Remembering A Lion: Alfred “Zack” Straghn

A civic giant.

When the history of Delray Beach is written, the name Alfred “Zack” Straghn is going to loom large.

He was a giant.

We lost Mr. Zack this week. He was 92 and still active, still vibrant, still finding what John Lewis called “good trouble.”

People were drawn to Zack Straghn because he told great stories, was enormously charismatic and possessed a hard-earned wisdom that came from a lifetime of living and working in Delray Beach.

He was born in Delray and told those of us who knew and loved him that the best decision he ever made was to never leave the city—even though at times he said it felt like a prison.

I’ve long believed that Delray is America in 16 square miles, but if you were African American in the 1950s and beyond the city was four square miles because you were not welcome east of Swinton and you couldn’t go to the beach.

Zack helped to desegregate our beach—it took eight years of protests to get it done. But it got done on April 29, 1962. Prior to that date, the city’s answer was to send Black people to an area of beach five miles away. That didn’t sit well with Zack and others and they decided to speak up.

“They sent us to another city to swim with a man with a shotgun watching us while we swam,” he told Channel 5 last year. “We are going to swim in the three miles of beach here and nobody is going to stop us because this belongs to us, we pay tax in this city and this is where we are going to swim,” he said.


I heard Zack tell that same story to a group of “young” lions a little while back at Donnie’s Golden Spoon restaurant on Northwest 5th Avenue. The young men sat and listened to every word. Zack and others held court at “Elders” breakfasts that I’ve been privileged to have been invited too on occasion over the years. It’s always an honor to be included; over eggs and bacon you are also served wisdom, history and spirited conversation about the future.

These tables and conversations are few and far between, but they are important. It’s where knowledge is shared, experience is relayed and subjects are debated with love, passion, wit and wisdom.

Alfred “Zack” Straghn saw it all in his 92 years in Delray. He saw heartache and discrimination. He saw births and as a funeral home owner he was there to usher people into “glory.”

He also saw progress in fits and starts. The beach he couldn’t visit until 1962 became a favorite place for him to reflect.

He would walk often with former City Commissioner David Randolph. I saw them a few times and I always wondered what they talked about on those early morning walks around town. So one day I asked Zack and in his distinctive voice—a voice so special and unique that once you heard it you never forgot it—he said they talked about everything: city politics, national politics, family, religion and life itself.

The great icons in our community were great because they share themselves.

They are visible.

They are available.

They teach. And if we are wise—we will listen.

If we want to succeed and build a better future we need to listen to those who came before us.

Zack is an icon and because he never went away and because he invested in the next generation of lions and lionesses he will be forever remembered and honored by those who will step forward to lead us in the future.

He was active in civil rights organizations, served briefly on the CRA, was a long time businessman, fed the needy on Thanksgiving, was involved in the Downtown Master Plan, counseled scores of elected officials and saw his children grow up to serve Delray too. One son, Randy, served with distinction with our Fire Department.

He was a voice, a steady presence, a leader and an inspiration.

When I was a rookie on the City Commission, Mr. Zack was presented with a key to the city by Mayor David Schmidt.

The headline that ran with the story in the Sun-Sentinel was “Activist Gets Key to The City He Unlocked.”
I thought that said it all. It was brilliant.

Over the summer, Zack was interviewed by a student for an initiative called the “Front Porch Project” sponsored by the nonprofit EJS Project.

In that interview, Mr. Straghn said “the best decision I ever made was to stay in Delray.”


It was a decision that paid dividends for all of us blessed to have known that fine man. He will be deeply missed.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Zack, your hometown is so grateful.


  1. BRANDY SHAW says

    What a wonderful person, a great life lived and a legacy that will continue to inspire. Truly a Hero for all. I will miss him deeply. Rest well Mr. Zack.

  2. Kerry Koen says

    Delray lost a friend this week. Mr. Zack Straghn was an honest voice when Delray often need to hear one; a caregiver in a community when one was especially needed; a touch-stone and wise counsel for those who sought him out; and always, he was helpful and concerned about doing what was best for Delray. He knew right from wrong and he called out wrong for what it was. May his memory remain with us as the next chapter is written about his hometown.

  3. Rose Muzich says

    RIP Mr Shaw! You were larger than life & Delray Beach will certainly miss you!

  4. Rosella Jenkins says

    Yes Mr.Zack was well known in Delray Beach Florida he took
    Care all our family members Funneral. My condolences go out
    To STRAGHN & Son Funneral home staff members in to the
    STRAGHN family. Again my goes out to his family.
    He always had smile on his face. When my dad told me he
    Always see mr Zack walking beach I can remember one day my dad told me that mr Zack one shake my dad hand so mr told
    I am the last you one see . My dad had me laughing about that I still have tears about my father . Now really lost a truly legend who was well known around Delray Beach Florida he have been
    Around a long time. Again condolences go out to STRAGHN family in to the STRAGHN & Son staff members
    Rip mr Zack Rest In Peace

  5. Reginald A. Cox says

    Mr. Zack served on the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition Board (WARC) since it was established in 1996. As the longest standing member of the WARC Board for over 24 years, Mr. Zack holds the honor of the longest tenure on any board in Delray Beach. Mr. Zack told me, several years ago, he retained his membership on the WARC Board to protect his community. I know no other sacrifice greater than leading by example and Mr. Zack’s historic dedication to WARC, Spady Museum and many other Delray Beach organizations will remain as a constant reminder that the struggle for equity in America is worthy of a lifetime sacrifice. We shall honor him by continuing to protect our community and organizations until we are called home to see Mr. Zack again. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

  6. Ron Gilinsky says

    Mr. Zack will live Forever in Our Hearts.
    He was a “Silent Giant”!!!!!!! Mr.Zack will always be a Legand Forever 🙏🙏🙏
    His Years Of Sensational Wisdom will live on Forever!!!!
    I spent many Years & Hours sitting with Mr. Zack.
    Rest In Peace My Special Friend 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

  7. Mr. Zack was one of the most greatest,and phenomenal Men ever in history. Everything about him was powerful. He had one of the best Funeral Homes in Delray Beach Florida. And he bury so many individuals that I knew thru out the pass years,even loves ones,when I loss my uncle Edgar Felder in 2016, that’s who had his body,and there service is so amazing. My heart is aching badly waking up to hearing this news. This Men was so loving,caring,an hard worker,had a huge heart,the greatest Husband,Father,Grandfather, GreatGrandFather,and etc. To the Straghn family so sorry for your loss,my deepest sympathy, condolences goes to you ,and you will be in our prayers. Remember we love you so much always. 🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🕊🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

  8. Sylvester Young says

    I knew Mr. ZACK well! I am Dr. Sulvester Young, Professor of Music at FAMU. While in high school Zack had a community marching band that played around the area for Masons’ parades, usually on Sundays. He asked Josuha Burgess and myself to join his band and we said yes. Then I told him that I did not have a trombone. He said I will get you one and he did! From that I began to developer my skills and career, which has brought me to where I am. So, I owe my career and success to “ZACH.” I always visited him most of the when I returned to Delray! So, ZACK REST IN PEACE AND KNOW THAT YOU TOUCHED SO MANY LIVES IN SO MANY WAYS!”

  9. Henry Wilson says

    Mr. Zack will definitely be missed. He is truly a Delray Beach icon and legend . I send my condolences to the the family and may god be with you all through these hard times. Sleep in peace Mr. Zack and may your legacy forever live on. 🙏🏿

  10. Debra Davis Walker says

    Out prayers are with Mr. Zack’s family and know that we to will miss all that he brought to our city and our lives. “Measure a person by the size of their heart” 💝 His heart was big enough for the city of Delray

  11. Jennifer Summer Beckford says

    Yes cousin! This is how you leave a legacy! Your name will be in people’s mouths forever! I love you and know you will be looking over you family and community! Rest in eternal peace

  12. Lameca Phillips says

    R.i.p. The City Will Remember You Always

  13. Sharon Hollis says

    May GOD bless your family as you have been an earth angel. Mr Zack you were a pillar in the community and you always was ready for “good trouble,” in Delray Beach , Florida. You will be surely missed. Bless your family and staff at Straghn & Sons. Soar high with your new wings in heaven.

  14. Dwayne A Jackson says

    We lost an Icon in this community. Gone but never forgotten.
    Hold on Randy. I’m sorry for your loss.

  15. MaLissa Hollis Ferguson says

    Mr. Alfred “Zack” Straghan made himself available to this great Tri-City of Delray Bch. He spent years portraying David against Goliath by speaking & protesting for the good of a better community. When he spoke I was captivated by his message, but more importantly his journey that afforded him the opportunity of sharing his experiences on life. Many occurrences weren’t good but he learned to rise above & soar to be Christ like by his words & deeds. I was deeply saddened on Thurs., after hearing of his passing. But I could hear him saying, shed no tears for me because I’m in the master’s hand. To the family, I extend my deepest sympathy as for you he was a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, confidant. He was more than an icon to you. And for that we share in your loss. This loss let’s me know that we need more “Zack’s” to speak into the lives of our youth/young people. Zack’s life lessons taught him how to deal with self-love. His love poured into sharing life lessons so we could learn how to live together, work together & fight together. He learned how to be successful in his plight without picking up a gun, but by using his words & knowing his rights to demand change. Our country is in crisis’ & we need more “Zack’s “ to speak to the hearts of those who are killing one another. We need more “Zack’s” who will share a message but not just with words but of actions & deeds so that the legacy for the youth/young adults will be prosperous. I’ll miss my gentle giant in future Bible study class, but he’ll always be in my heart because he imparted acts of love, kindness & respect that will be with me for the rest of my days. Good Night my brother in Christ, good night.

  16. Coach King says

    We have lost another great community Patriarch, Father, Grand and Great Grand Father, Mentor, Activist, Coach and Friend. To his wife Lois Cartwright Straghn and family. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. To Randy, cuz be strong you had an awesome Dad, take up the mantle and carry-on his legacy, with love Stephen

  17. Victor B. Gent says

    The implications of such a loss are far reaching and many families in Delray Beach have fond memories and stories that can be told about the loss of such a man as Zack. We collectively wonder how this vacuum that has been left will ever be filled. Suffice it to say that Zack bestowed an overabundance of love on many of us and we will never forget his service to the community and to my family in particular.

    The “good news” is that Randy, his faithful son and business partner, will carry on the tradition of caring for and comforting others in the years to come. Zack was wise enough to ensure that.

    We will miss you dearly.

  18. Ernest one Wilson Holliday says

    Dr Sylvester Young, your grand nephew, Reggie Cox, is doing a great job of making an impact in this community. I am one of those people that knows what your family stood for. I remember Dec. Locket your grand father. We all know Zack’ s shoes will be hard to fill but I make a promise, we are going to work as hard as we can to make his dream for the set a reality.My brother, Lorenzo if you recall took a bus load of you to. the beach when people that looked like us back in 1962 to help with the cause. You was a student at Carver High School at the time.

  19. Ethel Ceasar says

    I am solely saddened by the demise of One of Delray ‘s legends .Zack was known to be a ‘force’ not to Reckoned with. He would come to any one in various need rescue it could be an Entire family that was dealing with issues . He would go to the City Hall meetings and speak for the Entire community of all ethnic!!
    Zack and his family and staff has comforted many grieving families . I’ve known Zack my entire life. He was also a Great man of faith who served his church ( Greater Mount olive missionary Baptist church -Delray) with Dignity and
    The word of the lord. His Grandfather Deacon charlow was
    The superintendent of Sunday school until his passing .
    Zack accompanied his Grandfather to church each Sunday as a youth.
    Brother Zack Heaven has become a Better place with you there …I tearfully say to you ‘ Take your Rest’ keep that smile on your face. Have a safe flight to Heaven. You will live in many people’s Heart including mine.

  20. Bobby Johnson says

    When we first went to SeaCrest high . Mr Zack talked with us in his front yard. told us how the whole city will be watching. And we had to step up and represent our people. Thank you you will be missed.

  21. Victor L Stubbs says

    Mr.Zack was my friend.We had alot of Spiritual talks.Yes he was a man that put God first.I truly believe that God kelp him him and use him for his Glory.Mr.Zsck toych a lot of people in a good way.If he can help u he did.Im really gonna miss him.I was at the funeral home almost every Friday to detail his fleet of service cars.He would always come out and look down where i was at and say to me Reverend jow many souls u save today?Then he will say u know we are in the saving business.I would say back to him Mr.Zack God bless u and i thank him for u.He will truly be miss by a lot.God knew best Mr.Zack rest on my friend rest on🙏❤

  22. Frank & Gwendolyn Poitier Johnson says

    Mr.”Zack” gave a to peoples to help them through times when they didn’t have,he have given a lot to the community,Mr.Zack & Mrs Lois help a lot families by sharing there love,in 1992 Mr.Zack called on a funeral escort service to come serve with him and his staff for many years Security Funeral Escort Service was the best in the state of Florida, Mr.Zack will be missed by all his kindness and love for “Family & Staff.

  23. Just like Jesus spoke to Lazarus a real dead man, Mr. Zach prayed and spoke a word over my life life 22 years and 5 months ago he lived to see God do it. I’ve been clean and sober that long. I was going down and been saved he was a wonderful man who believed in God. Family just know that God knows best he will comfort you all and strengthen you too.

  24. Janice Flynn says

    Mr. Straghn has been a longtime family friend. There had never been a time I would go to him for advice or just encouragement and that’s exactly what I got. He was like a father to me. It hurts so bad to know he is gone, but glad to know he’s with the Lord and at peace. It has been a joy to have worked for Mr. Straghn for 30 years as a Straghnett singer

  25. Andrea Macon says

    It is difficult to know that Mr. Zack is not with us anymore! He was a very loving, compassionate, and wise man. I became a Straghnette 25 years ago,and anytime you are a part of anything that long, you literally become family! Mr. Zack was my family, a father figure! I feel like I am a Straghn! He will truly be missed! Although it hurts, I know that he is with the Lord, because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord! Take your rest Mr. Zack, and just like we have sung countless times, “May his peace be with you till we meet again!”

  26. Darrell Nelson Jr says

    He was an awesome man,and man of God.Always there to help and encourage others.Im going to miss my buddy.May God bless the family in your time of lose.

  27. Kimberly adams says


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