The Honourable Lincoln Alexander (1922 – 2012)

Book jacket
Image of Book Jacket, courtesy of Dundurn Press

Lincoln Alexander was a leading figure in the fight for racial equity in Canada. In provincial, federal, public and private roles, he consistently advocated for the equal treatment of black Canadians.

Closeup detail of a photograph that includes the Hon. Lincoln M. Alexander, PC, CC, KStJ, O Ont,
QC, BA, LL B, LL D DSLitt [Lieutenant Governor of Ontario,1985-91],  1988
Ombudsman, 1984-1989 (detail)
Daniel G. Hill photograph albums
Reference Code: F 2130-9-1
Archives of Ontario, I0027984


These are snapshots – moments from his life as a pioneer – taken from an interview conducted by Philip Sworden in March 1997.

In the Air Force


Photograph of a group of air force personnel
Photo courtesy, Air Force Association of Canada

“and I said, ‘you go down and tell them the next time I walk into that place, as a corporal, wearing the uniform of an Air Force person, that they serve me.’”

In the Air Force Lincoln Alexander served as a wireless operator in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II.

While stationed in Vancouver, Alexander was refused service at a bar because of his race. When he reported the incident to a superior officer, and the officer refused to take action, Alexander quit the Air Force, leaving in 1945 with an honourable discharge.

“at that time they didn’t know how to deal with race relations of this sort of thing, they just turned a blind eye to it.”

At Osgoode Hall


“I don’t know what ever made me stand up and ask him that in a class of 200 people. . . . But I will tell you one thing, that day made me a man.”

Tourism photograph of Osgoode Hall

As a law student in 1953, Lincoln Alexander once told the Dean that he was using inappropriate language in a lecture. This comment divided the class between those who thought Alexander was right, and those who thought the Dean could use whatever language he liked.


Osgoode Hall, 1952
Department of Travel and Publicity, Publicity Branch
Tourism promotion photographs
Reference Code: RG 65-35-3, 11764-X2594
Archives of Ontario, I0005529

As Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Board


“I remember how that happened. . . .somebody called me and said, ‘Bill Davis wants to talk to you.’

“I said [to the Premier], ‘do you think this is going to give you the black vote around here, the vote of the visible minority. . . ?’ I will never forget his look; he was extremely angry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

Photograph of Premier Bill Davis taken in 1979


In 1980, Premier Bill Davis asked Lincoln Alexander to become Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Board. Alexander misinterpreted his request. Alexander called the role “a hell of a job.”


Premier Bill Davis speaking at the ceremony for the
donation of the J.C.B. and E.C. Horwood
Collection to the Archives of Ontario, 1979
Photographer unknown
Reference Code: G 17-43, #3-27
Archives of Ontario, I0009063

Becoming Lieutenant Governor of Ontario


“Mulroney ha[d] the guts to say, ‘well, I will make Linc the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, I will offer him the job.’”

Painting of the Hon. Lincoln M. Alexander, PC, CC, KStJ, O Ont,
QC, BA, LL B, LL D DSLitt [Lieutenant Governor of Ontario,1985-91],  1988

In 1985, on the advice of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Governor General Jeanne Sauvé appointed Alexander as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He became the first black person to serve in a vice regal position in Canada.

Ombudsman, 1984-1989,
Daniel G. Hill photograph albums
Reference Code: F 2130-9-1
Archives of Ontario, I0027984

On becoming Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation


In 2000, Alexander was named Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, where he remained an active spokesperson for race relations and veterans' issues.

Log of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
Graphic courtesy, Canadian Race Relations Foundation

“[The General] said, ‘. . . you have got a hell of a job because [racism] is all over the place.’ And he is right. But because it is all over the place doesn’t give you the right to sit back and say, ‘well, we can’t try to eradicate it, lessen it.’ I think we have to be in the forefront, and let these people know that it is evil, it is terrible.”

On his Life


Painting of the Hon. Lincoln M. Alexander, PC, CC, KStJ, O Ont,
QC, BA, LL B, LL D DSLitt [Lieutenant Governor of Ontario,1985-91],  1988




“All I try to do, is to do a job and to do it well.”






Hon. Lincoln M. Alexander, PC, CC, KStJ, O Ont,
QC, BA, LL B, LL D DSLitt
[Lieutenant Governor of Ontario,1985-91], 1988
Cyril Leeper
Accession No.: 654447
Government of Ontario Art Collection