About Sixty-four years ago, (c1944) when I was 16 years of age, I experienced my first and only Father/Son Banquet. It was held in the
auditorium. Some organization, whose name I do not remember even unto this day, sponsored this positive exposure experience for boys whose fathers were absent from the home. The purpose of this program was to expose fatherless boys to successful Black male role models for inspiration and growth. Pleasant memories and benefits are with me today as constant companions, in the mix that molded this character. Second Ward High School
I am now eighty one years of age. My father died before I was one year of age. In the absence of a male image, two strong Victorian women, my mother and her sister reared me. There were five other siblings to be reared.
My growth experience was void of a male companion and a provider. I did not know that our economic status was classified as “poor,” or that our community-type was designated as the “urban ghetto.” I did know that an organized body of Black males realized that it takes a village (community) to rear a child.
Figure 1 - James A. “Billboard” Jackson (L) and Zechariah Alexander, Sr. (R)
The program consisted of good food, of course, some musical entertainment but mainly an opportunity for Black boys to dialogue with successful Black men in the pursuit of establishing life’s goal, occupation, education, citizenship and the pursuit of happiness.
Both ‘fathers” did a fantastic job of planting seeds of aspiration in me. Even in death, I would want them to know that, their inspiration was not in vain.
I do not know what methodical system was used to pair a boy with a male host but I suspect that father Zechariah, Sr. pulled rank and selected me. Here are the reasons for my suspicion. As principal of the Alexander’s Funeral Home, Inc., that company buried my father in 1929. Mr. Zech remembered that I was a fatherless child who needed his love. He enrolled my siblings and me in the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Sunday School; his beloved late wife, Louise and my mother were neighbors and friends; his sons, Zech, Jr. and Kelly inspired me through organizational life; his grandsons, Zeck Wilbur and Andrew were my childhood playmates. So, is there any wonder why this businessman, a church man, a 33rd degree Mason, a community political power, a Sergeant Major who served in the 3rd North Carolina Infantry in the Spanish-American War, brother Zechariah, Sr. would choose me as his son for the evening?
Zechariah Alexander, Jr. Kelly Alexander
Mr. Alexander, Sr. had many national friends, one of which was James A. “Billboard” Jackson, a national public relations representative with Esso Standard Oil, now known as Exxon. Mr. Jackson was considered the oil industry’s leader in the early development of the first “special marketers” for Esso in the Negro community. “Billboard” had worked previously as a circus nickname because he had worked for Billboard Variety Magazine before joining Esso.
One indelible impression Mr. Jackson made on me was when we discussed my aspiring life’s occupation. He said, “
, it is easier for me to push a pen than a wheelbarrow.” I quickly saw the difference between a “white collar” job and a laborer. After returning to his Vernon office, Mr. Jackson continued his contact with me through the years, even as a New York student. Shaw University
Thank God for two great fathers in one evening, in whose presence my soul was delighted; men of character, nobility and success; men who stood so tall but stooped to lift a boy. I was impressed with their vision, insights and values. I am grateful for one night of significant male exposure. One night with a great substitute father was better than none at all.
A GOOD MAN TO KNOW!
KELLY M. ALEXANDER IS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 107 NORTH CAROLINA
Son of Kelly, Sr. & Queen Court Margaret Alexander
Grandson of Sergeant Major Zachariah Alexander
Nephew of the late Fred Alexander, the first Black City Council member and the first Black elected to the NC House.
Two other strong Black males played a fatherly role for this child. They were the late Rev. Dr. H. M Moore, the 10th Pastor of the
, and the late C. S. Gill, a deacon and Superintendent of the Sunday School. Ebenezer Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. H. M. Moore Deacon C. S. Gill
Josiah Gilbert Holland best summarizes my prayer, when he prayed and wrote:
God Give Us Men
God give us men. The time demands strong minds,
great hearts, true faith, and willing hands;
men whom the lust of office does not kill;
men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
men who possess opinions and a will;
men who have honor; men who will not lie;
men who stand before the demagogue and
damn his treacherous flatteries without winking;
Tall men, Sun Crowned, who live above the fog
in public duty and in private thinking.
For while the rabble, with their thumb worm creeds,
their large professions and their little deeds;
mingle in selfish strife, lo, Freedom weeps.