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Fri, 05.15.1925

Cressworth Lander, Arizona Community Leader born

Cressworth Lander

*Cressworth C. Lander was born on this date in 1925.  He was a Black government administrator and community activist.  

From Tucson, AZ., he was the second of five children, the son of Julia Belle Watson Lander and James Franklin Lander, who served with the Army’s 24th Buffalo Soldier infantry.  He attended Dunbar School, graduating as valedictorian of his class. After attending Tucson High School, he served with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II at Camp Lejeune, N.C., achieving the rank of gunnery sergeant.  After discharge, he began his career in public service with the state of Arizona.

During the mid-1960s, worked for the Office of Economic Opportunity as the local Community Action Programs field coordinator. In 1969 he was hired as Model Cities director for Tucson. Model Cities was a federal government program designed to reverse the debilitating effects of prejudice and studied neglect in urban communities. As a director, Lander created one of the top Model Cities programs in the country. The legacy of his efforts remains institutionalized today. In 1979, the Carter Administration recognized his management and leadership skills by recruiting him to become the managing director of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) in Washington, D.C. He took a two-year leave of absence from the city of Tucson to run the CAB and sunset the agency.

During his tenure with the CAB, he became a charter member of the federal government's Senior Executive Service. Returning to Tucson in 1981, Cress continued to provide innovative leadership within the city government. He retired from Tucson in 1992, but he still served the community in many capacities, one of which was board chair of The Dunbar Coalition, Inc., which is renovating Dunbar School, the segregated institution he attended as a child. After being elected chair in 2002, he jumpstarted efforts to raise funds to renovate the school, bringing in over 4 million in public and private funds for the project.  In addition to his Dunbar work, Lander served on the boards of Park Villa Casitas, a community development housing organization; the Tucson Housing Foundation; The University of Arizona African American Advisory Council; and the African American Initiative.

He was a member of the Gamma Alpha Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity; the Greater Southern Arizona Area Chapter of the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Association; and Pima Lodge #10 Free & Accepted Masons, Prince Hall, Arizona Jurisdiction.  He was a forward-thinking administrator who worked in the public sector all his professional life. As a city of Tucson department head, he was responsible for the city's community and economic development activities and public and affordable housing development and management.  Cressworth C. Lander died on February 7, 2015.  Lander’s success in helping people establish relationships with the government led to his lifelong commitment to working within the system for positive change.  

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