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Georgia Political Papers and Oral History Program

The Georgia Political Papers and Oral History Program is comprised of over 3,000 linear feet of archival collections, along with an extensive number of oral history interviews, that document the unique political culture of the state of Georgia.

Cecil Abraham Alexander Jr.

Cecil Abraham Alexander Jr. (b. 1918) is a prominent architect and former partner of the Atlanta architectural firm, FABRAP. As Alexander's practice prospered during the 1950s, he was motivated to become active in Atlanta's civic and political scene. Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield appointed him chair of the Citizen's Advisory Committee for Urban Renewal, and Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. chose Alexander to lead a number of programs intended to guide Atlanta toward racial equality. Alexander helped to direct the Committee to Mediate Racial Unrest and, with John Lewis, formed the Atlanta Black Jewish Coalition. In 2001, the Georgia General Assembly approved a new state flag that Alexander designed to replace Georgia's 1956 state flag.; Interviewed by Dr. Mel Steely on July 8, 2009 at Alexander's home in Atlanta, Georgia.; Alexander begins by discussing his background, recounting bits and pieces of his family history from family members who had fought in the Revolutionary War, to his father, who had fought in the Civil War under William Sherman. His father, Cecil A. Alexander, Sr., was in the hardware business by the Great Depression and his mother, Julia, was a principal of a school in Montgomery, AL. He describes his youth as growing up with Atlanta and talks about his education. He attended Georgia Institute of Technology initially intending to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering; he soon turned to architecture, realizing that he had no talent for chemistry. Alexander talks about his time at Yale University where he majored in architecture and the classmates he had there. With WWII building momentum, Alexander took part in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, and joined the Navy in 1941 and eventually becoming a Marine Corps pilot. He served in the Central Pacific during WWII, flying sixty combat missions. After the war, Alexander stayed active as a Reserve Marine for a brief period and went to pursue his MA at Harvard. He describes his eventual relocation to Atlanta, his early employment in architecture, and speaks of his appointment as chair to the Citizen's Advisory Committee for Urban Renewal by Mayor William B. Hartsfield, describing his success as "doing well by doing good." Alexander describes his political leanings and the period in which he had considered running for mayor of Atlanta, discussing Ivan Allen, Jr. and Sam Massell. Alexander speaks at length about his involvement with civil rights activism in Atlanta in the 1950s and 1960s, and the people with whom he worked, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Hosea L. Williams. He then addresses the matter of the Georgia state flag and the controversy that existed around it for a number of years and involved Governors Barnes and Perdue. Alexander speaks of his acquaintance with Denmark Groover, and how a wreck with a drunk driver in 1983 that killed his late wife Hermione, eventually brought the two men together. He ends the discussion by commenting on the Leo Frank case and his experiences growing up as a Jew in Atlanta.