Lincoln MacCauley Alexander was born on January 21, 1922, in Toronto, Ontario, to immigrant parents. He was the eldest son of Mae Rose, who immigrated from Jamaica, and Lincoln MacCauley Alexander Sr., who immigrated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Lincoln attended Earl Grey Public School, where he was the only Black child in his kindergarten class. According to his memoir, he noted that he “never raced home from school and cried.” He earned the respect of his classmates, sometimes through fighting. This taught him to always walk tall and with a certain bearing, so people knew that he meant business.

Lincoln and his family moved to the east end of Toronto, where he attended Riverdale Collegiate. The family was religious, and they enjoyed a social life centered around regular church attendance; they attended a Baptist church in downtown Toronto.

Raised by a stern disciplinarian, his father wanted him to play the piano. However, Lincoln preferred sports such as track, soccer, and hockey. Due to his size, which made him uncoordinated, he was not a natural athlete.

(Citation—Lincoln Alexander – Wikipedia)

Lincoln Alexander moved to Harlem, New York, with his mother. There, Alexander attended DeWitt Clinton High School. Being a predominantly black community, Harlem provided him with role models who worked in jobs that did not involve manual labor.

After Canada declared war on Germany in 1939, his mother sent him back to Toronto to live with his father. Around this time, he met Yvonne Harrison, who later became his wife, and who lived in Hamilton, Ontario. Since Lincoln was too young to enlist in the armed forces, he took a job as a machinist making anti-aircraft guns at a factory in Hamilton to be close to her.

In the Air Force

In 1942, he became a corporal wireless operator in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He served in various parts of the country, including Portage la Prairie. Lincoln was unable to participate in combat duty due to poor eyesight.

An incident occurred in a bar in Vancouver in 1945 where Lincoln was refused service due to his skin colour. He reported this to a superior officer who refused to act on his behalf. This prompted Lincoln to quit the Air Force, and he was granted an honourable discharge.

“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.’”

(Citation—The Honourable Lincoln Alexander (

Personal Life

After the war, he returned to complete his studies at Hamilton’s Central Collegiate. He attended McMaster University in 1946, where he studied economics and history, and later received his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1949.

In 1948, Lincoln lost his mother. On September 10, 1948, he married Yvonne Harrison, and they later welcomed a son, Keith, in 1949. In an interview with Chatelaine Magazine in 1986, Lincoln said, “My mother was the single biggest influence on me – before my wife. I’ve always regretted that she didn’t see me graduate from university.”

Life at Osgoode Hall Law School/Legal Career

While attending Osgoode, Lincoln Alexander suggested to the Dean during a lecture that he was using inappropriate language. Challenging the Dean, he said, “But you can’t say that because you have to show leadership. You’re in a position of authority, a leader in the community. A leader has to lead and not use such disrespectful comments without even thinking about them.” According to what Lincoln recalled from that incident, he was unsure what made him stand up and ask the Dean that question in a class of 200. Lincoln described this incident as making him a man. This action didn’t end his career as he had feared, and he went on to graduate from Osgoode Hall in 1953.

Lincoln Alexander articled for Sam Gottfried. He later received a job offer from a brother and sister duo, Helen and Ted Okulski, who started their own law practice in Hamilton after they were unable to find jobs at existing firms. There, he practiced real estate and commercial law and established a political base in the German and Polish communities in Hamilton.

A few years later, he partnered with Dave Duncan, bringing into existence the firm Duncan & Alexander, which he claimed was the first interracial law partnership in Canada.

Duncan & Alexander dissolved in 1962. Lincoln then joined forces with former McMaster classmate Jack Millar, in the firm Millar, Alexander, Tokiwa, and Issacs. They eventually renamed their firm “the United Nations law firm.” In his memoir, Alexander recalls, “A Caucasian, a Black, a Japanese, and a Native Canadian. We were white, black, yellow, and red, we used to laugh.”

Lincoln was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1965.

(Citation—Lincoln Alexander – Wikipedia)

Political Life

Alexander started his political career in 1965 when he ran in the Canadian Federal election as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in the Hamilton West electoral district. Unfortunately, he lost. However, he ran again in 1968 and on June 25, 1968, he won the seat, becoming Canada’s first Black Member of Parliament. He represented Hamilton West in the House of Commons as a Conservative MP for 12 years.

On September 20, 1968, he made his maiden speech in the House of Commons, saying: “I am not the spokesman for the Negro; that honour has not been given to me. Do not let me ever give anyone that impression. However, I want the record to show that I accept the responsibility of speaking for him and all others in this great nation who feel that they are the subjects of discrimination because of race, creed or colour.”

(Citation—Lincoln Alexander – Wikipedia)

Lincoln Alexander became an observer to the United Nations from 1976 to 1978. He briefly served as Minister of Labour, a position to which he was appointed in 1979.

Lincoln MacCauley Alexander was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1985 on the advice of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Governor General Jeanne Sauvé, making him the first black person to serve in a viceregal position in Canada. During his service, he focused on multicultural issues, education, racism, and youth issues. He served in this viceregal position until 1991.

(Citation—The Honourable Lincoln Alexander (

Life After Viceroy

After his term as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Lincoln was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 1992 and became a Companion of the Order of Canada. He served as Chancellor of the University of Guelph from 1991 to 2007.

In 2000, he was named Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, where he became an active spokesperson on race relations and veterans’ issues. He was the Honorary Patron of the Hamilton, Ontario branch of St. John Ambulance until the time of his death. Additionally, he was the Honorary Chief of the Hamilton Police Service and Honorary Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

(Citation—Lincoln Alexander – Wikipedia)


On the morning of October 19, 2012, at the age of 90, Alexander passed away in his sleep. In tribute, the national and provincial flags were flown at half-mast.

His body was first laid in state inside the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, and then at the Hamilton City Hall.

Lincoln was accorded an Ontario state funeral, which was conducted by the Reverend Allison Barrett, with the cooperation of thousands of officials, both Provincial and Federal, and the Police Services across Canada.

His funeral was held at Hamilton Place and was attended by 1,500 people. Lincoln Alexander was survived by his son, Keith Lincoln Alexander, from his marriage to his first wife, Yvonne Harrison, who died in 1999. He is also survived by his daughter-in-law, grandchildren, and his second wife, Mani Beal, whom he married in 2011.

(Citation—Lincoln Alexander – Wikipedia)

Legacy, Awards and Honours

Ryerson University announced that its Faculty of Law would be renamed the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Ryerson University. This officially took place on May 6, 2021.

“Throughout his career, Mr. Alexander demonstrated a longstanding commitment to championing education and youth initiatives and advancing racial equality,” said Ryerson University President and Vice-Chancellor Mohamed Lachemi. “Today’s announcement is a very fitting testament to those commitments, and we hope that our students will similarly serve and support others in their future careers, holding true to their values with the same fervor that he did.”

“Many know my grandfather studied law, and his choice to do so led him on his particular journey. He made sacrifices and worked extremely hard throughout his life,” said Erika Alexander, Lincoln Alexander’s granddaughter. “I believe having a law school named after Lincoln MacCauley Alexander provides a feeling of uniqueness, inclusiveness, and relatability.”

“Throughout his decorated career, Lincoln achieved many pioneering firsts, but his kindness, generosity, and devotion to family and to Canadians across the country are irrefutable. I am heartened to know that Lincoln’s values and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are deeply espoused by the law school that will bear his name,” said Mrs. Lincoln Beal-Alexandre, Lincoln Alexander’s widow.

(Citation—Ryerson renames law school after the Honourable Lincoln Alexander – News and Events – Toronto Metropolitan University)

Lincoln Alexander received honorary degrees from six Canadian Universities:

University Toronto (1986), McMaster University (1987), University of Western Ontario (1988), York University (1990), Royal Military College of Canada (1991) and Queen’s University (1992)

He was bestowed with several awards, including:

  • Cultural Achievement Award, Caribana Cultural Committee (1984)
  • Member of the Order of Ontario (1992)
  • Companion of the Order of Canada (1992)
  • Canadian Forces Decoration (1994)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (1997)
  • Lifetime Achievement, Harry Jerome Awards (2001)
  • Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002)
  • Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)

(Citation—Lincoln Alexander | The Canadian Encyclopedia)