Trailblazers for Justice

The Philadelphia Bar Foundation is proud to announce and recognize TRAILBLAZERS FOR JUSTICE in Philadelphia.
This initiative developed from the important work in 2015-16 of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Bar Foundation in rebranding the former Andrew Hamilton Ball as the "Access to Justice Benefit - Uniting Our Community for Legal Aid".
Trailblazers for Justice led the way in Philadelphia for creating equal access to justice for all.  The lives of these individuals serve as historical role models and demonstrate the rich diversity of contributions that have made our community what it is today.  
Trailblazers have much to teach us about commitment to justice for those struggling with poverty, abuse, and discrimination.  Through their brilliance, personal courage, and use of exceptional talents, these trailblazers advanced the cause of civil rights.  They literally changed the face of leadership in this city, opening doors that had once been closed to far too many Philadelphians.  They inspire us for the work that still lies ahead. 
Starting in 2016, the Bar Foundation will feature a Trailblazer for Justice each year at our Access to Justice Benefit.  By honoring these historical leaders, we recognize that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and whose lives and contributions, from different backgrounds and circumstances, have shaped who we are.

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander (1898-1989)
Legendary civil rights leader.
President, Philadelphia Bar Foundation (1973).
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation is proud to announce Sadie T.M. Alexander as the inaugural Trailblazer for Justice.  The Bar Foundation has long cherished our connection to such an esteemed civil rights leader.  Her beautiful portrait hangs in our lobby, together with a portrait of her husband and partner, the distinguished jurist and lawyer, Hon. Raymond Pace Alexander (1898 - 1974).  They fought together for access to justice for all, winning many crucial battles for civil rights.  Ms. Alexander set many firsts in her trailblazing life, including:
  • 1921 First African-American and first African-American woman in the nation to earn a Ph.D. in economics.
  • 1927 First African-American woman to earn a law degree at Univ. of Penn. Law School, and then pass the bar in PA.
  • 1927 First African-American woman to serve as assistant city solicitor of Philadelphia. Served 1927-31 and 1936-40.
  • 1947 Appointed to the President's Committee on Civil Rights by President Harry S. Truman.
  • 1959 Opened a private law practice after her husband, Hon. Raymond Pace Alexander, was appointed judge in the Phila. Court of Common Pleas, the first African-American to serve in this position.
  • 1978 Appointed chairperson of the White House Conference on Aging by President Jimmy Carter.
Ms. Alexander is truly a historical trailblazer.  She was immortalized in this 1948 comic book for children.  And click here to read some incredible letters of recommendation written in 1924, supporting her admission to law school.  (The letters are difficult to read, both because of their age and poor visual quality, and because of the negative assumptions about race and gender.)
Additional online resources about Sadie T.M. Alexander are available - "Life and Accomplishments" and "A Role Model for Future Generations", both from the University of Pennsylvania Almanac.  
Most notably, the powerful team of Hon. Raymond Pace Alexander and Sadie T.M. Alexander worked together as husband and wife to create equal access to justice for all.  They formed a law firm together, litigated key civil rights cases, and worked together against discrimination throughout their lives.  Judge Alexander was the first black graduate of the Wharton School of Business (in 1920 prior to attending law school), led the the enactment of Pennsylvania's first Civil Rights Law (1935), brought some of the first school desegregation cases in the 1930's, and was the first African American judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (1959).  Additional information about Judge Alexander is summarized by the American National Biography Online and the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.