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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Archie Alphonse Alexander Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1940-1970
Creator: Alexander, Archie Alphonse (1888-1958)
Extent: 120.00 items.
Collection Number: MSC0304
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Engineer and governor of the Virgin Islands. Subject files, correspondence, speeches, clippings, etc. relating to his career as an engineer, diplomat, and university trustee.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 1

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: This collection was purchased by the University of Iowa Libraries in 1974.

Preferred Citation: Archie Alphonse Alexander Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Archie Alphonse Alexander was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, on May 14, 1888 . He was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Iowa's College of Engineering. He earned his degree in civil engineering in 1912. While a student at Iowa, he also was a member of the varsity football team.

Alexander opened his own engineering firm of A.A. Alexander, Inc. in 1914, in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1917, Alexander and George F. Higbee entered into a partnership. Their engineering company specialized in building bridges, viaducts, and sewage systems throughout Iowa. In 1925, Higbee was killed in a construction accident. For the next several years Alexander continued the business alone. During this period he received several large construction contracts at his alma mater, including the University's power plant and tunnel system. In 1929, Maurice Repass joined him as a junior partner. They had been classmates at Iowa and had played football together. They went on to complete projects in most of the then forty-eight states. Between 1914 and 1950, Alexander's businesses completed over three hundred projects.

Alexander was also active outside of his business. He was president of the Des Moines chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was also president of the local chapter of the Inter-racial Commission. He was a trustee of both Howard University and the Tuskeegee Institute. Alexander directed that his estate be used to establish engineering scholarships at Howard University, Tuskeegee Institute, and the University of Iowa.

A.A. Alexander was an active Republican who twice served as assistant to the chairman of Iowa's Republican State Committee. Early in 1952, he joined the Eisenhower for President movement. His party loyalty was rewarded with the post of Governor of the Virgin Islands. Not well suited to diplomacy, Alexander served only one year. By 1955 his health was failing. Archie A. Alexander died of a heart attack on January 4, 1958.

The papers of Archie Alexander consist of 120 items dating from 1940 to 1970. Subject files include topics which range from testimonial dinners to nomination hearings before the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and from Howard University to construction project photographs. Speeches, correspondence, and clippings complete the papers.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Hearing Before the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, U.S. Senate, 83rd Congress, 2nd Session on the nomination of Archie A. Alexander to be governor of the Virgin Islands, March 10 - 1954
  • Howard University materials - 1954-1955
  • "Life's Adjustments, A Challenge for the Education of our Youth Today," an address by Archie A. Alexander at Howard University, June - 1955
  • Magazine articles pertaining to Archie A. Alexander - 1949-1985
  • Miscellaneous items mostly relating to Mrs. Archie A. Alexander - 1940-1964
  • Newspaper clippings concerning Archie A. Alexander - 1945-1993
  • Photographs of construction projects by Alexander & Repass - 1946-1954
    2 folders
  • Testimonial dinner honoring Archie A. Alexander, April 15 - 1954
    Including a speech by Loren Hickerson reviewing Alexander's career
  • Photographs of Archie Alexander while Governor of Virgin Islands
  • University of Iowa Centennial Commencement Award and Citation, June - 1947
    Nomination forms for Archie A. Alexander by S. Joe Brown and Clifford V. Smith
  • Correspondence - 1947-1955

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Corporate Names:
Howard University

Civil engineers

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Des Moines
Virgin Islands

Genre/Form of Materials:
Clippings (Information artifacts)