Born in Musselburgh, he was educated at the Royal High, before going to work at Waddies printers.
After National Service he joined the RAF, and rose to the rank of flying officer.
On leaving the forces, he initially joined an advertising agency, but, driven as ever by his strong social conscience, decided to retrain and become a social worker.
He took a degree at the Open University and on qualifying joined Edinburgh social services, where he worked until his retirement.
Always a man of the left, he was a staunch and passionate supporter of many causes, from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to local campaigns in his home area of Portobello.
In 1984, he was elected as Labour councillor for Milton ward, which he represented for 12 years.
As a councillor, he was especially well known for his role as chairman of the licensing committee – in one case the Sheriff Court ruled that the committee should have done more to investigate a brothel masquerading as a sauna before awarding it a licence.
Fellow councillor Maureen Child paid tribute to Mr Alexander. "He was very passionate about a number of issues and didn't take any prisoners in an argument. He had a very wry and mischievous sense of humour.
"I was his successor as the councillor for a large part of the ward, and he was very good to me when I first started off, showing me the ropes and introducing me to people.
"I enjoyed reading his interventions in the Evening News, he would always say more than he ought to, and sometimes would get himself into trouble – but his sense of humour really meant he was a lot of fun to be with."
In 2007, he chaired the Portobello Campaign Against the Superstore, which fought proposals for a Tesco development in the area. He was also vocal in his opposition to plans to build the new Portobello High School on parkland.
Further afield, he was a staunch supporter of the Palestinians, and asked for donations to their cause rather than flowers at his funeral.
Brother of the artist Alan Alexander, he was a keen collector of art, as well as books, furniture and porcelain.
He was also a keen rugby player and a member of the Royal High FP's first team until well into his 40s.
He died in Edinburgh on 6 June and is survived by his wife Christine, a son, daughter and four grandchildren.