Raymond Pace Alexander was born on October 13, 1898, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a working-class black family. Raymond’s parents, like many African Americans in the 1860s and 1870s, had fled the rural South in search of economic opportunities and an escape from Jim Crow violence. Alexander’s father was a “riding master” who taught wealthy Philadelphia whites how to ride horses. Alexander was eleven years old when his mother, Virginia, died of pneumonia.
Alexander was awarded a merit scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with honors after three years. He was the first black graduate of the Wharton School of Business in 1920, and he then enrolled in Harvard University Law School, where he got his J.D. in 1923, at the age of 26.
Sadie Tanner Mossell, a former University of Pennsylvania classmate, became the first African American woman to earn a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1927, and she was also the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Alexander became the first black graduate of the Wharton School of Business in the late 1920s and subsequently enrolled in Harvard University Law School, where he got a J.D. degree in 1923 at the age of 26.
Alexander made lifetime friendships and friends at Harvard and used the experience to propel himself to a slew of triumphs upon his return to Philadelphia. Because of his influence, he encouraged other black attorneys to become civil rights advocates across the country and provide legal guidance, resulting in more equitable decisions regarding African Americans by the courts.