About Archibald Alexander

  • Archibald Alexander Archibald Alexander, born in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1888, broke through many barriers throughout his life. He was one of the first African-Americans to play for the University of Iowa football team and the first African-American to earn a degree in civil engineering from the University of Iowa in 1912.

    After enrolling at the University of Iowa, Archibald joined the football team, where he was a three-year starting tackle and earned the nickname "Alexander the Great." After graduating from the University of Iowa’s engineering program, he continued his studies and obtained his civil engineering degree from Iowa State University in 1925.

    After graduating, Alexander worked as a foreman for Marsh Engineering Company before forming his own engineering company at the age of 26. He and his company partners built freeways and apartments, airfields, sewage systems, power plants and trestles. With his business partner, George Higbee, Alexander designed the Tuskegee Airfield and the University of Iowa central heating plant, its power plant, and a major steam tunnel beneath the Iowa River.

    In 1934, Alexander was appointed as one of a 12-member commission to investigate the social and economic conditions in Haiti. In 1946, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Engineering by Howard University. A final and interesting accomplishment in 1954, Alexander was appointed Governor of the United States Virgin Islands by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.