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Clifford Alexander Jr. has held several prominent government positions and made history by being appointed as the first African-American Secretary of the U.S. Army. The New York City native was born September 21, 1933.

Alexander embarked upon his undergraduate studies at Harvard College, graduating in 1955. He later graduated from Yale Law School in 1958 and immediately enlisted in the New York National Guard for a brief stint. Alexander was the director of the Harlem Youth Opportunities program before being called by President John F. Kennedy to join the National Security Council staff.

From there, Alexander worked as a deputy assistant special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson ahead of being appointed to head the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1967 until 1969. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Alexander to his cabinet as Army Secretary where he oversaw a $33 billion budget and promoted the concept of an all-volunteer army.

After leaving the post in 1981, Alexander founded a consulting firm that advised Fortune 500 companies on hiring women and minorities.

PHOTO: U.S Army, Public Domain