Ontario pays last respects to Hamilton's Lincoln Alexander
People from all across the province will pay their respects today to Hamilton's Lincoln Alexander, the first black member of the House of Commons and the former lieutenant-governor of Ontario, as he lies in state at the provincial legislature.
Alexander, who was also a former federal labour minister, died in Hamilton on Friday morning at the age of 90.
His body arrived at Queen’s Park on Sunday afternoon.
The public will be able to pay their respects at the lobby of the main legislative building today from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Alexander's casket will then be taken to Hamilton city hall, where he will lie in repose until a state funeral is held in hometown on Friday.
Alexander is survived by his son, Keith, daughter-in-law Joyce, granddaughters, Erika and Marissa, and his second wife, Marni.
Mayor Bob Bratina received a call around 9 a.m. Friday from the deputy police chief notifying him of Alexander's death.
"When he was moved to the General, we knew his life was ending and we figured it would be close," Bratina said. "We've lost someone whose own stature gave stature to our city."
Bratina was a news reporter in the 1960s covered Alexander both as a lawyer and as a federal member of parliment.
"When he had a federal election victory, I covered his campaign headquarters.," he said. "It was really exciting, they had a fabulous party and unfortunately all the buzz and the talk and noise was drowning out a fellow in the corner who was playing piano - Oscar Peterson. "
Hamilton Centre MPP and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also shared her fond memories of Alexander, recalling the time in 2004 when she went door-to-door campaigning in their home town of Hamilton and unknowingly ended up at Alexander's doorstep.
"He said, 'Well I hear you're going to win this, girl, you just keep going. You work hard and you're going to win.' It was a memory that stays with me," she recalled.
She added that Alexander would often give her words of encouragement when they crossed paths, despite their political differences.
First elected in 1968
Born in Toronto in 1922 to West Indian immigrants, Alexander was a wireless operator with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.
Alexander was first elected to the House of Commons in 1968, as the Progressive Conservative member for Hamilton West.
He served as an MP for more than a decade before leaving federal politics to become the chairman of the Ontario Workmen’s Compensation Board, which is now known as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
In his later years, he served as the chancellor of the University of Guelph for five terms.
Alastair Summerlee, the president of the University of Guelph, knew Alexander for more than 20 years.
"I've described him as a man who was just larger than life," he said.
"He was a big man in height, he had enormous feet and he had an incredibly large heart and he warmed to everybody that he met."
Summerlee said that Alexander had faced many hardships in his early life, but overcame those obstacles and ultimately became a very successful and inspiring public figure.
"He began in circumstances that were definitely very impoverished, had quite a hard life as he grew up and turned that into this outstandingly successful career," said Summerlee.