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Alfred D. Lindley, 1904-1951



Death came to Alfred D. Lindley and two friends in the crash of a private plane in Nebraska on 22 February 1951. They were en route to Aspen, Colorado, for a two weeks’ skiing holiday. The plane was owned and piloted by his friend, Edmund P. Pillsbury.

Alfred D. Lindley, a member of the American Alpine Club since 1932, first came to the attention of the mountaineering fraternity in that year when he and Erling Strom planned and brilliantly executed a winter ascent of the north and south peaks of Mt. McKinley, the first ascent of both peaks by one party. It was one of the first ascents of an Alaskan peak in which skis were used as a helpful and effective mode of transport.

Lindley, at this time, was only 28 years of age, but he had been active in mountaineering since he first climbed the Jungfrau at the age of 16. Although from time to time he climbed in the Alps, the Canadian Rockies, the Tetons and the Wind River Range, his chief interest developed into mountain skiing, of which he was an early devotee and pioneer. Long before the great modern popularity of this sport developed, and before the advent of the ski-tow and the chair-lift, Lindley and a small group of friends were pioneering modern skiing at Strom’s camp at Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies (a two-day journey) in the late twenties and early thirties. In 1930 he was one of a party who skied from Jasper to the Columbia Icefield and return, a ski trek of nearly 250 miles, which also included a winter ascent of Mt. Castleguard.

His interest in skiing went far beyond that of an active participant and included the pioneering and development of new skiing centers. He was a participant in Olympic competition in the year 1936, and at the time of his death was Chairman of the Skiing Committee of the United States Olympic Committee.

Though mountaineers and skiers will always associate his name with activities in the mountains, they may not appreciate that he was one of the nation’s outstanding amateur sportsmen. In 1924 Lindley stroked the Yale crew which won the Olympic races of that year at Paris. He was an excellent sailor on the inland waters of this country, a boxer who competed successfully in Golden Gloves Tournaments, and a competent horseman and polo player. Tennis, squash racquets, golf and hockey also claimed his participation.

There was nothing of mediocrity in any of these accomplishments. He exhibited outstanding skill in many sports and invariably participated in intercollegiate, national or international competition. He was extremely modest and exhibited the highest qualities of sportsmanship.

Alfred Lindley was born in Minneapolis in January 1904. He graduated from Yale University in 1925 with a degree magna cum laude. In 1936 he met Grace Carter, also a participant in Olympic ski competition; and they were married a year later. He is survived by her and by their son and daughter. By vocation he was a lawyer, admitted to the bar of the State of Minnesota in 1930. By inheritance he might have led a life of comparative ease and devoted his spare time to his great interest in the field of sports, in which he was so proficient; but desire to be of public service was inherent in his character. He entered the field of politics as a strong supporter of Harold E. Stassen in his successful initial campaign for governor of the State of Minnesota, and was equally untiring in his efforts in support of Governor Stassen’s campaign for the Presidency. He himself campaigned successfully in a difficult labor district in 1940, became a member of the Minnesota State Legislature, and was the Republican nominee for Congressman in the last Congressional campaign. Here again he faced difficult odds to unseat the incumbent with strong labor support, and missed the election by a very slim margin.

Lindley was President of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce in the year 1941, which position he resigned to volunteer in the United States Navy immediately after the outbreak of hostilities. He served four years with distinction in the Kiska and Attu campaigns in the Aleutians, and aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet in all its major fleet engagements. He rose through successive promotions to the rank of Commander. In 1948 he again returned to government service as administrative assistant to the Administrator of the Marshall Plan in Great Britain and served for nearly two years in that capacity.

Alfred Lindley lived a full, exciting and happy life and endeared himself to a legion of friends both far and wide with his charming personality and his zest for life which he communicated to his companions. Many honors came to him, but never were they the perquisites of high office or position, but rather the result of pure personal achievement. To him life was a challenge in every respect, and he had great courage. He attempted and achieved an astounding variety of accomplishments in a comparatively short span of life. The mountains were a challenge to him, whether to scale their summits on foot or to descend their steep slopes by the swiftness of a pair of skis.

In a memorial resolution adopted by the Minnesota State Legislature ten years after his departure as one of its members, it was said of him:

Alfred D. Lindley was an outstanding citizen and leader of his community who gave unstinting support to all activities designed to advance the well being of his community, state and nation; and in his contacts with his fellow men, he was ever straight-forward, considerate and possessed of broad human sympathies . . . We desire to pay tribute to this gallant son of Minnesota, who in a short span of life did so much for the welfare of his community, state and nation.

He will be greatly missed in many walks of life and especially by those who had enjoyed the pleasure of his companionship in the mountains.

Henry S. Kingman