Alexander was commissioner from 1973 to 1977. During that time he stood up to President Richard Nixon, refusing Nixon's efforts to use the IRS to investigate those on the former president's "enemies list."
According to Alexander's obituary in the Washington Post, Alexander learned the day after his swearing-in of a secret band of IRS investigators who combed through the tax returns of 3,000 "notorious" groups and 8,000 individuals.
In addition to rebuffing Nixon, Alexander also blocked an effort by the Agriculture Department to obtain the tax returns of all American farmers and sharply curtailed IRS participation in federal investigations into drug trafficking, organized crime and white collar crime.
Alexander noted that when he took over as head of the IRS restrictions on seeing tax returns were so lax that the agency ran virtually "a lending library" of private tax data.
He ultimately put an end to that. Alexander repeatedly urged Congress to stiffen taxpayer confidentiality laws, which it did in 1976.
Thank you, Mr. Commissioner, for your true service to taxpayers, the IRS and the country.
Alexander was 87. Since 1993, he had been a partner at Akin Gump, which issued this statement.