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Sadie Alexander, Black Pioneer, Dies At 93

November 3, 1989 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander, a lawyer and civil rights advocate who achieved many firsts as a black woman, has died of pneumonia at age 91.

Mrs. Alexander, the first black woman to practice law in Pennsylvania, died Wednesday at Cathedral Village in Philadelphia, where she had lived since 1983.

″She exemplified what one can achieve through hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence,″ said Constance E. Clayton, superintendent of schools in Philadelphia. ″With her passing, Philadelphia and indeed the nation, is experiencing the loss of a brillant, gifted woman, one that I will miss but never forget.″


Mrs. Alexander was the first black woman to earn a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania - and the first nationwide to earn a doctorate in economics. She was the first black woman to graduate from Penn’s Law School, and then the first admitted to legal practice in Pennsylvania.

Working for many years in practice with her husband, Raymond Pace Alexander, she was an ardent advocate for her clients, many of whom were women and children in domestic-relations cases.

Throughout the 1930s, Mrs. Alexander and her husband initiated legal fights that began to open up restaurants, hotels and movie theaters to blacks in Philadelphia.

″She was a brillant woman, a pioneer, a person whom not only the black community will miss but the law community and Americans as a whole, because she led so many fights and it’s going to be difficult to replace her,″ said Common Pleas Court Judge Eugene H. Clarke Jr..

She was national secretary of the Urban League for 25 years. For 17 years, until 1967, she served on the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. She held national and local offices with Americans for Democratic Action and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Along with her husband, she was one of the founders of the National Bar Association, an organization of black lawyers.

Born Jan. 2, 1898, in Philadelphia, her father was Aaron Mossell, who was the first black graduate of Penn Law School. Her uncle was the painter Henry O. Tanner. In 1986, the Philadelphia Bar Association named its public service center in honor of the Alexanders.

Her husband died in November 1974.