California Professional Firefighters

Honoring the Legacy of Alfred K. Whitehead

Firefighters and working families in California and throughout the nation lost a true champion of the labor movement with the passing of IAFF General President Emeritus Alfred K. Whitehead. Brother Whitehead died after a short illness. He was 91.

“Al Whitehead was a lion of the labor movement,” said CPF President Brian K. Rice. “His legacy continues to echo in our profession and in the lives of every working person in California and the nation.”

A memorial service honoring the life and legacy of Alfred K. Whitehead is scheduled for Friday, September 17, 2021 at 10:00am at Cottonwood Church, 4505 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, CA 90720. The day before, on Sept. 16th, a flag service will be conducted at Fire Station 27, 6031 Rickenbacker Rd. in Commerce.

From his earliest days as a a longshoreman and a lineman for Edison, Brother Whitehead was on the front lines for his union, protecting working men and women. He joined Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014 in the mid-1950s and rose through the ranks to become Local 1014 president in 1970. In that position, Brother Whitehead proved instrumental in rescuing CPF — then known as Federated Fire Fighters of California — from bankruptcy and helping to chart the path that would make CPF a powerful and influential voice in the fire service.

In 1982, Brother Whitehead was elected IAFF General Secretary and, six years later, became the first Californian to be elected IAFF General President. In that position, he also served as a board member of the AFL-CIO, bringing the firefighter voice to the national labor movement. Wily and charismatic, Brother Whitehead was beloved by his members and well-respected in the halls of Congress by members of both parties. When he retired in 2000, IAFF honored his advocacy for the membership by rechristening its annual legislative conference as the Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference.

Even after his retirement from the IAFF, Brother Whitehead continued to advocate for working people, as a labor representative on California’s Public Employee Relations Board.

Brother Whitehead's fire service legacy continued through the generations: His son, Kenneth is a retired L.A. County Fire Captain and his grandson Daniel Wagner is an active L.A. County firefighter-specialist stationed at Fire Station 82.

In lieu of flowers, Brother Whitehead's family has asked that donations be sent to the Alzheimer's Association -- alz.org.