A man of forceful character and brilliant attainments,
William G. Alexander is an acknowledged leader in the business world, having
throughout the years of his commercial career met with such success that he now
occupies a merited position of power and influence throughout the
state. He was born in St. Louis, Mo., February 25, 1867, the son of the
late John Henderson Alexander, a native of Tennessee, who migrated to
California as one of the Argonauts of 1849. He tried his luck at mining
for two years and then was in business in Sacramento and later in San
Francisco. He returned to St. Louis in 1853 and 1863, in Decatur, Ill.,
married Susan Edmundson, a native of that state. In 1880 the Alexander
family came to California and settled in San Jose, where the father
became secretary of the Independent Mill and Lumber Company. His
death occurred on November 26, 1893; Mrs. Susan Alexander passed
away July 8, 1917. There are three survivors of the family; a
daughter, Mrs. Nellie A. Keith, and two sons, William G. and John E. Alexander,
the latter a resident of San Francisco.
William G. Alexander, who has made his own way from boyhood, was graduated from the San Jose high school, class of '83; and later he entered the College of the Pacific, but on account of impaired health, he was obliged to discontinue his studies. He then took up work in the office with his father, where he learned bookkeeping; and afterwards he was employed as a bookkeeper by the Crystal Palace Tea Co., a grocery firm. In 1887 he entered the employ of the Central Milling Company as an accountant, and when this company was incorporated with the Sperry Flour Company in 1892, he was made manager of the San Jose office. In that capacity he developed his wonderful executive ability, which was soon recognized by his employers, and in 1906 he was made a director and general sales manager as a reward for his fidelity and valued services.
In 1909, Mr. Alexander accepted the position of president and general manager of the Keystone Company, one of the largest wholesale grocery firms in Santa Clara County, at a time when they were occupying rented property with a frontage of forty feet; and such as been the extraordinary growth of the business under his leadership that today they have their own concrete building with a frontage of 178 feet and extending from market to San Pedro Street, with entrances from both streets. They have one of the most complete coffee- roasting plants on the Pacific Coast, and they carry an extensive line of staple and fancy groceries, as well as a complete line of paper and wooden ware. They employ eight salesmen at present, who carefully cover the territory from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo all working systematically under Mr. Alexander, who has devoted much thought an time to the perfection of the best business methods and plans. One more characteristic that makes Mr. Alexander stand preeminent in San Jose is his thoughtfulness for the comfort and welfare of his employees at the Keystone Company. At considerable expense he equipped a well-appointed, sanity lunch room for their convince, overlooking nothing that would add to their comfort. The highest wages are paid by him and each employee of the large plant has shown a loyalty to him that is most commendable He is also President and general manager of the Alexander-Balart Company of San Francisco, an exclusive coffee company which has built up a very lucrative trade in the Pacific Coast states.
Mr. Alexander has been a director and the secretary of the Garden City Bank and Trust Company for the past twenty-three years, and is a member of the executive committee- a very important factor in building up the bank's extensive business. He is the president of the Conservative Realty Company, which has built up South First Street. For nearly fifteen years he served as vice-president and director of the San Jose Mutual Building and Loan Association, and during that period their concern was an important factor in furnishing funds and helping its members to acquire suitable homes, thereby building up the city. Later, he withdrew from this association and engaged in the banking business because of the larger opportunity offered.
He was one of the organizers of the California Prune and Apricot Growers, Inc., is secretary of the executive committee and a member of the board of directors, and was appointed by Governor Stephens as the state's representative on the board. When the local association was in course of organization. He is a live wire in the Chamber of Commerce and ah past member of the board of manager, and has appeared before various chambers in the county. and elsewhere in the interest of community welfare work for several years past. He is one of three men who bought the lot and erected the Alexandria building, named in his honor, on the corner of Second and San Antonio streets. Mr. Alexander has the distinction of being one of the freeholders who drafted the charter for the commission form of government for San Jose. He is a member o the Lions; County and Commercial clubs of San Jose. As one of the organizers and for fifteen yeas the president of the San Jose Coffee Club a philanthropic enterprise of the community, he aided in building up, from a small beginning to a large business undertaking, a philanthropy that has rendered a necessary and valuable service to many.
Mr. Alexander is a Mason, belonging to San Jose Lodge NO. 10, F. & A. M., Howard Chapter No. 14, R. A. M., San Jose Commandery NO. 10, K. T., of which he is a past commander; is a member and past patron of both San Jose Chapter No. 31, O. E. S. and Saint Claire Court No. 31, Order of Amaranth. Mr. Alexander was one of the incorporating directors of the Masonic Hall Association and elected the first president, holding office from 1902 to 1911, when he resigned on account of pressure of private business. He was one of the leading spirits and most prominent factors in building the Masonic Hall in San Jose, one of the best appointed and finest temples on the coast and to no one is ore credit due for this beautiful edifice than he. He was formerly a Presbyterian, serving for years as an elder of the Second Presbyterian Church of San Jose ; was active on various important church committees for thirty years and did his full share to build up the membership; was once elected Moderator of the San Jose Presbytery and at one time was the representative at the General Assembly in St. Louis; but is now a member of the Christian Assembly. He was a charter member and one of the most active workers in the local Y. M. C. A. and served as its president; in fact has served on every committee and did yeoman service to maintain the association, was one of the few who stood behind it and reorganized and put the present body on its feet, serving as the first president after reorganization. He has contributed liberally of both time and money to maintain the organization, and is also a past president of the State Y. M. C. A.
Deeply interested in the welfare of the young people, Mr. Alexander was for seven years superintendent of the Intermediate Christian Endeavor Society of the Presbyterian Church and during those years never missed a meeting. He was one of the organizers of the Santa Clara County C. E. Union, active in the work of that that he state organization, and has served as president of both. During the World War he was an active member of the county executive committee and threw himself whole-heartedly into the work of the organization for raising funds and conserving the resources of the county in the cause of the Allies and largely through his influence Santa Clara County went "over the top" in ever bond and benefit drive. As a 100% American he subscribed liberally to every bond issue and contributed to every cause. He was one of the "Four Minute Men' and stumped the state for the various causes necessary to win the war.
Mr. Alexander was united in marriage on December 23, 1890, in San Joe, with Miss Edith Cory, a native daughter born into the family of Dr. Benjamin Cory and his wife, pioneer of the 1847 in California. She attended the public schools and the College of the Pacific and grew up in San Jose. The have an adopted daughter, Ruth L. who married Merle A. Elliott of Chico on July 4, 1918, and there is a granddaughter , Ruth Edith Elliott.
It will be seen from the foregoing that Mr. Alexander contributes generously of both his time and means to advance the moral and educational, as well as the commercial life of the city, county and state. He is a firm believer in progress in all things, is public spirited to a high degree and always ready to lend his aid to every worth-while project where the welfare of the people is concerned. He gives for the joy of giving and for the pleasure it brings to others, all charitable organizations find in him a warm friend and his philanthropies are many and varied. His neighbors have always been his warmest friends- a pretty fair test of a self-made man's real worth, and the esteem he enjoys-and all with whom he has been associated have felt the force and influence of his large and generous nature.
Sawyer, Eugene T,History of Santa Clara County, California :
with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county
who have been identified with its growth and development from the early
days to the present
Los Angeles, Calif.: Historic Record Co., 1922, 1776 pgs.
page 316, 319, 320
Transcribed by CDF