A state funeral will take place for Lincoln Alexander, the first black person elected to the House of Commons and the former lieutenant-governor of Ontario.
Alexander passed away Friday morning in hospital. He was 90.
The Hamilton man known to all as “Linc” was remembered Friday for his many firsts in politics and public service and praised for his role in helping to break down race barriers in the country.
He was born in Toronto to West Indian parents in 1922 and served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second Wold War, from 1942 until 1945.
Alexander was first elected to the House of Commons in 1968. He represented Hamilton West for the Progressive Conservatives, a position he would hold for the next three elections.
Current Lt.-Gov. David Onley said Alexander was a “living legend” in Hamilton. In a statement, Onley said his life and career were “a series of groundbreaking firsts.”
“At a time when racism was endemic in Canadian society, he broke through barriers that treated visible minorities as second-class citizens, strangers in their own land,” he said.
Toronto mayor Rob Ford said flags would be lowered at city hall in Alexander’s honour.
“We have truly lost one of Canada’s finest,” he said.
Governor General David Johnston said Alexander “reflected the highest ideals of service to our country.”
‘From his time spent in the Canadian Forces, to his period as a member of Parliament, to his role as lieutenant governor, he devoted his life to improving this country for all Canadians and he opened the doors for others to follow,” Johnston said.
In 1979, he became the first black person to serve in the federal cabinet, taking on the role of minister of labour.
In 1985, Alexander was appointed Ontario’s 24th lieutenant governor, the first member of a visible minority to serve in that role in any province in Canada. He served as chancellor at the University of Guelph for five terms, the longest-serving chancellor in the university’s history.
He was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1992. Then prime minister Jean Chretien named him chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in 1996.
“Lincoln was a towering man, and his stature matched his influence. Not just on all those fortunate enough to work with him, but all those who knew him. Indeed, he left an extraordinary legacy, both in his private life and as a public servant,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said in a statement.
“He broke down barriers. He made Ontario a better place for all of us, the next generation of public servants and citizens.”
Alexander published his memoirs in 2006. He said Go to School, You’re a Little Black Boy was aimed “at people who think they can’t do something or think they’ll never make it.”
“I’d like to think I’m helping convince others to never give up,” he said at the time.
He is survived by his son, Keith, and second wife, Marni Alexander. He was married to Yvonne Harrison from 1948 until her death in 1999.
A state funeral will be held for Alexander on Oct. 26 at Hamilton Place, with room for overflow capacity in Copps Coliseum. Alexander will lie in state at Queen’s Park on Sunday and Monday, then at Hamilton City Hall prior to his funeral.
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Politicians, prominent Canadians and the public took to Twitter to offer their condolences and to remember Alexander, who was the No. 3 trending topic in Toronto on Friday. A selection is below.
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