Fleming Alexander

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The Rev. Fleming Emory Alexander (April 14, 1888 – December 13, 1980) was a noted minister, businessman and newspaper publisher. Alexander founded and published the Roanoke Tribune in Roanoke, Virginia, which is one of the nation's longest-running black newspapers.[1] He was also a noted anti-segregationist.

Early life[edit]

Alexander was born on 14 April 1888 in Christiansburg, Virginia. After the death of his mother, he and his eight siblings were separated and raised by foster parents, the Alexander family. He never knew his parents, and as a child his surname was "Poor".[2]

He was an ordained Baptist minister, and held pastorates in Rustburg, Virginia, Christiansburg and Buchanan, Virginia. He was the minister of the Schaeffer Baptist Church, now part of the Old Christiansburg Industrial Institute in Christiansburg, Virginia, when he founded the Roanoke Tribune.[3] Alexander learned the printing trade in Kentucky and went on to work for newspapers throughout the South. Before moving to Roanoke, he worked with the Atlanta Daily World and Louisburg Reporter. He served in France during WWI in the 802nd Pioneer Infantry regiment, then returned to Lynchburg where he operated a private printing business and taught printing at the Virginia Theological Seminary.[3][4]

Fleming Alexander came to Roanoke, Virginia, in 1939, and at the height of the Great Depression, founded the Roanoke Tribune. The Tribune was Western Virginia's only African American owned newspaper, and focused on the black community. He had gained experience as a printer and journalist before coming to Roanoke.[5]

Roanoke Tribune[edit]

Fleming E. Alexander founded the Roanoke Tribune newspaper in 1939 at 5 Gilmer Avenue, later moved to 312 Henry Street, and then to Melrose Avenue in Roanoke. As an African-American newspaper, it brought attention against the Jim Crow laws of Roanoke and Western Virginia, and championed black representation on Roanoke's public boards and better schools for the black children in the segregated South.[5] The Tribune was published weekly on Saturdays and included local interest columns as well as statewide, national, and international news.[4]

The Tribune took an early stand against segregation. Indeed, the motto on the masthead proclaimed: "Only Negro newspaper published in South Western Virginia."[6] The newspaper has a printed purpose: "1) to promote self-esteem; 2) to encourage RESPECT for self and differences in others, and 3) to help create lasting vehicles through which diverse peoples can unite on some common basis."[7]

Later, because of poor health after a car accident in 1971, he sold the Roanoke Tribune to his daughter, Claudia Alexander Whitworth.[8] The Roanoke Tribune celebrated its 75th anniversary on April 9, 2014. A recent video history of the newspaper is available.[9]


Fleming Alexander was an early advocate of desegregation in Virginia's schools. After the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, decision, Alexander was adamant in desegregating Virginia's schools.[2] He was one of five black leaders in Virginia to meet with Governor Thomas B. Stanley to discuss the impact of the Brown decision on Virginia, and Stanley's intention of keeping the schools separate.[10]

Early on, the newspaper fought against the massive resistance program to block Virginia's schools racial integration, which was supported by the powerful Byrd Organization in state politics.

However, he was also an opponent of rapid integration, which caused conflicts with other black leaders in Roanoke. A defamation suit against ten ministers was settled out of court, and apparently amiably.[11]

He died on December 13, 1980 in New York City,[12] and is buried at the Roselawn Cemetery in Christiansburg, Virginia.[13]


  1. ^ "Claudia Whitworth".
  2. ^ a b Ewing, Kelley (2020). "'A Condition Which Is Inevitable': F. E. Alexander And The Struggle For Desegregation". The UnCommonwealth: Voices from the Library of Virginia. Retrieved 2021-08-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b Shareef, Reginald. The Roanoke Valley's African American Heritage: A Pictorial History. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Co, 1996.Page 124. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/34690904
  4. ^ a b "Tribune — Browse by title — Virginia Chronicle: Digital Newspaper Archive". virginiachronicle.com. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  5. ^ a b Roanoke Times. "Discover History & Heritage: Exploring the People and Places of Southwest Virginia". 2015. Issue 3 originally published with the copyrighted February 25, 2016 edition of The Roanoke Times. "Fleming E. Alexander". Page 51. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/930723037
  6. ^ The Tribune. Roanoke, Va: F.E. Alexander, 1940. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/39072118
  7. ^ Roanoke Tribune
  8. ^ "The Roanoke Tribune’s 70th Anniversary – Nikki Giovanni Video". April 26, 2009
  9. ^ "The History of the Roanoke Tribune".
  10. ^ "The Desegregation of Southampton County, Virginia Schools, 1954 - 1970" by Carolyn Carter Modlin. Doctoral Theses. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Blacksburg, Virginia. 1998. Page 18.
  11. ^ Roanoke Times and World News. December 14, 1980. Pages B4-B5.
  12. ^ Roanoke Times and World News. December 14, 1980. Pages B4-B5.
  13. ^ "Fleming E. Alexander".