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Clifford L. Alexander, Adviser to Presidents, Is Dead at 88

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 Army, died on Sunday at his residence in Manhattan. He was 88.

His daughter, the poet Elizabeth Alexander, stated the trigger was coronary heart failure.

Mr. Alexander was a lifelong devotee of the guarantees held out by President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Great Society, particularly the concept that authorities may do a lot to alleviate racial and financial inequality. And he was among the many technology 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 Opportunity Commission underneath 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 support.”

Later, because the secretary of the Army underneath Jimmy Carter, he opened the doorways for Black officers to rise to the rank of common, together with a very promising younger colonel named Colin Powell.

“Cliff saw his role as secretary of the Army as a key extension of the civil rights movement, and he inaugurated and enforced policies that were spectacularly effective in achieving his goal,” the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a longtime pal, stated in a cellphone interview. “The fact that the United States military is, perhaps, the most integrated institution in our society can be traced to the foresight of Clifford Alexander.”

Mr. Alexander was among the many few Black leaders to be overtly crucial of President Bill Clinton, arguing that he engaged with race superficially and solely when it was politically expedient. But he was a serious supporter of Barack Obama, each as an adviser and as a marketing campaign surrogate throughout Mr. Obama’s run for the White House in 2008.

Coincidentally, his daughter, who was then a professor of poetry at Yale and a longtime pal of the Obamas, learn her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

“Cliff was an American original — a civil rights trailblazer whose eyes were never shut to injustice but whose heart was always open,” Michelle Obama stated in an announcement. “He was like a father to me and an inspiration to Barack. We admired the way he fought and learned from the 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 Houses, a sprawling residential growth in Harlem financed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Unlike different Met Life developments, together with Stuyvesant Town-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 lively 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 first Black female elector at a Democratic National Convention, in 1948.

After attending the Fieldston School, a personal highschool within the Bronx, Mr. Alexander studied authorities at Harvard, the place he was elected the primary Black president of the coed council. He graduated in 1955 and acquired his legislation diploma from Yale in 1958.

Back in New York, he labored for a time as an assistant district lawyer and because the govt director of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, an antipoverty group based by Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark.

He married Adele Logan, a historian, in 1959. Along with their daughter, she survives him, as do their son, Mark, and 7 grandchildren.

Both of Mr. Alexander’s youngsters went on to profitable careers: Elizabeth is now the president of the Mellon Foundation, and Mark is the dean of the Charles Widger School of Law at Villanova University.

Mr. Alexander arrived in Washington in 1963 to serve on the employees of the National Security Council underneath President John F. Kennedy. Almost 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 House was in a state of clear apprehension,” Mr. Alexander advised The New York Times in 2003. “If you get in a position like the one I was in, you have a responsibility to say to the people in power what you think about race. So I went out to see what was happening.”

Not lengthy after Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson introduced Mr. Alexander into his circle to act as a liaison to the civil rights motion and, particularly, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Alexander quickly turned 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 growth and Thurgood Marshall as a Supreme Court justice.

Even after Johnson appointed Mr. Alexander chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 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 meet with Black leaders and to assess the injury.

After leaving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Mr. Alexander turned the primary Black individual to obtain the rank of accomplice at a serious Washington legislation 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 Army, he was charged with persevering with to rebuild the armed forces after the catastrophe of the Vietnam War. It was a herculean activity that concerned reorienting the Army round volunteers, ending racial discrimination and bringing in additional girls.

His time in that publish, which resulted in 1981, was his final official stint in authorities service. But 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 Nineteen 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 how to scale back racial inequality. Among their most notable shoppers was Major League Baseball, which they helped handle racial disparities within the group’s entrance workplaces.

Among his tidbits of recommendation was the next, on the significance of getting folks to concentrate to you.

“Very few senators or members of Congress do things just because it’s right, or we’d have a far better world than we have today,” he said in a 2017 interview for the Kunhardt Film Foundation. But, he added, “If you can show somebody why it is in their interest, they may do some things.”

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