Mary Alexander, a driving force for preserving black heritage, died this week

Becky Campbell • Updated Jan 18, 2019 at 7:03 PM

A beloved Johnson City woman known for her activism on behalf of not only the black community but the city as a whole, died this week, leaving behind a legacy of action.

Former Washington County Commissioner Mary Alexander died Wednesday.

She was a driving force in the effort to restore the once-segregated Langston High School at 244 E. Myrtle Ave.

In 2015, she went head-to-head with the city about the deterioration of the building.

“As far as the Langston Heritage Group, there’s nothing we can do without the city’s help,” Alexander said in 2015. “The school system has asked the city to put a roof on that building for years. Now that it’s fallen apart, don’t call me and ask what we’re going to do. It’s the city’s fault the building is in that shape. The roof has been in the works for years, and they keep putting it off. If that building is torn down, Johnson City will be the only community within 50 miles that has not preserved a segregated school.”

Michael Young, who was a couple of years behind Alexander in school, said her death was a great loss to the city because of the wealth of knowledge of segregation history here.

“If I had to use one word to describe Mary, I would have to say ‘committed,’” Young said on Friday. 

“She was committed and she will be greatly missed. Her knowledge and the things she did for this community, we can only be blessed that we had her,” he said. Young suggested that all Johnson City residents should read Alexander’s thesis about black heritage in Washington County.

Birchette Mortuary is handling Alexander’s services, and its website was filled with tributes to her:

• “Great lady kept us young kids in line growing on Wilson Avenue. Prayers for the family.” — Larry Black

• “My condolences to the family. She was always smiling when I saw her! She is going to be missed.” — Anthony W. Adams

• “I love you my dear friend. I will cherish our memories forever. Already missing the laughter.” — Moricina & Gary Fain

• “Praying God grant you strength and grace through this difficult time. Mary will be missed and her contributions to the community will forever be remembered. Peace and comfort.” — anonymous

• “I am so sorry for the passing of one of God’s gifts to the world. She truly was a lady of action one was directed from God one would stand fast.” — Rev. Nobleton

• “Expressing deepest condolences, love and prayers at Mary’s passing. There is comfort in knowing she’s resting peacefully, awaiting that great, glad day when Christ returns! We pray precious memories sustain you all through this season of bereavement. Love, “Queen” and Family.” — Cheryl Rhea

• “Mary was a strong pillar to our community, but I hold a special place in my heart for this strong warrior. I will never forget the words she said to me when my sister passed away several years ago. She felt my grief and pain then she gave me the strongest hug. She whispered in my ear and said "remember when you have done all you could do, just stand and hold your head up high." I can't tell you how many times her words have resonated in my mind, and carried me through. I pray these word will give the family comfort as well.” — Lee & Lydia Bridwell

• “Mary Alexander was a wonderful lady. She will be greatly missed. May God comfort and bless her family at this time.” — Nancy Akins Posey

As of late Friday, Alexander’s funeral service was scheduled for Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. at Friendship Baptist Church in Johnson City. The family will receive friends from noon until 1 p.m. prior to the service. She will be interred at Washington County Memorial Gardens.

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