Grace Swank Alexander was born and raised in Sewell, New Jersey. She graduated from Woodbury High School in Woodbury, New Jersey, in 1945 and attended the New Jersey State Teachers’ College in Glassboro from 1946 to 1950.
Alexander received a direct commission in the WAVES in October 1951. She attended the Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island, for eight weeks and was then assigned to the Pentagon. In Washington, D.C., Alexander worked in communications in the Navy Cryptographic Section of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until 1953. She left active duty that year, but remained in the reserves for nine years.
In the mid-1950s Alexander operated special service clubs in Wurzburg and Bamberg, Germany, and then taught school at air force bases in Yokota, Japan; Fairford, England; and the Philippines. In 1963, Alexander went to Venezuela and taught there for three years for the Corporacion Venezolana de Guyana.
Alexander earned a master’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in 1980 and taught with the Guilford County Schools in North Carolina from 1982 to 1994.