Archie Alphonse Alexander was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, on May 14, 1888 . He was the first African-American to graduate from the University of Iowa's College of Engineering. He earned his degree in civil engineering in 1912. While a student at Iowa, he also was a member of the varsity football team.
Alexander opened his own engineering firm of A.A. Alexander, Inc. in 1914, in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1917, Alexander and George F. Higbee entered into a partnership. Their engineering company specialized in building bridges, viaducts, and sewage systems throughout Iowa. In 1925, Higbee was killed in a construction accident. For the next several years Alexander continued the business alone. During this period he received several large construction contracts at his alma mater, including the University's power plant and tunnel system. In 1929, Maurice Repass joined him as a junior partner. They had been classmates at Iowa and had played football together. They went on to complete projects in most of the then forty-eight states. Between 1914 and 1950, Alexander's businesses completed over three hundred projects.
Alexander was also active outside of his business. He was president of the Des Moines chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was also president of the local chapter of the Inter-racial Commission. He was a trustee of both Howard University and the Tuskeegee Institute. Alexander directed that his estate be used to establish engineering scholarships at Howard University, Tuskeegee Institute, and the University of Iowa.
A.A. Alexander was an active Republican who twice served as assistant to the chairman of Iowa's Republican State Committee. Early in 1952, he joined the Eisenhower for President movement. His party loyalty was rewarded with the post of Governor of the Virgin Islands. Not well suited to diplomacy, Alexander served only one year. By 1955 his health was failing. Archie A. Alexander died of a heart attack on January 4, 1958.