Family, colleagues remember Lincoln Alexander
Published Sunday, October 21, 2012 9:16AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 22, 2012 6:49AM EDT
Family, friends, colleagues and members of the public paid their respects to former Ontario lieutenant-governor Lincoln Alexander, also Canada’s first black member of Parliament, at the province’s legislature on Sunday.
Alexander’s flag-draped coffin arrived at Queen’s Park Sunday afternoon, where it will lie in state until Monday evening.
Premier Dalton McGuinty, Lt.-Gov. David Onley and MPPs were all at Queen’s Park, where they fondly remembered their colleague and friend.
Jason Kipps, Alexander's stepson, said his stepfather will be remembered as a "friendly guy” who was a trailblazer for his community.
"I think he made a significant contribution to this province and this country," Kipps said. "He was an inspiration for a lot of people and I think that will live on."
Alexander’s charismatic personality helped him to win over his second wife Marni, said Kipps.
“I know that my mom and Lincoln as a couple was kind of unusual. Definitely a significant age difference, I guess,” he said. “ But I know that she really loved him deeply and that he charmed her, just like he charms everyone.”
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she’ll always remember the support Alexander showed her during the early days of her career.
“He said to me, he said ‘Well I hear you’re going to win this girl, so you just keep going. Work hard and you’ll win,’” she said. “It’s always going to be a memory that stays with me.”
MPP Margarett Best said a lot can be learned from Alexander’s story.
“Regardless of the obstacles and the challenges that one faces in life, you can achieve those things,” she said. “You just have to keep that feeling and keep that desire and persevere. And he certainly has demonstrated that it can be done.”
Members of the public can pay their respects to Alexander during visiting hours on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the legislature's main building. A book of condolences will be available.
Once Alexander’s body leaves Queen’s Park, it will be transported to his hometown of Hamilton. His body will lie in repose at Hamilton City Hall from Tuesday to Thursday.
A state funeral for Alexander will be held Friday at Hamilton Place, a downtown entertainment venue.
The barrier-breaking politician, dubbed a “living legend” by Onley, died two days ago at the age of 90.
Alexander served as Ontario's lieutenant governor from 1985 to 1991. He was the first black person to serve as the Queen’s representative in Ontario.
Born to West Indian immigrant parents, the Toronto native was no stranger to breaking new ground during his life.
Alexander served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War as a wireless operator.
He settled in Hamilton to be closer to his future wife, Yvonne. While there, he attended McMaster University and graduated in 1949.
Alexander applied for a sales job with the Stelco steel company, but was turned down because the interviewers said customers would have issues dealing with a black man.
Determined not to give up, Alexander attended Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and graduated in 1953.
In 1968 he entered federal politics after being elected to represent his Hamilton riding as a Conservative. At the time, he was the first black member of Parliament in Canada.
He was re-elected three times, in 1972, 1979 and 1980 and served as Minister of Labour during Joe Clark’s nine-month term as prime minister that ended in 1980.
That year, Alexander left Ottawa to take up the post of chairman of the Ontario Workmen’s Compensation Board.
In 1985 he was appointed Ontario’s 24th lieutenant governor, a post he held onto until 1991. During his time as lieutenant governor, he focused on youth initiatives and education.
An awards program was created in his name for young people who are community leaders in fighting discrimination and racism.
In 1992, Alexander was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada and was also named to the Order of Ontario.
Four years later, he was appointed chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
He would go on to serve as chancellor of the University of Guelph for five years, the longest-serving chancellor in the school’s history.
Alexander is survived by his wife, Marni, son, Keith, and two granddaughters, Erika and Marissa.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Scott Lightfoot and files from The Canadian Press