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History 1

On Friday, November 17, 1911, three undergraduate students Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper and Frank Coleman, with the help of Professor Ernest E. Just, founded Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. at Howard University. On December 15, Alpha Chapter was created at Howard. On February 6, 1914, Beta Chapter was chartered at Lincoln University. In March of 1916, Gamma Chapter was formed in Boston, MA as a citywide chapter.

 

In 1917, Omega would establish the first of its two War Chapters at Fort Des Moines under permission of Bro. James C. McMorries, the fraternity’s fifth Grand Basileus. The chapter was for students in their respective colleges’ SATC (now ROTC) programs and included fellow founders Love and Coleman. While at Fort Des Moines, Wade H. Powell was initiated into Omega as a charter member. With his initiation, Powell, a member of the Morehouse class of 1919, became the first Morehouse student initiated into the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. [1]

 

When the camp closed on October 15, 1917, the war chapter at Fort Des Moines surrendered its charter to Omega Psi Phi’s Grand Chapter. On Sunday, September 1, 1918, twenty-seven brothers were initiated through the Second War Chapter at Camp Howard at the fraternity house on 322 T Street, NW in Washington, DC.

 

The twenty-seven men hailed from eight colleges: one from Morehouse, three from Atlanta University, three from Biddle (now Johnson C. Smith), six from Fisk, three from Shaw, five from Talladega, three from Virginia Union, and three from West Virginia Collegiate Institute (now West Virginia State). [2] All of the institutions from which Camp Howard’s initiates hailed from had Omega chapters chartered on their respective campuses by 1923 (except for Shaw, although Beta Phi, a graduate chapter in Durham, NC, was created in 1924).

When the Howard War Chapter surrendered its charter in September 1918, brothers who had been in training were sent by the Army to their respective schools to become assistant instructors in military science. Brothers from the Howard War Chapter --  notably Clinton E. Warner, Lawrence O. Harper, Harold A. Hodges, and Harvey M. Smith --  were integral to expanding the fraternity throughout the South.[3] Smith was listed as a Morehouse freshman alongside classmate Wade Powell in 1914-15, again as a freshman in 1915-16, and as a sophomore in 1916-17 and 1917-18.[4] Because Smith was included in the 1918-19 school roster and beyond, possibly he left Morehouse in 1918 to enter the military.

The aforementioned four Camp Howard chapter initiates, along with Beta Chapter initiate Harold H. Thomas, founded Eta Chapter in Atlanta on Monday, December 1, 1919. Eta became the seventh permanent chapter to be established in the fraternity. With the assistance of Raymond G. Robinson, the Fraternity's seventh Grand Basileus, Eta received its charter on Saturday, December 27, 1919.[5]

Eta Chapter was comprised of brothers at Atlanta University, Clark College, Morehouse College and college graduates in the Atlanta area. It was the first chapter of any Black Greek-letter organization to be founded chartered in the state of Georgia. After its conception,  Eta’s four founding members -- Warner, Harper, Hodges, and Smith --  and Wade H. Powell, Morehouse’s first Omega initiate, became official members of Eta.[6]

During the 1920 Nashville Grand Conclave, Thomas was selected as the eighth Grand Basileus for the 1920-21 year. While at the Conclave, Thomas implored the fraternity to host its next Conclave in Atlanta, which he called “The Athens of the South.” The fraternity accepted Thomas’ recommendation, and agreed to host the 1920 Grand Conclave in Atlanta.[7]

On Friday, November 11, 1921, just six days before the fraternity’s ten-year founding anniversary, the initial meeting to establish a chapter on the Morehouse College campus was held. Although no document evidence supports this meeting transpired, the Psi brotherhood contends this meeting, which included at least four participants, was preparatory for the Grand Conclave held the next month from December 27-31 at Atlanta’s Butler Street Y.M.C.A.  Eta and Omicron Chapters (Gammon Theological Seminary, which later became the Interdenominational Theological Center) served as hosts for the Tenth Grand Conclave.[8]

During the Atlanta Conclave the fraternity elected  J. Alston Atkins as its ninth Grand Basileus. Atkins, a 1919 magna cum laude alumnus of Fisk University, was initiated in 1918 through the Camp Howard chapter alongside Powell, Smith, Hodges, and Warner. Atkins attempted to establish an Omega Psi Phi chapter at Fisk University once he returned to complete his senior year, but since the administration was against Greek life, he directed his efforts towards charting Delta Chapter (1918) at the nearby Meharry Medical College, and later chartering Chi Chapter (1921) at Yale University while a student at the university’s School of Law.[9] While at the Conclave, Grand Basileus Atkins sanctioned the establishment of Psi Chapter at Morehouse College.

 

At the time Morehouse was home to forty “100 per cent Omega” brothers — thirty-five students initiated through Eta Chapter and five faculty members -- all of whom were “thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the Noble Brotherhood” and standing “for the things that are good and uplifting.” [10]

Undergraduates (in alphabetical order based on Morehouse graduation class)

1. Alfred A. Barbour, Jr. Galveston, TX 1922
2. Claude Bernhard Dansby Atlanta, GA 1922
3. Nathaniel H. Jones Live Oak, FL 1922
4. William C. Kelley LaGrange, GA 1922
5. Charles L. Maxey Atlanta, GA 1922
6. Aldus S. Mitchell* Birmingham, AL 1922
7. Ira De Augustine Reid Clifton Forge, VA 1922
8. Richard Richardson Sparta, GA 1922
9. Harvey M. Smith* Crawford, GA 1922
10. Frederick D. Snellings LaGrange, GA 1922
 11. Maceo M. Williams    Moultrie, GA  1922
12. William F. Williams   Valdosta, GA 1922
13. Richard P. Alexander*   Seneca, SC 1923
14. James H. Anderson Birmingham, AL 1923
15. Joseph Tate Brooks Atlanta, GA 1923
16. Floyd W. Crawford    Forsyth, GA 1923
17. Henry S. Davis, Jr.    Shreveport, LA 1923
18. Sanford S. Dunson Franklin, GA 1923
19. Louis Ousley Harper    Detroit, MI 1923
20. Sigman R. Heard Atlanta, GA 1923
21. Alfred J. Jackson Tampa, FL 1923
22. Maurice A. Lee Marshall, TX 1923
23. James Madison Nabrit, Jr. Augusta, GA 1923
24. Curvin L. Parks Greenville, GA 1923
25. William K. Payne Sandy Ridge, AL 1923
26. Graham T. Perry Columbia, TN 1923
27. Edward E. Riley Seneca, SC 1923
28. Hardy G. Sledge Evanston, IL 1923
29. Franklin W. Taylor Atlanta, GA 1923
30. William G. Tyson Savannah, GA 1923
31. George J. VanBuren Madison, GA 1923
32. William Howard Moultrie, GA 1924
33. Charles H. Kelley, Jr. LaGrange, GA 1924
34. John W. Maxwell   Evergreen, AL 1924
  1. Alfred A. Barbour, Jr.               Galveston, TX                   1922
  2. Claude Bernhard Dansby         Atlanta, GA                       1922
  3. Nathaniel H. Jones                    Live Oak, FL                       1922
  4. William C. Kelley                       LaGrange, GA                  1922
  5. Charles L. Maxey                       Atlanta, GA                       1922
  6. Aldus S. Mitchell*                     Birmingham, AL              1922
  7. Ira De Augustine Reid      Clifton Forge, VA              1922
  8. Richard Richardson              Sparta, GA                         1922
  9. Harvey M. Smith*                       Crawford, GA                     1922
  10. Frederick D. Snellings          LaGrange, GA                  1922
  11. Maceo M. Williams               Moultrie, GA                          1922
  12. William F. Williams             Valdosta, GA                       1922
  13. Richard P. Alexander*            Seneca, SC                        1923
  14. James H. Anderson               Birmingham, AL              1923
  15. Joseph Tate Brooks               Atlanta, GA                       1923
  16. Floyd W. Crawford                Forsyth, GA                        1923
  17. Henry S. Davis, Jr.                 Shreveport, LA                 1923
  18. Sanford S. Dunson                Franklin, GA                       1923
  19. Louis Ousley Harper            Detroit, MI                    1923
  20. Sigman R. Heard                   Atlanta, GA                       1923
  21. Alfred J. Jackson                    Tampa, FL                      1923
  22. Maurice A. Lee                       Marshall, TX              1923
  23. James Madison Nabrit, Jr.   Augusta, GA                         1923
  24. Curvin L. Parks                      Greenville, GA                 1923
  25. William K. Payne                   Sandy Ridge, AL                      1923
  26. Graham T. Perry                    Columbia, TN                   1923
  27. Edward E. Riley                      Seneca, SC                        1923
  28. Hardy G. Sledge                Evanston, IL                      1923
  29. Franklin W. Taylor                Atlanta, GA              1923
  30. William G. Tyson                  Savannah, GA                   1923
  31. George J. VanBuren              Madison, GA                       1923
  32. William Howard                     Moultrie, GA                    1924
  33. Charles H. Kelley, Jr.            LaGrange, GA                  1924
  34. John W. Maxwell                   Evergreen, AL                   1924

Faculty

 

  1. Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays
  2. Clinton Ellsworth Warner
  3. Kemper Harreld
  4. Walter Richard Chivers
  5. Roscoe Lewis McKinney

On Friday, April 7, 1922, Psi Chapter was chartered with the initiation of five new members: Robert Elmer Brown, Jr. (‘25), Dock D. Crawford, Jr. (’25), Carter, Edward J. Grant (’25) and Samuel Stanley Morris (’23). Once the chapter became officially  established by the “First Fearless Five” charter line, the thirty-five Morehouse students listed above transferred their membership from Eta to Psi.


 

[1]  J.S. Heslip, “The War Chapter,” The Oracle: Semi-Annual Publication of The Grand Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, June 1919, 15-19.

[2]  Robert Gill. A History of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.  Atlanta University merged with Clark College to form Clark Atlanta University on July 1, 1988

[3] Eta Omega Chapter History.

[4] Annual Catalogue of Morehouse College. 1915-16, 1916-17, 1917-18, 1918-19.

[5] Eta Omega Chapter History.

[6] Ibid.

[7] 1921 Oracle. Pg. 20.

[8] Ibid. Pg. 21

[9] History of Zeta Omega Chapter. 

[10] 1922 Oracle. Pg. 32-33.

*     A. Mitchell and G. VanBuren: originally c/o 1919 but went to serve in the military; R. Alexander: initiation date unknown; H. Smith:  listed as freshman in 1914-15 and 1915-16 and as a sophomore in 1916-17 and 1917-18. Since he is not included in the school rosters from 1918-22, either he left Morehouse in 1918 to enter the military, or transferred to Atlanta University, which is why he is not listed as “from Morehouse” in the Camp Howard scroll.

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