Chauncey Alexander (1916-2005)
Chauncey Alexander was a local, Southern California activist who helped veterans after World War II secure the medical and other benefits they needed, and thereafter fought locally and often successfully for racial, religious, and cultural minorities. Mr. Alexander also protested unjust wars in Southeast Asia and, in the last two years, recognized the folly and danger of the latest Iraq War long before many other Americans who receive media attention.
Chauncey died at age 89 on August 30. As I no longer reside in Orange County, I did not know of his passing until reading his obituary in the LA Times today.
I wrote a letter to the LA Times to say some necessary words about Mr. Alexander. I hope the Times prints some letters from people who knew him. Here is my letter in case mine doesn't make the cut:
"Chauncey Alexander was that most patriotic of Americans: A committed activist on behalf of the most vulnerable people in our society. Mr. Alexander was not an activist who shouted or made headlines. Instead, he earned a reputation as someone possessing grace and an unflinching courage to stand up on behalf of military veterans, civilian workers and those without shelter, food, clothing or education. I was privileged to know Mr. Alexander and his wife, Sally, well enough to be able to say hello to them at rallies, meetings or get-out-the-vote efforts. With the Alexanders, you knew if they were present, they would provide helpful and constructive ideas for those of us who lacked their experience in organizing for social change--from workers' rights to civil rights to equal access to education and health care. Chauncey Alexander would be the first to say that we should not miss him and that we should continue to fight for the best ideals upon which our nation was founded. Permit us to not listen to him this time, in order to recall Mr. Alexander's warmth, genuineness and strength to fight for a better world."
My wife and I were always honored that Chauncey and Sally remembered us when we saw them. One of the last times we saw Chauncey and Sally was at the Southern California Library for Social Studies & Research--a wonderful organization, by the way. The Alexanders were always smiling, yet intense at the same time. You felt their energy and strength and were glad to be with them. They came out of a generation of activists that had withstood the Red Scare and had never given up fighting for justice. They were and are truly great people.