ARCHIBALD ALPHONSO ALEXANDER Biography - Architects, designers & engineers


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Archie Alexander biographical cartoon by Charles Alston, 1943                           
Archie Alphonso Alexander (14 May 1888–4 January 1958) was an African-American       
mathematician and engineer and the first African-American graduate of the               
University of Iowa. He was also a governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.                 
Alexander was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, the son of a janitor and coachman. He             
initially went to Des Moines College and attempted to join the white-only               
football team there, but was declined. He subsequently transferred to the               
University of Iowa and was permitted to join the football team there, playing as       
a tackle from 1910 to 1912.                                                             
After graduation, Alexander worked as a foreman for a bridge-building company           
before going into business for himself in 1917. He studied bridge design in             
London, England in 1921. In 1929, he formed Alexander & Repass where he would           
work until his death. They were responsible for the construction of many roads         
and bridges, including the Whitehurst Freeway, the Tidal Basin Bridge, and an           
extension to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. With his business partner, George       
Higbee, Alexander designed the Tuskegee Airfield and the Iowa State University         
heating and cooling system.                                                             
In 1934, Alexander was appointed as one of a 12-member commission to investigate       
the social and economic conditions in Haiti. In 1946, he was awarded an honorary       
Doctor of Engineering by Howard University.                                             
In 1954, Alexander was appointed Governor of the United States Virgin Islands by       
President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the first Republican governor there since       
the establishment of the civil government. His tenure at the post was short and         
controversial. In 1955, he was highly criticized for favoring old business             
partners in contracts for road building on St. Thomas. The United States House         
of Representatives launched a probe and he subsequently resigned on August 18,         
1955, ostensibly for health reasons. He died in 1958, in Iowa.