Tom Alexander, Jr.
Born Friday, February 16th, 1934 - Died Wednesday, September 10th, 2003
Thomas Alexander, Jr., who died September 10th, 2003, in the Elsmere VA hospital, was many things to many people -- judicial gadfly, instigator, activist, father, friend, cadger of meals, raconteur, all-around curmudgeon -- but to the seemingly endless succession of men and women calling in the last few weeks who shared their memories of him with me he was something more. He was the Court of Last Resort for the demoralized, hopeless, and downtrodden.
That last role, which became his avocation -- if not crusade, fell upon him because of an incident over some church bells and the Royal British Navy.
Tom, from the time he was two, was reared in England, attending a prestigious public school, after which he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16. This service sent him on adventures all over the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf during the early 1950s, including when in Yemen he had to, on his own initiative as acting officer of the watch, repel an insurgent-laden skiff with a fire-fighting water-cannon to avoid a volatile political incident during the months preceding the seizure of the Suez Canal.
It was during this period of service that, to Tom's astonishment, he learned from military records that he was actually born in America, in San Francisco, a fact hidden from him during his childhood by his mother, who had denied him his father and his true identity. He hastened at the end of his enlistment to claim his birthright, although he always retained a love and deep respect for the nation of his youth.
When Tom divorced in 1975, he wished to engage in a special undertaking with his three teenage sons. It had been announced that, in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial, Her Royal Majesty's Yacht [manned, of course, by Tom's old service the Royal British Navy] would be sailing past Old New Castle to Philadelphia. Since New Castle-on-the-Green boasted one of only eleven full sets of bells in North America, Tom wanted himself and his sons to participate in tolling the bells in salute of Her Majesty's visit.
Tom made what he considered the entirely reasonable request, as part of the custody order, for him to have the boys on Thursday, the traditional day set aside for students of bell-changes. The judge denied him this request, treating Tom as if he as a parent had abandoned his rights as a citizen when he stepped into Family Court.
So began a 28-year mission for Thomas Alexander, Jr., to instruct the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, and a seemingly cowed public to the rights, privileges, and powers inherent to the American "sovereign citizen".
Tom never made a lot of money. He did make a great many enemies, however. Tom was never afraid to announce in that ringing basso profundo bellow of his, "The Emperor has no clothes!" or to take an unpopular stand on his principles, as over the absurdity of a closed Delaware Family Court when the Delaware Bill of Rights dictates explicitly that "all Courts shall be open".
He also forged a loyal following among those men and women, who deprived of their children or grandchildren or heritages through closed-adoptions, sought some avenue to restoration and justice. In many instances, when the courts and law had failed them, Tom Alexander would champion their cause.
Tom, with four others, founded Male Parents for Equal Rights in 1975 and was one of the founding directors of the National Congress for Fathers and Children. He was invited to Washington by the Carter and Reagan administrations to contribute to, respectively, the drafting of the federal Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act.
In his own consideration, his greatest accomplishments were the illegally abducted children whom he reunited with their lawful guardians, some of these recoveries conducted by his own hands in far-flung States.
Tom, who lived on the verge of poverty and in ill-health for as long as I knew him in the last dozen years of his life, managed these legal miracles on a shoestring. The people who joined the pilgrimage to his door had been typically made destitute by their long struggles through the courts. Tom's first task was to educate them in their rights and powers under the law by pointing them to the Constitution and the statutes, demanding they act on their own behalf to reclaim their sovereignty. He would then teach them to craft winning arguments and he would format those documents they had crafted in a manner acceptable to the courts. All of this he did for the going rate of a hired typist, a few dollars a page. Frequently, Tom would jettison the typing fee if he felt the cause especially just and settle for a bag lunch as compensation for his time and acumen.
The one lesson Tom taught repeatedly to those legions was, "In this country, the law is not owned by the lawyers or the judges; it is owned by the people." His very name, Alexander, meant "defender of men". I can still see the wry twinkle in his eye when I pointed out that to him.
Thomas Alexander, Jr., was a giant and a giant-hearted man; a unique, one of a kind character, of whom we unfortunately will never see the like again.
James J. Brannon
I found a picture of Big Tom from the 1990 NCMC's Tenth Anniversary Convention in Houston. I shot this just before Tom gave one of his famous Seminars on September 14th. I had asked him if he wanted to join me for a beer after his seminar finished, and he responded by saying, "OK, just one." Putting up one finger, he continued, "One six-pack, that is." - Dr. Ken Lewis
Tom is a FATHER and founding director of the National Congress for Fathers and Children (NCFC, originally the National Congress for Men, in 1981). He served as NCM's "Sergeant at Arms" at several early conventions, and was well known for his July 4th annual participation in Delaware Historic Militia parades and revolutionary war reenactments wearing his colorful colonial uniform. In later years, he suffered from Diabetes and other debilitating illness, and was confined to bed in his trailer-home in Delaware, from which he telephonically advised thousands of fathers on their litigative problems, and helped to write numerous pro-se legal documents for them. (Another founding director, 7 years younger than Tom.)
May the respect that Tom showed to Fathers during his life be accepted by governments after his death.
Bob Hirschfeld, JD
I MET TOM IN 1975 IN MINNESOTA AT THE ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING OF "MEN'S EQUALITY NOW." AFTER THAT, I INVITED HIM TO BE A GUEST SPEAKER IN MY COLLEGE "SOCIAL ACTIVISM" CLASSES IN NORTH CAROLINA.
FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS, I VISITED HIM IN HIS DELAWARE OFFICE WHENEVER MY WORK AS A CUSTODY EVALUATOR BROUGHT ME TO THE PHILADELPHIA AREA.
WHEN I MOVED TO PHILADELPHIA IN 1980, I FREQUENTLY MET AND WORKED WITH TOM ON CUSTODY CASES IN DELAWARE, NEW JERSEY, PENNSYLVANIA, AND MARYLAND.
TOM WAS ALREADY ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF "NATIONAL CONGRESS FOR MEN" WHEN I JOINED IN 1985, AND WE WORKED ON COMMITTEES TOGETHER TRYING TO EFFECT CHANGES IN LEGISLATION TO KEEP FATHERS MORE INVOLVED IN THEIR CHILDREN'S LIVES AFTER SEPARATION OR DIVORCE.
TOM WAS ONE OF THE STRONGEST SUPPORTERS OF MY MOTION TO CHANGE THE NAME OF NCM TO "NATIONAL CONGRESS FOR MEN AND CHILDREN" AND WE WERE FINALLY SUCCESSFUL IN 1989.
TOM SERVED ON THE 1990 CONVENTION COMMITTEE I CHAIRED, AND HELPED MAKE THAT YEAR'S NATIONAL CONVENTION IN TEXAS THE LARGEST TURNOUT EVER.
WHEN TOM BECAME SICK A FEW YEARS AGO, I VISITED HIM AT HIS HOME IN DELAWARE AND KEPT IN TOUCH BY WEEKLY TELEPHONE UNTIL ABOUT A YEAR AGO.
I ADMISRED TOM'S SENSE OF HUMOR AND HIS EXTRAORDINARY SENSE OF HISTORY. HIS PASSING IS TRULY A LOSS TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.
I WILL MISS HIM GREATLY. - Dr. Ken Lewis
Tom Alexander was a great man, one of the early luminaries of the men's rights movement. I had the pleasure to work alongside Tom on several cases and to have him as a guest in my home. It was always an honor to call Tom a friend, but it was an even greater honor to have him call you a friend.
Tom was a brilliant legal strategist and general pain in the ass to those who viewed men as enemies. In Tom's lifetime thousands of fathers were able to be major roles in their children's lives thanks to the tireless work of Tom Alexander.
Tom was always controversial and a lightning rod, which anyone is who is doing pioneering work. Tom was unpopular with politicians and radical man hating feminists, but he is loved by the many thousands of DADS he helped. We have lost one of the greats produced by the movement. Tom was, in many ways a real heavyweight.
On September 11, 2003 a little known hero passed away. His name was Thomas Alexander. To many his name may be unfamiliar but to thousands of fathers and children whom he helped over the last three decades his name is not only familiar but will never be forgotten.
Following his divorce and experiencing the callous indifference shown him by a now deceased Family Court Judge as he sought his right to shared custody and meaningful contact with his children Tom Alexander set out to assist other fathers and children in their efforts to secure their most fundamental of rights; the right to be loved and nurtured by both one's parents and the right of a father to love and nurture his children.
Tom sacrificed much in his crusade for equal treatment under the law for fathers. He lived in poverty throughout those thirty years and suffered the harassment of authorities; even once being sanctioned by the courts for his efforts. But he never wavered from his convictions nor ceased in his efforts.
Countless fathers shuffled through his cluttered and sparsely furnished mobile home that was his home and base of operation in the fight for justice. They would come distraught and panicked at the realization that the Family Court did not recognize their value to their children. And in his cantankerous but always righteous and impassioned way Tom would set to drafting petitions and motions to secure their and those of their children's rights.
Meanwhile, he lobbied the Legislature and cajoled the "powers that be" to reform the law and practices under which the Family Court made fathers weekend "visitors" to their children and wallets to their former wives.
Thomas Alexander sacrificed his considerable talents and intellect to the struggle for father's rights. He was unknown to most but those "powers that be" with whom he tussled and the fathers he helped but he was instrumental in effecting the lives of countless fathers and children who benefited from the changes he wrought.
This hero lives on through the laws and practices that his efforts changed, through those fathers and children and through the legacy he left to be carried on by those of us to whom he past the torch over the last few years as his health declined.
David R. Burroughs
I remember him best at the Denver meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Congress for Men (N.C.M. … later N.C.M.C.) 1986, I think it was.
We were assembled in the Board Room, and a "discussion" was underway. Tom was chiding me about something he disagreed with: I'll be damned if I remember what. I do remember, however, standing between Tom, his old friend Al Lebow (Detroit's answer to Wilt the Stilt), and Nat Denman (pugilist extraordinaire, founder of Justice Pro Se, New York City). I remember feeling very, very small.
The preceding Friday night, I'd watched Tom and Ken Lewis (Dr. Lewis is founder and President of Child Custody Inc, Philadelphia) escort crying fathers from the N.C.M.C.'s "Soap Box": the "podium of truth", where father after father after father took the soapbox to tell the story of his own children. More often than not, the tale recounted how those children were placed forever beyond his reach. Tom and Ken flanked those fathers and that soapbox like good soldiers: leading the weeping men away from the tales of their own tragedies.
I never counted myself among Tom's close friends: rather, an admirer and compatriot who knew that Tom was poor … but never in spirit. His momentum in the Movement have made possible a thousand new beginnings and have empowered at least that many parents and grandparents, as they struggled for a place in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Tom revelled in the fact that I was a Canadian: a loyal member of her Majesty's Commonwealth, unlike the "cowardly sots to Canada's south who had mistakenly departed from service to the Crown, with its magic and mystique" (Tom's words, not mine). In his usual, booming parlance, he would proclaim the presence of this friend from the "Commonwealth to the North", as we moved toward the bar and a beer, the path clearing before us like the proverbial red sea.
While I'll miss Tom, he'll never truly be among the departed. He's as close as the smile that comes to these old lips whenever I think back to his place in the movement and in all of our hearts.
A. Barry S. Bien
Barry Bien, L.L.B., is a Canadian legal advocate and writer, and one-time Director of the National Congress for Men and Children. He may be reached at bienbarry/at/sympatico.ca