Clifford L. Alexander Jr., whose lengthy profession as a number one adviser to Democratic presidents ranged from working behind the scenes on landmark laws just like the Voting Rights Act to high-profile roles like serving as the primary Black secretary of the Military, died on Sunday at his house in Manhattan. He was 88.
His daughter, the poet Elizabeth Alexander, mentioned the trigger was coronary heart failure.
Mr. Alexander was a lifelong devotee of the guarantees held out by President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Nice Society, specifically the concept authorities may do a lot to alleviate racial and financial inequality. And he was among the many era of younger Black leaders who, within the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s, introduced the civil rights motion from the streets into the equipment of the federal authorities.
As chairman of the Equal Employment Alternative Fee below President Johnson and, briefly, his successor, Richard M. Nixon, Mr. Alexander turned what had been a comparatively powerless company right into a central participant in combating office discrimination. He resigned after Nixon demoted him from chairman to commissioner, criticizing the president for “a crippling lack of administration help.”
Later, because the secretary of the Military below Jimmy Carter, he opened the doorways for Black officers to rise to the rank of normal, together with a very promising younger colonel named Colin Powell.
“Cliff noticed his position as secretary of the Military as a key extension of the civil rights motion, and he inaugurated and enforced insurance policies that had been spectacularly efficient in reaching his purpose,” the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a longtime good friend, mentioned in a cellphone interview. “The truth that the USA navy is, maybe, essentially the most built-in establishment in our society could be traced to the foresight of Clifford Alexander.”
Mr. Alexander was among the many few Black leaders to be brazenly crucial of President Invoice Clinton, arguing that he engaged with race superficially and solely when it was politically expedient. However he was a significant supporter of Barack Obama, each as an adviser and as a marketing campaign surrogate throughout Mr. Obama’s run for the White Home in 2008.
Coincidentally, his daughter, who was then a professor of poetry at Yale and a longtime good friend of the Obamas, learn her poem “Reward Music for the Day” at Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
“Cliff was an American authentic — a civil rights trailblazer whose eyes had been by no means shut to injustice however whose coronary heart was all the time open,” Michelle Obama mentioned in a press release. “He was like a father to me and an inspiration to Barack. We admired the best way he fought and realized from the best way he led.”
Clifford Leopold Alexander Jr. was born on Sept. 21, 1933, in Harlem. His father was a Jamaican immigrant who managed the Riverton Homes, a sprawling residential improvement in Harlem financed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance coverage Firm. Not like different Met Life developments, together with Stuyvesant City-Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan, Riverton was built-in, and most of its residents had been Black.
Mr. Alexander’s mom, Edith (McAllister) Alexander, was additionally energetic within the metropolis’s life and politics. She served a number of mayors as an adviser on civil rights. She is believed to have been the primary Black feminine elector at a Democratic Nationwide Conference, in 1948.
After attending the Fieldston Faculty, a personal highschool within the Bronx, Mr. Alexander studied authorities at Harvard, the place he was elected the primary Black president of the scholar council. He graduated in 1955 and acquired his regulation diploma from Yale in 1958.
Again in New York, he labored for a time as an assistant district legal professional and because the govt director of Harlem Youth Alternatives Limitless, an antipoverty group based by Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark.
He married Adele Logan, a historian, in 1959. Together with their daughter, she survives him, as do their son, Mark, and 7 grandchildren.
Each of Mr. Alexander’s youngsters went on to profitable careers: Elizabeth is now the president of the Mellon Basis, and Mark is the dean of the Charles Widger Faculty of Legislation at Villanova College.
Mr. Alexander arrived in Washington in 1963 to serve on the workers of the Nationwide Safety Council below President John F. Kennedy. Nearly instantly, he was additionally appearing as an off-the-cuff adviser on race, and Kennedy despatched him as an observer to the March on Washington.
‘’The White Home was in a state of clear apprehension,” Mr. Alexander instructed The New York Occasions in 2003. “In the event you get ready just like the one I used to be in, you may have a duty to say to the folks in energy what you concentrate on race. So I went out to see what was occurring.”
Not lengthy after Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson introduced Mr. Alexander into his circle to behave as a liaison to the civil rights motion and, specifically, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. Alexander quickly grew to become Johnson’s closest adviser on race relations, entrusted with lining up help within the Black group for the president’s legislative priorities and serving to shepherd Black nominees by Congress, together with Robert C. Weaver because the secretary of housing and concrete improvement and Thurgood Marshall as a Supreme Court docket justice.
Even after Johnson appointed Mr. Alexander chairman of the Equal Employment Alternative Fee in 1967, he continued to depend on him as a conduit to the Black group. When Dr. King was assassinated and violence erupted throughout Washington, Johnson despatched Mr. Alexander into the streets to satisfy with Black leaders and to evaluate the harm.
After leaving the Equal Employment Alternative Fee, Mr. Alexander grew to become the primary Black individual to attain the rank of accomplice at a significant Washington regulation agency when he joined Arnold & Porter. He hosted a syndicated TV speak present, “Black on White,” from 1972 to 1976, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Washington in 1974.
As secretary of the Military, he was charged with persevering with to rebuild the armed forces after the catastrophe of the Vietnam Struggle. It was a herculean process that concerned reorienting the Military round volunteers, ending racial discrimination and bringing in additional girls.
His time in that publish, which led to 1981, was his final official stint in authorities service. However he continued to function an off-the-cuff adviser to politicians and policymakers. He served on a number of company boards and, within the late Nineties, because the interim chairman and chief govt of the advisory agency Dun & Bradstreet.
He and his spouse based a consulting agency, Alexander & Associates, that suggested main firms on the way to scale back racial inequality. Amongst their most notable shoppers was Main League Baseball, which they helped deal with racial disparities within the group’s entrance places of work.
Amongst his tidbits of recommendation was the next, on the significance of getting folks to concentrate to you.
“Only a few senators or members of Congress do issues simply because it’s proper, or we’d have a much better world than we have now right now,” he mentioned in a 2017 interview for the Kunhardt Movie Basis. However, he added, “In the event you can present anyone why it’s of their curiosity, they might do some issues.”