Clifford L. Alexander Death-Obituary-Cause of Death: Adviser to Presidents, Is Dead at 88

Clifford L. Alexander Death-Obituary-Cause of Death: During his nearly 20 years in government service, he held numerous high- and low-profile positions, including the first Black Secretary of the Army.

Elizabeth Alexander, a poet, his daughter, said that heart failure was to blame.

Mr. Alexander had always believed in the ideals of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Great Society, especially the notion that the government could make significant contributions to reducing racial and economic injustice. He was also a member of the young Black leaders’ generation that infiltrated the federal government’s machinery with the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1980, Mr. Alexander was pictured with Jimmy Carter. According to Henry Louis Gates Jr., “Cliff considered his position as secretary of the Army as a crucial extension of the civil rights movement.” Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is to blame.
Under President Johnson’s leadership and, briefly, that of his successor, Richard M. Nixon, Mr. Alexander made the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission into a key actor in the fight against employment discrimination. Nixon demoted him from the chairman to the commissioner, and he resigned in protest, calling the move “a catastrophic lack of government support.”

Later, when Jimmy Carter was the secretary of the Army, he provided opportunities for Black commanders, including Colin Powell, a particularly talented young colonel, to advance to the rank of general.

Longtime friend and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said of Cliff, “Cliff saw his function as secretary of the Army as a major extension of the civil rights struggle, and he instituted and enforced measures that were astonishingly effective in attaining his purpose.” Because of Clifford Alexander’s insight, the United States military is arguably the most integrated organization in our society.

Mr. Alexander was one of the few Black leaders to openly criticize President Bill Clinton, claiming that he dealt with the race only when it was politically advantageous and only superficially. However, he was a significant backer of Barack Obama in 2008, serving as both an adviser and a campaign surrogate.

May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

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