January 21 marks Lincoln Alexander day in Hamilton in recognition of his trailblazing career in public life. After a career as a lawyer Linc became the first black member of Parliament In 1968, winning Hamilton West against the tide of Trudeaumania. In 1979, Alexander was appointed minister of labour in the Joe Clark government, becoming the first Black Canadian to serve in Cabinet. In 1980, he resigned his seat when Ontario Premier Bill Davis appointed him chair of the Ontario Workers’ Compensation Board, where he served for five years.
On 20 September 1985, Lincoln Alexander was sworn in as Ontario’s 24th lieutenant-governor, the first Black Canadian to be appointed to a viceregal position in Canada. As lieutenant-governor, Alexander was able to take an active role in the multicultural affairs of Ontario. Alexander’s mandate was to fight racism, advance the cause of youth and advocate for seniors.
In 1991, when his term of office was up, Alexander accepted a post as chancellor of the University of Guelph, where he served an unprecedented five terms. After he was succeeded by Pamela Wallin in 2007, he was named chancellor emeritus.
In 2000, Alexander was appointed chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending racism and racial discrimination in Canada.
Lincoln Alexander died in his sleep on 19 October 2012. He was known for his sound judgement, compassion and humanity. Schools were named after him in Hamilton (1989), Ajax (1992) and Mississauga (2000) as well as an expressway in Hamilton, commonly called “the Linc” in reference to Alexander’s nickname (1997).
On 28 November 2013, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario declared 21 January of each year Lincoln Alexander Day, citing Alexander’s life as “an example of service, determination and humility. Always fighting for equal rights for all races in our society, and doing so without malice, he changed attitudes and contributed greatly to the inclusiveness and tolerance of Canada today.” On 21 January 2015, Lincoln Alexander Day was observed across Canada for the first time.
Lincoln Alexander received honorary degrees from six Canadian universities — Toronto (1986), McMaster (1987), Western (1988), York (1990), Royal Military College (1991) and Queen’s (1992) — and was bestowed with several awards, including the Orders of Canada and Ontario and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.