Dr. Lucius Charles Alston was born September 2, 1892 in Louisburg, North Carolina. After Dr. Alston graduated from the University of West Tennessee with a medical degree in 1918, overcoming rampant discrimination and the white-supremacist norms of the Jim Crow South. In the early twentieth century, only about 1 percent of all physicians were African-American.
Dr. Alston also served in World War I in the 802nd pioneer infantry overseas. When Alston returned from Europe, he married Velma Young, a nurse. In 1929 the couple moved to Mesa, Arizona settling in a small African-American community located in the Washington-Escobedo neighborhood, northwest of the city proper.
In Mesa, Alston found a community segregated by race and class, a Formally written into many of the region's housing covenants and urban planning practices, discrimination pushed non-whites to the margins of society. In response, non-white communities built their own institutions. In Mesa, for example, African-Americans had their own shops, stores, and churches. As the first African American doctor in Mesa, Alston served a broad community, and did not discriminate. He treated African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans, as well as white patients, especially those who could not afford care elsewhere. At the time, Mesa, was approximately 27 percent white and 3 percent African-American.
Alston died on September 16, 1958 in Los Angeles, California. Although he died in California, his grave is here in Mesa because of the many contributions he made to this city.
As its listing on the National Register of Historic Places explains, the home itself is an excellent example of a 1920s Late Craftsman Style Bungalow, a style characterized by its high-pitched gables that run parallel to the front and sides of the house, and "its large, deep, front porch supported on stucco and concrete columns with an arch that extends the entire width of the porch." The second story addition was added during the 1940s.
Over the years, the house fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition until the City of Mesa acquired it in a land swap. Grants and donations paid for the restoration, completed in 2007, and the house opened in 2008 as the Alston House Peace and Justice Center. It is the headquarters of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens and the Mesa Martin Luther King Celebration Committee.