focus on cognitive development and reading in 1970. Dr. Alston supplemented her education with post-doctoral studies at Duke University, Washington University and Harvard, carefully absorbing the ideas and methods of noted psychologists such as B. F. Skinner.
Armed with her scholastic triumphs and displaying an inestimable energy, Dr. Alston set about applying her knowledge to the improvement of student achievement in both the Leon County Public School District and the Psychology Department at FAMU. Her talent and intellect caught the eye of then Florida Governor Rubin Askew, who appointed her to a vacant position on the Leon County School Board. She then ran for the post in her own right, and won. Doris Alston was the first African American to serve in a county-wide position in Leon County, Florida.
These pursuits provided the basis for her first children’s book, “Grandma and Tennis,” written under her pen name the “The Real Grandma.” Doris would continue The Real Grandma series with “Grandma and Softball” and “Grandma and Bowling.” “The Real Grandma” also made a brief foray into the rap world with “Grandma and Rhymes.”
Alston also explored more adult themes with books like the “ABCs of Aging,” which contained musings on how one can continue to live fully after having led a rewarding and enriching life. Doris lived what she wrote, and despite her many ailments, she remained ebullient, captivating and wise until her last breath.