Raymond Pace Alexander: Prominent Civil Rights Activist & Harvard-Trained Attorney

0 Posted by - June 4, 2019 - LATEST POSTS

Key Highlights About Raymond Pace Alexander:

  • Prominent civil rights activist
  • Harvard-trained attorney
  • President of the National Bar Association (1929)
  • First Black graduate of the Wharton School of Business

 

Raymond Pace Alexander was a prominent civil rights activist, jurist, and Harvard-trained attorney.

Raymond Pace Alexander was born on October 13, 1898 into a working-class black family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Raymond’s parents, like many African Americans in the 1860s and 1870s, had left the rural South looking for economic opportunities and an escape from the violence that accompanied Jim Crow. Alexander’s father was a “riding master” who gave horseback riding lessons to wealthy Philadelphia whites. His mother, Virginia, died of pneumonia when Alexander was eleven.

After the death of his father, Alexander took a variety of jobs to help support the family. He worked on the docks, operated a bootblack stand, and sold newspapers.  Between the ages of six and sixteen he worked at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia. Jack Beresin, the owner of the Met, recognizing his academic abilities, arranged for Alexander to get a scholarship to attend the prestigious all-boys Central High School, where he graduated from as Valedictorian in 1917.
Alexander, received a merit scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with honors in three years.  In 1920, he became the first black graduate of the Wharton School of Business and then enrolled in Harvard University Law School where he earned a J.D. degree in 1923 at the age of 26.
He married his former University of Pennsylvania classmate, Sadie Tanner Mossell, who in 1927 became the first African American woman to earn a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and she was also the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
During the late 1920s, Alexander became the first black graduate of the Wharton School of Business and then enrolled in Harvard University Law School where he earned a J.D. degree in 1923 at the age of 26.
Alexander gained lifelong acquaintances and friends at Harvard and parlayed the experience into a myriad of successes upon his return to Philadelphia. Because of his influence, he encouraged other black attorneys to become civil rights advocates across the nation and provide legal direction which led to the courts rendering more equitable decisions regarding African Americans.
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