Clifford Alexander,Jr.,the first Black Secretary of the U.S.Army.


In 1977, Clifford L. Alexander Jr. became the first African American Secretary of the Army. Throughout his career–as an attorney, businessman and public servant–Alexander has worked to improve living and working conditions for minorities and women. He played a role in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other civil rights legislation, and helped guide the Army’s transition to an all-volunteer force.

Alexander was born on September 21, 1933 in New York City. His father, who was born in Jamaica, oversaw a YMCA branch and managed a bank branch in Harlem, where the family lived.  Alexander’s mother, Edith McAllister Alexander, from Yonkers, N.Y., worked for the city’s welfare department and on mayoral commissions to improve race relations. She was the first African American woman chosen as a Democratic representative to the Electoral College.

Alexander’s parents valued and encouraged his education. He graduated in 1951 from Fieldston, a private high school in New York City, and went on to Harvard University, where he was elected the first African American student body president and graduated cum laude in 1955 with a B.A. in government. In 1958, he earned a law degree from Yale University. 

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