Alfred Knighton "Tony" Stanley was born in 1937 in eastern North Carolina and raised in Greensboro, where he graduated from Dudley High School in 1955. He then attended Talladega College, and following graduation in 1959 went to Yale University, where he earned a master’s in divinity. He later earned a doctorate from Howard University.
Upon graduation from Yale University in 1962, Stanley returned to Greensboro as director of the Southern Christian Fellowship Foundation at North Carolina A&T State University. In 1964, he joined the faculty and administration of Bennett College. In both of these positions he was active in the civil rights movement, where he served as advisor to the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality and was appointed to the Human Rights Commission of the City of Greensboro.
Stanley later served as associate pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Detroit, Michigan, and in 1968 moved to Washington, DC, to serve as senior minister of Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ. During the 1970s, Stanley served as executive director of the Office of Bicentennial Programs and special assistant to the mayor. He was also a member of the Advisory Board of Industrial Bank of Washington, and served on the Judiciary Nominating Committee for the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.
A. Knighton Stanley is the founder and General Secretary of the Petworth Assembly and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Interfaith Alliance. He is also founding president of the Faith Based Community Action Partnership and the Collaboration of African American Men and Boys, a program of the Kellogg Foundation. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia and Yale University Divinity School.