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Thomas Alexander - A Black History Month tribute

Updated on October 16, 2014

My father's journey through America's changing times

My father, Thomas Morris Alexander, is such an exceptional man. A talented engineer, an inspiring poet, a beloved pastor, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.

I wanted to share with you some of his life story, with an emphasis on the parts that relate to the African-American experience. This is my contribution for Black History Month.

I love you, Daddy!

I love you, Daddy!
I love you, Daddy!

When I told Dad that I was going to make a web page about him as an inspiring African-American, he said, "When you say 'inspiring', I guess you mean breathing, so I suppose I qualify!"

Before my dad was born - The migration to St. Louis

My father's parents, Arling and Tiny Alexander, had both grown up in Ripley, Mississippi. After their marriage, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The area where they lived was called Kinloch. Kinloch is the oldest black community in the state of Missouri.

Arling and Tiny had 16 children. My father was their eleventh child.

Ripley, MS, the hometown of the Alexander and Blackwell families:
Ripley, MS

get directions

Kinlock, MO, where Arling and Tiny Alexander settled:
Kinloch, MO

get directions

My father's birth certificate. They misspelled my grandfather's first name on the certificate, it's supposed to be "Arling".
My father's birth certificate. They misspelled my grandfather's first name on the certificate, it's supposed to be "Arling".

The family that Thomas Alexander was born into

This is a photo of my grandparents with their children. About 1945.

Using facial clues and logic, I'm going to try to identify everyone in this picture. Then I'll have my dad look at it and tell me if I was right. Here goes:

Top row, left to right: Ruth, Simeon, Edna, Pruett, Emma, Carl, Ernest.

Bottom row, left to right: James, Tommy (my dad), Arling, Granddad (Arling McClure Alexander, Sr.), Mary, Granny (Tiny Blackwell Alexander), Freddy, Frankie, Irma, Sara.

Woohoo!! Dad said I got them all right!

Don't try to find Bishop Henry Alexander in this photo; he hadn't been born yet.

I love the identical ugly neckties in this picture.
I love the identical ugly neckties in this picture.

Life in St. Louis

(In this Easter Sunday photo of the younger half of the Alexander children, Dad is standing in the back row, second from the left.)

Tommy Alexander was the 11th of the 16 children. He was one of the quieter children. He loved literature and poetry. The fact that he stuttered also led him to be less vocal than some of his brothers and sisters.

The Alexander family was poor. Dad isn't sure whether the other families in their community tended more toward middle class or toward poverty, but either way the Alexanders were poorer than anybody else. But despite their poverty, there was a strong emphasis on education in their household. They were not a family where the older children would drop out of school to get jobs. They had jobs AND went to school. At various times, Dad worked at a grocery store, a tuxedo shop, and shining shoes at the St. Louis airport. (He once shined Yul Brynner's shoes, and he once shined Jerry Lee Lewis's shoes.)

I've heard my aunts and uncles talk about frequently going to school hungry. Dad remembers once when he was 6 or 7 years old, he was walking to school and saw a doughnut laying on the ground in the rain. He picked it up and was about to eat it until his siblings reproved him and told him not to.

Once in Junior High School some of the other students were teasing him about his shabby clothes. His teacher told the teasing students that Tommy had a high IQ and was likely to "be something" someday.

Besides being dirt poor, the other thing that made the Alexanders "different" was their devout and strict religious faith. Their parents had converted from being Baptist to the Oneness Pentecostal (Apostolic) faith in the early years of their marriage, and their household revolved around church activities. Dad is proud to have grown up under the leadership of distinguished pastors in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, including Bishop Morris Golder and Bishop James Johnson.

Back in those days, PAW churches followed very strict codes of behavior. Along with eschewing alcohol and tobacco, they also had very high standards about modesty in dress (ladies didn't wear makeup, jewelry, slacks, or open-toed shoes) and shunned many forms of "worldly" entertainment. When Dad was in 3rd grade, his class was doing a square-dancing activity. His teacher noticed his very half-hearted participation and actually thought he might be ill. When she took him aside to ask him what was wrong, he told her that they didn't believe in dancing. She asked him more questions and he explained further about all the things they didn't do.

But they considered their lives to be very full and had high expectations of themselves. Dad loved to read stories about people who accomplished great things. When he would finish reading a good biography or other story, he would feel so inspired to accomplish something of his own that he would clean his room. This made him feel that he was making the world a better place in the only place where had any influence so far.

Schooling - Segregated schools

Eighth grade graduation. Dad is on the front row, second from the left.
Eighth grade graduation. Dad is on the front row, second from the left.

The song "National Brotherhood Week" by Tom Lehrer

From kindergarten through the end of 9th grade, Dad went to segregated schools in St. Louis. He never had any sense of the schools or teachers being lacking in any way, but he's not sure about the bigger picture as far as how they compared to the white schools.

Dad remembers the pep talk that his teachers used to give him and his classmates when Brotherhood Week was approaching. Brotherhood Week was the one time in the year when the black children in St. Louis were allowed to go to the movie theater. "Now children, I know that when you go to the movies you're going to be on your very best behavior to show everyone just how good you can be." This talk was wasted on the Alexanders, of course. They wouldn't set foot in a den of iniquity like a movie theater.

Integrated schools

In the 10th grade, Dad transferred to Soldan High School. That year, 1955, was Soldan's very first year of integration.

As Dad recalls it, integration seemed to be a pretty smooth transition for the students. They got along pretty well. But it was more difficult for the school faculty to adjust to the changes. Especially uncomfortable for them was seeing black boys and white girls talking together.

A cute example of the changes brought by integration was the school's talent show that year. The talent show had been an annual tradition at Soldan for many years, but integration brought a new style of performances that the school staff wasn't sure how to respond to.

Guess what? My dad went to high school with a celebrity! Recording artist Fontella Bass grew up in St. Louis and she was also a part of that first integrated student body at Soldan. She definitely made her mark on the talent show. Some other black students had done performances that brought a bit of a "soul" sound, but the powers-that-be were really not ready for what Fontella was cookin'. It definitely resulted in some ruffled feathers.

This is the song that Fontella Bass sang during the talent show at Soldan High School. Of course, she didn't have a band behind her. Instead, she accompanied herself on the piano.

If Fontella's dream was to be that girl at center stage in front of the band, her dream came true.

Wikipedia entry for Fontella Bass

Dad's legendary 12th grade report card.

One B, four As, and one F. The F was in Gym. While other students were writing papers and cramming for exams in the final weeks of school, Dad was running laps trying to bring his F up to a D.

Dad doesn't remember getting especially good grades in high school, but his report card clearly shows otherwise. At Soldan, Tommy showed a strong interest in English and journalism. He was on the staff of the school newspaper, contributing stories and original poems.

Dad's personal civil rights movement

There were a few incident's in my father's life where he took it on himself to act out against injustice in his own small way.

The "shopping while black" encounter

When Dad was about 15 years old, he had an experience at a department store where a saleslady decided that he looked like a potential thief to her and followed him like a hawk all over the store. This is a common complaint from black people, especially young men.

Tommy, the English major, fought back the best way he knew how. He wrote a poem. After he left the store, he sat down and wrote it out, then walked back in and presented it to the lady. I don't know how much impact his action had on the overall plight of blacks in America, but I suppose that the next time that particular woman saw a black boy in her store, she knew that he might be a thief OR he might be a poet.

Here's Dad's original poem. Note the very Burns-ian title. The ending of the poem is rather intense, but remember that he was only 15:

To a Clerk in F. W. Woolworth (who doesn't trust me) by Thomas Alexander

I was moved with great concern

As I saw you twist and turn

When I came into your store an hour ago

I conceived a million ills

Twisted back, hospital bills

And aye, that too crooked your spine might grow

At my every move you lunged

As we talked about the sponge

Not a move I made escaped your watchful eye

You couldn't satisfy my needs

For contemplating my misdeeds

I was so embarrassed I thought I should die

I've seen others who were wary

As they scrutinized their quarry

But your brazenness was really new to see

And your "whisper" brought a shock

You could hear it for a block

As you told the cashier your distrust of me

Here's a word of good advice

'Cause I think you're kind of nice

Although your actions this thought belie

If you get a periscope

Then I think that there is hope

To maintain your health and still remain a spy

To make deceit your master

Will result in sure disaster

Unlike Nathan Hale of old I think I'd say

That it's better far to live

Than long for more lives to give

Death, of course, is the price that all spies must pay.

Dad with his sister Irma
Dad with his sister Irma

The sit-in at the diner

Yes, Dad staged his own sit-in long before it became cool to do so. Here's a description in his own words:

I must have been in my teens. Circumstances that day required me to go out on my own to get my eyeglasses replaced. This meant a trip on the buses to a different part of town. It also meant ending up someplace other than my own regular neighborhood at lunchtime.

I loved chili, and I soon found a place where it was offered. These days I would call the place a "greasy spoon", but back then it was grub and I was hungry.

It was lunch time and the place was jammed. I ordered my cheeseburger and chili. I had frequently, in the company of my older brothers, ordered food in similar situations, always adding the familiar phrase "to go." But that really wasn't necessary. This was a white institution, so it went without saying that my order was "to go." Maybe it didn't catch their attention that I didn't specifically say the words "to go," and they certainly couldn't see in my mind that on that day, for some reason, I had no intention of taking my food and going out into the cold, to walk down the street and find a place to stand around and eat.

So when my food was brought to me in a nice brown bag, and after it was paid for, I simply sat down at the counter, opened the bag, and began to eat. It was in the mid-1950s, long before lunch counter sit-ins became fashionable, but this was a sit-in borne of necessity.

The distressed expression on the face of the white waitress told me this wasn't going to go smoothly. After repeatedly informing me that I couldn't eat there, and her remonstrations falling on deaf ears, she resorted to more desperate measures. Her final actions were to snatch the sandwich from my hands, ring up a "no sale" on the cash register, and call in a nearby policeman to complain that I hadn't paid. The policeman certainly knew what was going on, and had no desire to have a more unpleasant ending than was necessary. He finally took me aside, and (although I don't remember his exact words) he let me know there was no need to make trouble about this. Essentially if I would go away quietly, he had no desire to take further actions.

So, I was back out in the cold and on to the streetcar, a little bit hungry, and a little bit disillusioned. But that was life in St. Louis in the mid-'50s.

Dad's high school diploma
Dad's high school diploma

Growing up and moving on

Choosing a major

Tommy knew what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to be an author. But he had to be "practical", don't you know. Helpful white adults around him told him to abandon his dreams. His boss at the market (where he worked 20 hours a week while in high school) told him that if there were any successful black authors, he had certainly never heard of them. Don't even try it.

And journalism? Advisors at his school told him that there would NEVER be a demand for black journalists. Drop that idea, too.

So that was that. He couldn't be an author or a journalist because he was black.

What happened to the fight down inside him that made him stand up to the store clerk and the lunch counter lady? Here's my theory. I think that after growing up in such poverty, Dad wanted a stable career more than he wanted to fight for his dream profession.

His next thought was that he should probably go ahead and be a schoolteacher like all of his sisters were doing. The only problem with that was that everyone who wanted to study teaching had to pass a speech test, which would have been an insurmountable obstacle to the boy who stuttered.

What else could he do?

Medicine? Too many years of school.

Law? Too many dishonest people in the field.

Engineering? Why not!

Attending college

He enrolled in Harris Junior College in the Pre-Engineering program.

The busy-ness of life in his large family and his lack of preparation for being a science major made things difficult for him. He dropped out once during his first semester, but went back and completed it. Again in the second semester he dropped out, this time for an entire year. He got a job at the Post Office, sorting mail.

But Dad knew that he didn't want to be stuck in those kind of jobs forever. So after a year, he quit his job and returned to Harris. His father couldn't understand it. To Granddad, the Post Office was one of the most stable jobs a person could hope for. And Tommy was quitting to go to college??

Dad's perseverance paid off. His skills in engineering developed and grew. He received an Associate Degree in Pre-Engineering in 1961.

The next step should have been attending Missouri School of Minds at Rolla (the only engineering school in Missouri). But he didn't have the money and couldn't find work. The Post Office wasn't hiring any more and he didn't know what to do.

Someone said that out in Los Angeles the streets were paved with jobs. There was all manner of work to be had. So Dad left St. Louis and headed out to Los Angeles in 1961. Most of the Alexander family followed the same path over the course of several years, and now most of us live in Southern California.

The journey west

Dad was 20 years old when he left St. Louis for Los Angeles in search of employment, armed with his Associate Degree in Pre-Engineering.

St Louis, MO - A place with no jobs for young black men in 1961.:
St. Louis, MO

get directions

Los Angeles, CA - The land of opportunity.:
Los Angeles, CA

get directions

Finding his way in LA - Finding a job

Google Earth photo of 4426 Lima Street in Los Angeles.  No Alexanders live there any more.
Google Earth photo of 4426 Lima Street in Los Angeles. No Alexanders live there any more.

Tommy arrived in Los Angeles in May of 1961. In June, he turned 21 years old. That summer was spent looking for work, especially at government agencies. He didn't find anything right away, even though he wasn't being picky (some of the warehouse jobs he tried to apply for turned him down, say that he was overqualified). By September he was wondering whether he should go back home.

But in October of '61, things turned around. He got a job as clerk at the LA County Department of Public Social Services, making a decent $288 per month. The typical rent for an apartment at the time was about $100/month, but Dad didn't get an apartment yet. He stayed with his older sister, Ruth, and her husband, Jake Ross, in a house on Lima Street in South Central LA.

In January of 1962, Tommy finally got work that was in his field, an entry-level engineering position at CalTrans. But he was only with CalTrans for 3 weeks, because on February 4th 1962, he began work for the agency that would employ him for the rest of his working life. He went to the Los Angeles County Flood Control District as a Junior Engineering Aid, making $417/month. Now THAT was some good money!

Finding a church

The Voices of Pentecost from Bethany Apostolic Church.  My dad is in the center of this torn photo, holding his glasses.
The Voices of Pentecost from Bethany Apostolic Church. My dad is in the center of this torn photo, holding his glasses.

Tommy didn't lose his spiritual bearings when he moved to the big city. He got involved in church right away. Back then there were two major Pentecostal Assemblies of the World churches in Los Angeles -- the Apostolic Faith Home Assembly and Bethany Apostolic Church. Dad visited both of them and ended up joining Bethany, which was being pastored by Evangelist Bell, the widow of the previous pastor. Mother Bell was leading the church temporarily while they awaited the arrival of the Eld. Robert McMurray was coming from Ohio to be the new pastor. Eld. McMurray arrived in 1962, and my dad was there on the front row of the church when he arrived.

Another Bethany picture. Dad worked for a while as the editor of the church bulletin, but he's remembered much more as a choir director.
Another Bethany picture. Dad worked for a while as the editor of the church bulletin, but he's remembered much more as a choir director.

Dad started singing in the choir at Bethany and eventually became the director of the choir, starting in about the spring of 1963. The song he brought to the choir that made the most impact in the history of Bethany was "Trust Him" by James Cleveland. When Dad first taught the song to the choir, he had his brother, Arling Alexander, Jr., singing the lead part. Eld. McMurray loved the song and adopted it as his theme song. It was sung every Sunday at Bethany, with Eld McMurray doing the lead himself, right before the sermon. Long after my parents had left to minister in other churches, "Trust Him" remained Bishop McMurray's theme song until his death in 1994.

Bishop McMurray and the choir at Bethany singing "Trust Him"

Finding a mate

1963, when Dad was driving out to San Bernardino all the time, pursuing Mom.
1963, when Dad was driving out to San Bernardino all the time, pursuing Mom.

According to my father's account, he had some trouble connecting with the girls at Bethany. He was smart and had a good job, but he also stuttered, wore glasses, and didn't have a car yet, which didn't exactly make him Mr. Popularity.

But to tell the truth, he had some reservations about the women in Los Angeles as well. Compared to the young ladies he had known at his old church in St. Louis, these Bethany girls seemed kinda -- worldly. The dress code standards at Bethany were certainly not the same as the ones he had known back home.

His friend, Cortez Madkin, started talking about San Bernardino as a good place to meet girls. Dad's mother, Granny Alexander, visited San Bernardino and highly approved of the skirt lengths of the young ladies she saw out there. So in February Dad started trekking out to San Bernardino, visiting churches and looking for potential girlfriends (by then he had a car).

One of the eligible young ladies in San Bernardino was Marian James, the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard James. They actually first met in Los Angeles, at a concert that Mom and some friends had come down to attend (Mom and Dad can't remember for sure now exactly who it was that introduced them). That chatted a little after the concert, and he discerned that Marian had "class". But it was after Dad started visiting San Bernardino that they really got acquainted.

A Sunday School class that Dad visited at Pastor Vessup's church was the place where Marian got her first strong impression about Tommy. There was a question put out to the whole class, and his answer displayed an intelligence that she had rarely seen in a guy. She was bowled over!

Eventually, he ended up asking her out to a restaurant. On their first date they talked about philosophical ideas and Shakespeare and all kinds of things that Mom had never been able to discuss with a date before. Very quickly those trips to San Bernardino were no longer about meeting girls, but rather about seeing Marian.

In 1963, Dad's time was taken with two things, driving out to see his girl and studying for EIT (Engineer-In-Training) exam, which he took and passed in April. He had already been promoted once at the Flood Control District, and after passing the EIT he got promoted to Civil Engineering Assistant, making a jaw-dropping $659/month! Having secured an income like that, he was ready to propose to his girl. He started dropping hints about marriage in June. Marian was only 18 and hadn't been thinking about marrying so young, but he sweet-talked her into the idea. In August he officially popped the question, and she accepted.

Dad got an apartment in late September, 1963, expecting to marry sometime in 1964. Mom was working for the phone company (back then there was only one!), and she applied for a transfer on her job, anticipating her coming move to Los Angeles. To her surprise, they processed her transfer immediately and informed her on a Thursday or so that she would be starting work in LA on Monday!

What should she do? Commute from San Bernardino every day until after the wedding? Get an apartment of her own in Los Angeles? Dad had another idea, "Why don't we just get married this weekend?" (He's always been such a practical guy!)

Mom, with the help of her mother and sisters. rushed out and bought a dress and made plans for a wedding. That weekend they drove out to Las Vegas and tied the knot at the Chapel of the Stars. After their honeymoon, they settled into the apartment as husband and wife.

October 12, 1963 -- Who says that a skinny, engineering major with glasses can't get a hot girl?

October 12, 1963 -- Who says that a skinny, engineering major with glasses can't get a hot girl?
October 12, 1963 -- Who says that a skinny, engineering major with glasses can't get a hot girl?

More coming!

I'll be back with the rest of Dad's life story!

Stay tuned!

Growing and prospering

Please leave a comment. As busy as my Dad is, I'll make sure he reads them.

So glad you came by!

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I enjoyed your Dad's story (so far) and the photos and videos! Great lens!!

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 

      7 years ago

      Joan, I was reading with rapt attention when suddenly I realized I had come to the bottom of the page. No! I thought. It can't be over - the story isn't finished!

      Your story is simply and clearly stated, and the love you have for your subject(s) shines through beautifully. I'd like to see the movie. *grin*

      I look forward eagerly to Part Two. Warm congratulations on making the front page!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A compelling and inspiring life story for everyone, even those outside the African-American community. Was a great read.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful lens, I love it. Such a wonderful tribute to your dad, sounds like the perfect dad. Congratulations on making âPopular Pages â featured Lensesâ. Impressive!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Incredible that your father played a part in the Civil Rights movement on his own. He really succeeded in life even going through poverty and discrimination.

    • hirephp lm profile image

      hirephp lm 

      7 years ago

      fabulous tribute to your father very nice lens thanks for sharing

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      What a fabulous tribute to your father and an amazing story. I look forward to coming back to read the rest!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice lens! squidlikes!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      If I could bless this lens, I surely would too. What a lovely tribute to your Dad, Joan.

    • joanhall profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Hall 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      @anonymous: Hi! So glad you stopped by! Dad is doing great. He's almost as busy in his retirement as he was when he was working for the County. I had never heard the story of the traffic light before, but Dad recalled it, of course. He said it was when we took our trip to Mississippi in 1967.

      You can try looking him up on Facebook, but he doesn't go on there very often (he's very busy with our church construction project).

      Great to hear from you!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I worked for/with your dad at LA Flood Control (1969-73). It's been a very long time since I have seen him. I remember his recounting a visit to relatives in the South. He was stopped at a red light by a the local police for 10-15 minutes! The red light was controlled by the police at the intersection, hoping that the red light would be violated. Thomas waited in the sweltering heat with his family till the light was changed. He left a lasting impression on my life. I hope he is well.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 

      7 years ago

      Absolutely wonderful! What a loving tribute to your father, I loved the poem to the store clerk. Such talent at a young age. Thank-you for introducing your family to me in virtual reality.

    • chrisqw profile image


      8 years ago

      A very moving account of a remarkable man. Than you!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      8 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Joan, I hope you don't mind. I wrote a tribute to The Man Who Became My Father, and because I had read your tribute and enjoyed it so much, I lensrolled it to this one. Before I did that, I re-read this lens. The one thing all us humans have in common is the love of family, no matter what color we are.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      Adding a kiss for luck on this St. Patrick's Day! (Even thought I don't really believe in luck! Just seemed appropriate for the day :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm building a website at the moment for the Black Fathers Support Group in the UK, we where discussing what you must do to qualify as a "Top Dad" walking your daughter down the isle has to be the qualification but beyond that your father is an inspiration (not just because he's breathing) but because of the man he is.

      love it!

    • JeremiahStanghini profile image


      8 years ago

      A well deserved purple star! :-)

      With Love and Gratitude,


    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      8 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I enjoyed this story so much. I think your passion for your subject shows through in the writing, and makes it that much more enjoyable. When I was 6 years old I went to grade school in Chicago, IL, and our classes were integrated long before the national integration. At first, I had a hard time understanding what all the hullabaloo was about in the Civil Rights Protests, because I just assumed we all had the same rights. After investigating further, I realized that I knew nothing of the struggle of all people of color just to have the same rights to live as the whites do. This is a beautiful lens, and I thank you so much for sharing your father's story. I also lensrolled my lens Famous People Who Stutter to this lens too. God Bless!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love your very unique lens. You have done a wonderful and inspiring job, it is really impressive! Thank you for sharing this.

      5 stars, thumbs up, favoriting, and lensrolling this.

    • dwnovacek profile image


      8 years ago

      A wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Thank you so much for sharing him with us!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Wow. What a wonderful tribute! I love all the old pics and and the documents. This will be cherished by all your family for sure.

      You say they were poor, but based on their clothes, they looked fairly affluent to me. I guess city folks dressed better than rural ones.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome lens Joan!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      Oh, and I would love for you to go to my lens: You Are Cordially Invited to Share you Family Legends. I know you would have some wonderful additions. In the meantime this is being lensrolled to all three of those!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      Joan, this is lovely. I think you have read my Arrowsmith Printing about my parents, but have you been to My Dad the Gold Standard? Its about my Dad and Dad's in general. I would love to have you add to it.

      Anyway, my Dad is gone now. I fought to keep him in my home although there was a lot of pressure to put him in a medicaid nursing home (no way) He died in his sleep in his own bed in my house. The last things between us was that I tucked him in, we hugged and said we loved each other. He was almost 93 and you couldn't have asked for a better way.

      I have thought about writing his memoirs of his whole life and you encourage me.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      Congratulations on being listed on the 2010 Giant Squid Showcase! You already know I think you and this lens are among the best!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      8 years ago

      Congratulations on your 2010 Giant Squid Showcase honor!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      8 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Congrats! on Giant Squid Showcase 2010!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a wonderful tribute to your Dad! Congrats on being on the 2010 Giant Squid Best Of List!

    • juliannegentile profile image

      Julianne Gentile 

      8 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, US

      What a wonderful tribute to your dad! Congrats on being chosen for the best of 2010 list and Happy New Year to the both of you.

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 

      8 years ago

      I truly don't know how I missed this before? Loved reading it. Congratulations and all the best in 2011.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      8 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading this lens on your father. I too grew up in St. Louis and it was interesting reading about places that I was familiar. Your love for your father shows through in this lens. Wonderful job. Blessed and added to my December Blessing Lens.

      Congratulations on making 2010 Giant Squid Showcase.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      Joan, this is such a wonderful tribute to your father -- though clearly a well-deserved one! Congratulations to you both on making it into the 2010 Giant Squid Showcase! Wishing you a very happy, healthy and successful 2011.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great story. looking forward to part 2.

    • pkmcruk profile image


      8 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Very inspiring and you have really done your Father proud Joan - well done you!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, this is practically a book! You have done your daddy proud. Congrats on making the showcase.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      How special this is Joan and I love that you even included the report card with that D proudly displayed! Congratulations on being on the 2010 Giant Squid Showcase Best of List!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      Congratulations on being one of the 45 on the Giant Squid 2010 Showcase. Very cool. :) This is an awesome lens.

    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 

      8 years ago from Jackson, MS

      Congrats, Joan, for the feature! I'm so glad I found your Dad's story. He is lucky to have you for a daughter! You are a great legacy for his touching life.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Congratulations Dad for being included in The 2010 Giant Squid Showcase by the SquidTeam! How cool is that! Happy New Year, Squidhugs from Kathy

    • greenerme profile image


      8 years ago

      Congrats on making it into the Giant Squids 2010 showcase! Happy New Years!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your father's stories and especially his poem. He was very wise at 15 years ... I wonder if the insensitive store clerk learned something that day. What an impressive vocabulary for a high school student. She had to have been humbled by such a carefully crafted response to her rudeness.

    • Dee Gallemore profile image

      Dee Gallemore 

      8 years ago

      Joan, this is an awesome work and I'm sure you do your Dad proud . . .a tribute indeed to Thomas Alexander!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      8 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Yes! Los Angeles. My parents arrived in 1954.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      a good page about are grandfather

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @anonymous: Alexander, Miller

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Alexander side

    • joanhall profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Hall 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles

      @anonymous: Cool! Are you related to the Alexander side or the Blackwell side?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love the story about your father, and i`m glad you wrote it. I have been searching my father`s family roots and i think we are related.

    • garyrh1 profile image


      9 years ago

      A great tribute to your dad. It's a very fascinating read :-)

    • noxid25 profile image


      9 years ago

      This is a really nice tribute to your Dad. He has had an interesting life - I especially liked his poem. He sounds like a great man. 5 stars! :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Joan, I think this article is a wonderful tribute to your father. I think you should continue to write them and I can't wait to read them all. Keep me posted!

    • justholidays profile image


      9 years ago

      I love to discover family stories and definitely love this marvelous tribute to your father!

      Blessed by a SquidAngel.


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Fascinating lens! And gratulations on your purple star!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      9 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Congratulations on your purple star!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a wonderful tribute to your father. A very inspirational life, I can see why you created the lens. Thank you.

    • joanhall profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Hall 

      9 years ago from Los Angeles

      @norma-holt: That's interesting. All the Pentecostals out here use the standard Protestant (e.g., King James) Bible. Attitudes toward women vary from one congregation to another.

    • norma-holt profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nicely done lens. I had some time in a pentecostal situation but their attitudes are very catholic in that they follow the Catholic bible and don't really favor women as equals. Aside from that they have a remarkable code of conduct which pretty much follows my own as a spiritual person. Well done and top marks


    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      9 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Wonderful and powerful! Your Dad is a hero! Can't wait for the rest.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      9 years ago from California

      I am anxious for the rest of the story :) *Blessed* by and Angel.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Back to lensroll to Reflections of a Southern Magnolia. Blessed!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh Me! I held onto every word and can't wait for you to continue with this fascinating, wonderful tribute to your dad. Thank you for sharing his story. Lensrolled to Pendleton Memories Part 2 and will feature there as well.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      9 years ago from United States

      I was so riveted by this lens and your dad's life, that I found myself scrolling for the rest of the story like it would somehow miraculously appear:) Awesome! Angel Blessed and added to my Squid Angel Mouse Tracks lens.

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image


      9 years ago

      What an awesome tribute to your father! Blessed by an Angel.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      9 years ago from Central Florida

      Fascinating. I'll be back to see the next installment. I grew up in KS in the 1950s, so this gives me insight into another side of life at that time.

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 

      9 years ago

      This is a fantastic lens for black history month. Great to learn a bit about Thomas Alexander! Blessed by an angel.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nice to meet Mr. Thomas Alexander. Neat how your mom read this and learned some stuff about her husband. :) ...Blessed.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man. No wonder you're proud of him. Blessed

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      9 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Amazing, can't wait for the next installment! Love the poem to the "Clerk in F. W. Woolworth (who doesn't trust me)" and the account of the sit-in at the diner. Gosh it makes it all so real, that this was life just a few short decades ago. Of course I know things are not perfect yet, but it certainly gives hope that things do change for the better.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is one of the most delightful Black History pages I've ever read. It is so personal too! I learned things about my husband that even I didn't know before, and it gives me an even greater appreciation for not just him, but his strong character. He is not just a jewel, he's a diamond!


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