Alton Ronald Waldon, Jr., grew up in the Bedford–Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Waldon, Jr., joined the U.S. Army in 1953 and served until he was discharged in 1959 as a Specialist, 4th Class. Waldon spent his first few years out of the military pursuing a professional singing career before he joined the New York City housing authority’s police force in 1962. The housing authority police, which provided security for residents of the city’s public housing, was at the time separate from the New York City Police Department. Before leaving the force in 1975, Waldon advanced from the rank of patrolman to captain. He also became chief administrator and commander of the police academy for the New York City housing department.

Waldon received a B.S. in criminal justice from John Jay College in New York City in 1968, and earned a J.D. from New York University Law School in 1973. During his time in law school, Waldon won the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Fellowship, awarded every three years to promising minority law students by the New York state trial lawyers association. In 1975, Waldon was appointed deputy commissioner of the New York state division of human rights.

In 1981 and 1982, he served as assistant counsel for the New York state office of mental retardation and developmental disabilities. In 1982, Waldon won election to represent his Queens neighborhood in the New York state assembly, where he served until 1986. Waldon left Congress in January 1987 and received an appointment to the New York state investigation commission, where he served until 1990. The following year, he won a seat in the New York state senate, serving in that body for a decade. In 2000, Waldon accepted a judicial appointment to the New York court of claims in New York City.