“Captain” William Alexander, former president of The Latin Chamber of Commerce of the United States (CAMACOL), the largest Hispanic chamber of commerce in Florida, died Tuesday from natural causes at 94.
Alexander, who was born in Camagüey, Cuba, started working with CAMACOL in 1974. Five years later, he founded the Hemispheric Congress that promotes trade relations with Latin America.
“He was a great man and a great leader of the community, and he helped turn our community into what it is today. I’m proud to have served as his assistant for almost 20 years,” Patty Arias told el Nuevo Herald.
Alexander’s friends and colleagues remember him as “a perfect gentleman,” a man who was always well-dressed, bright and considerate.
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“He was a beautiful human being, always smiling, always had a nice word to say, a family man,” said Merrett Stierheim, Miami-Dade County’s former city manager.
“The last time we lunched, about six weeks ago, he had his suit jacket on, which he always wore. He was a classic gentleman,” said Bill Talbert, tourism chief for Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The three would lunch and play golf together almost every month. Stierheim’s wife Judy recalled that “there wasn’t one holiday that Mr. Alexander missed. He called for Christmas, Easter and every birthday.”
Golf was one of his great passions, and Alexander created the Golf Tournament of the Americas, now known as the Golf Tournament El Doral.
Affectionately called “the Captain” by all who knew him, he was a pilot for Eastern Airlines and a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Miami Today reported that his role at Eastern was a critical factor in the increase of passengers flying between Miami and Latin America.
Alexander assumed the presidency of CAMACOL in 2002 after the death of Luis Sabines.
Under Alexander’s stewardship, the chamber reached outward, to 18 other Latin American chambers of commerce and non-Hispanic business groups, including the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
“We agreed to work together to resolve common problems like transit, education, drugs and our youth,” Alexander told the Miami Herald in 2002. Former chamber president Bill Cullon applauded the approach at the time. “Bill knows the community well,” he told the Herald.
Alexander left CAMACOL in 2010 at 87 to dedicate more time to his family.
Alexander announced his retirement at the 45th anniversary of the Latin chamber. “All the anniversaries of CAMACOL have been for me sources of happiness, satisfaction and hope. For many years, I’ve been feeling a wonderful sentiment, and when I speak of our accomplishments and our projects, in my mind this gets translated to a promise for the future, which is the grand future of Miami and also of the Americas, because Miami is America.”
Services were held.
Miami Herald staff writer Howard Cohen contributed to this report.