Joe Alston, Top Fibby, Badminton Champ: RIP


One of the more interesting obituaries I've read in a while:

Joe Alston, an FBI agent who investigated Patty Hearst's kidnapping and a champion athlete who was the only badminton player ever to make the cover of Sports Illustrated, has died. He was 81.


He had just won his second U.S. Open singles title when he appeared on the March 7, 1955, cover of the sports magazine. At the time, he had been with the FBI for four years.

"That picture really changed my life," Alston told Sports Illustrated in 1999.

"The bosses said, 'Maybe this isn't the time to have you doing undercover surveillance.' As a result, I continued working investigations – kidnappings, extortions, bank robberies, all the good stuff – the rest of my 30 years in the bureau."


He was the FBI's major case coordinator in Los Angeles from 1967 through 1980. His family said he was involved with investigating the 1974 kidnapping of Hearst, the newspaper heiress who was seized by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army, and in the still-open investigation of airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper.

As a badminton player, Alston represented the U.S. eight times in the world men's team championships. He also was the only U.S. player to win the men's doubles title in the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships. He and Johnny Heah of Malaysia won in 1957.

His son also was an FBI agent and a leading U.S. badminton player in the 1980s.