Frederick Douglas Alexader was born in Charlotte, N.C. on February 21, 1910. Named for abollitionist Frederick Douglass, he was one of four sons of Zechariah and Louise Bates McCullough Alexander.
Zechariah Alexander (1877-1954) had an important influence on his sons Fred and Kelly, the latter a national leader of the NAACP. A graduate of the normal department of Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University), Zechariah served in the Spanish-American War as regimental sergeant major of the 3rd Regiment, North Carolina Volunteers. In 1902 he became Charlotte district manager of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, which became one of the largest black-owned businesses in the country. He also established the Alexander Funeral Home, which became a center of community and political activity for the Brooklyn neighborhood. He ran for city council in 1937.
Fred Alexander was graduated from Charlotte's Second Ward High School in 1926 and from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania in 1931. He returned to work for his father at the funeral home, and he soon began the first of his many voter registration drives among the city's blacks. In addition to trying to increase the political influence of blacks, he worked for the appointment of black police officers and mail carriers, for business courses in the black high schools, and for improved health care. In 1949 he served as executive secretary of the Citizens Committee for Political Action, which sponsored black candidates Bishop Dale and Rev. James F. Wertz for city council and the school board, respectively.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, Alexander's public visibility increased: in 1954 Harry Golden wrote an article for Congress Weekly about Alexander's voter registration efforts (see series 6). He was a charter member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Council on Human Relations, was elected to the Southern Regional Council, and served on committees of the United Community Services. He became the first black member of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce in 1962 and of the Mecklenburg County Board of Public Welfare in 1963.
In 1964 he became a member of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Executive Committee, and the following year he won election as Charlotte's first black city council member since the 1890s. In November, 1965, the homes of Alexander, his brother Kelly, attorney Julius Chambers, and dentist Reginald Hawkins were bombed by unknown terrorists. In spite of this attach and his initial inability to have blacks appointed to city boards, he eventually gained influence on the council and in the entire community. Among his important successes as a council member were the passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance (1968), the removal of the fence separating the black Pinewood and the white Elmwood cemeteries (1969), the construction of a fire station for northwest Charlotte (1970), and the preservation of the Thompson Orphanage Chapel. In 1971 he led the city council ticket and became Charlotte's first black mayor pro tem.
In 1974 Alexander was elected to the North Carolina Senate from the 22nd district (Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties). He served as vice chair of the Higher Education Committee. In 1979 he introduced legislation designating the second week in February as Black History Week in North Carolina.
Alexander participated in many civic groups and local and state boards, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Charlotte Area Fund, Model Neighborhood Commission, North Carolina Good Neighbor Council, Governor's Committee on Law and Order, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Charter Commission. He served as an officer in several Masonic and shrine organizations, president of the Mint Museum of Art (1978-79), and a trustee of Johnson C. Smith University, from which he received an honorary degree in 1976.
In addition to maintaining a lifelong connection with the family funeral home, Alexander also served as an agent and member of the board of directors of the Southern Fidelity Mutual Insurance Company (ca. 1941-60), and the manager of Double Oaks (1949-80). The complex, developed by C. D. Spangler Realty Company, was the first privately-owned, multi-family housing project for blacks in Charlotte. Alexander also encouraged Spangler to build University Park, a middle-income housing development in northwest Charlotte, and assisted in securing the necessary loan from Southern Fidelity Mutual.
Alexander married Frances Mauvene Dugas (1905-6), the daughter of a Johnson C. Smith University official, in 1935. They had one daughter, Theodora Eugenia. Alexander died on April 13, 1980 and was buried in York Memorial Park in Charlotte. [For additional biographical information, see box 55:1.]