Alice M. Leonard, a longtime local member of Democratic Socialists of America and champion of many progressive causes, celebrated her 100th birthday on July 22, 2017.
Leonard, who has lived in Alexandria for 72 years, is a charter member of DSA from its founding in 1982. She was one of Northern Virginia’s most active and committed members, both when it was initially a separate local as well as after it merged into what became Metro-DC DSA later in the 1980s.
Leonard’s involvement in DSA has been only a part of a lifelong commitment to progressive activism. Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg recognized her birthday by issuing a proclamation in which she called Leonard “an agent of change” and a champion of “integration, civil rights and social justice.” Leonard, the proclamation notes, was a pioneer in the fight against segregation in Virginia, becoming the “first white woman to teach in the segregated schools of Alexandria.” That was only the beginning of a long record of activism through DSA, Common Cause, the Alexandria Democratic City Committee and other organizations and causes.
The text of Mayor Silberberg’s proclamation follows:
P R O C L A M A T I O N
WHEREAS, Alice M. Leonard was born 100 years ago in 1917 in Rahway, New Jersey, to George and Anna Keegan McCarter, received her teaching certificate from the Potsdam Normal School, today a part of the State University of New York; and
WHEREAS, Alice Leonard and her late husband, Herbert Leonard, moved to the City of Alexandria, Virginia, in 1945 where she has resided for the past seventy-two years raising two daughters who attended Alexandria Public Schools; and
WHEREAS, moving from New York to Virginia, she found Virginia to be a racially segregated state, and she was determined to devote her time and energy to become an agent of change in her new community. Working as a substitute teacher in the Public School system of this City, she was the first white woman to teach in the segregated schools of Alexandria. She continued her work with the Brownies, Girl Scouts and PTA’s of the City to call for and effect change. As a member of the North Ridge Citizens’ Association, she contributed time and talent to neighborhood betterment. She was an early member of Common Cause and joined this bipartisan organization to be a voice for change and an independent watchdog for corruption and injustice. As a member of the Democratic City Committee, she spoke out time and again for the cause of integration, civil rights, and social justice. She picketed, marched, and protested throughout the 1960s and joined hundreds of thousands to hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall in 1963. Mrs. Leonard encouraged young Alexandrians to seek political office, and one of her dreams came true when she encouraged a young black man to run for the office of Sheriff in Alexandria. She campaigned long and hard for him, and while he did not win, his campaign manager went on, with the help of Mrs. Leonard and other like-minded Alexandrians, to become the first African American elected to City Council since Reconstruction. She continued to work to elect women, African Americans, and the underrepresented to political office, recognizing the attainment of constitutional representation as the key to overcoming social injustice. The election of the first African American President was a culmination of Alice Leonard’s lifelong dream. To this day, she remains committed to a country, a state, and a city that reaches out to all of its residents with equal justice under the law and for all; and
WHEREAS, Alice Leonard’s seven decades of contributions to and civic involvement in this City helped to create the diverse, vital, and extraordinary community we call home. And it is fitting that the City of Alexandria and her citizens recognize and applaud the seventy years of service of Alice M. Leonard.