Clifford L. Alexander Jr. was born in New York City on September 21, 1933, the son of Clifford L. and Edith (McAllister) Alexander. Alexander received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from Harvard University (1955) and a L.L.B. degree from the Yale University Law School in 1958. In 1959, Alexander became Assistant District Attorney for New York County. From 1961 to 1962, he became the Executive Director of the Manhattanville Hamilton Grange Neighborhood Conservation Project (1961-62).
Alexander left the private practice of law in New York City in 1963 to become a Foreign Affairs Officer in the National Security Council (NCS) in Washington D.C. The next year, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him as a Special Assistant to the President; then, in succession, Associate Special Counsel and Deputy Special Counsel to the President. From 1967 to 1969, Alexander served as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). In 1968, he was also named a special representative of the President, with the rank of ambassador. In this capacity, he led the U.S. delegation to ceremonies marking the independence of Swaziland. After Alexander left the EEOC, he returned to the private practice of law.
President Jimmy Carter selected Alexander as his Secretary of Army in 1977, the first African American ever to occupy this cabinet-level position. As Secretary of the Army, Alexander was chief of administration, training, operations, logistical support, and preparedness for the Department of the Army. He had responsibility for a budget of more than $33 billion. While Army Secretary, he became a strong champion of the concept of an all-volunteer army.
After President Carter left office in 1981, Alexander again returned to the private practice of law and founded a consulting firm, Alexander & Associates, Inc. This firm consulted with a variety of Fortune 500 companies on effective recruitment and promotion of minorities and women. In addition to being President of Alexander & Associates, Alexander has served as the Board of Directors for American Home Products Corporation, MCI Worldcom, IMS Health, and Mutual of America. Alexander also has been a member of the Board of Governors for the American Stock Exchange.
In 1999 when Dun & Bradstreet Corporation’s chief executive officer retired, Alexander was chosen by the corporation to temporarily oversee the operations of the 1.97 billion dollar company as well as oversee the search for a permanent CEO.