A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, Clifford Alexander Jr. enlisted in the New York National Guard in 1958. Moving to Washington, D.C., in 1963, he served as an adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson and as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, Alexander was the first black secretary of the Army.
During his four-year tenure, he addressed such issues as the treatment of minorities and women in uniform and the transition to an all-volunteer force. Since 1981 his consulting firm, Alexander & Associates, has focused on corporate workforce inclusiveness, and he has continued to speak out on rights issues.
Why did it take so long to desegregate the U.S. military?
It did not just happen when President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981 in July 1948. That was, obviously, an extraordinarily important point in history. But the timing of desegregation of the different services varied a great deal.