10/23/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 12/22/2012 05:12 EST

Lincoln Alexander Funeral: Canada's First Black MP To Lie In Repose In Hamilton


TORONTO - After two days lying in state at the Ontario legislature, the body of Canada's first black MP will begin lying in repose at Hamilton city hall today.

Among those who paid their respects to Lincoln Alexander on Monday was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper walked through the front doors to the grand staircase where the flag draped casket lay, and stood for a moment before walking up to the casket, and touching it with one hand.

Harper then spoke to family members, including Alexander's widow, children and grandchildren, wrote a long message in the book of condolence, nodded towards the Alexander family and left.

Alexander, who died last Friday at the age of 90, was Canada's first black cabinet minister, and served as Ontario's lieutenant governor from 1985 to 1991.

Alexander's casket was at the Ontario legislature Sunday and Monday, before being transported to Hamilton for a public visitation in advance of his state funeral on Friday in Hamilton.

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, from 1942 until 1945.

He settled in Hamilton to be near his future wife, Yvonne, and to attend McMaster University. After graduating in 1949, he applied for a sales job with the Stelco steel company, but was turned down by interviewers who said customers wouldn't want to deal with a black man.

Alexander became more determined in the face of adversity. He graduated from Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School in 1953.

In 1965, he ran as a Conservative in the federal riding of Hamilton West, but lost.

He was finally elected in 1968, and was re-elected three times, in 1972, 1979 and 1980.

(CFRB, The Canadian Press)

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