Alumni Spotlight: William Alexander, ’54

Forced desegregation of restaurants in Georgia

Apr. 1, 2018

William H. Alexander was a Fulton County, GA Superior Court judge, state legislator, and civil rights attorney who successfully challenged segregation and discrimination. Born in Macon, Georgia, he graduated from Fort Valley State College in 1954. After serving in the Korean War, he earned a juris doctorate (J.D.) law degree from the University of Michigan and and a master of laws (L.L.M.) degree from Georgetown University.

He became a civil rights icon as the lead attorney in a case forcing the desegregation of the Pickrick restaurant owned by segregationist Georgia governor Lester Maddox. Other lawyers on his team included legal legends such as Constance Baker Motley and Burke Marshall. That victory set the precedent for the desegregation of all restaurants in the state. Alexander was among the first African-Americans elected to the Georgia Legislature after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, representing Atlanta from 1966-1975. He was known to tackle complex issues. After serving in the legislature, he served as a judge for 20 years, first as a Fulton County State Court judge and then as a Fulton County Superior Court judge until his retirement in 1996.

Read: U.S. District Court ruling in the Willis vs. Pickrick Restaurant case here.

Fort Valley State University