BRIEF HISTORY OF THE EIGHTH DISTRICT
- Omega’s Eighth District has its beginnings as the Third District. The Fraternity originally divided in five districts in 1922, but rapid growth occurred and by 1928, nine districts were in place. Annual district conferences began in 1926.
- Upsilon Omega Chapter was founded in 1921 as the Upsilon Graduate Chapter in St. Louis. It was the first chapter chartered in what is now the Eighth District. The name was later changed to Upsilon Omega Chapter to reflect the adjustment was made to distinguish its designation as a graduate and not an undergraduate chapter. John H. Purnell, James E. White and Robert N. Owens, all Howard University alumni, were charter members.
- A constitutional provision in 1922 gave Grand Basileus Julius McCain the authority to appoint representatives of the Grand Chapter, called District Representatives, to assist in the supervision of the chapters. Five such representatives were appointed at the time. The representatives were Charles W. White, (New England States), Carter L. Marshall (Mid-Atlantic States), L.R. Hill (Central States), William J. Faulkner (Southern States) and George L. Vaughn (Western States). Vaughn was a prominent St. Louis attorney, who later served as the Fraternity’s 11th Grand Basileus. The provision also enabled District Representatives to be elected by districts and made them Constitutional officers of the Fraternity.
- Also in 1922, Beta Omega Chapter in Kansas City became the second chapter in the Eighth District to receive its charter. Delta Phi Chapter in Topeka and Chi Phi Chapter in Denver soon followed them each were chartered in 1925 and 1927, respectfully.
- The Eighth District hosted its first in numerous Grand Conclaves in 1923. Upsilon Omega in St. Louis hosted the 12th Grand Conclave. John H. Purnell, a charter member of Upsilon Omega, served as Grand Marshal
- George D. Brantley of Upsilon Omega Chapter was duly elected the first District Representative in 1928. The Fraternity continued to see rapid growth and westward expansion and more districts were put into place.
- The Eighth District emerged as comprising the states of Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Minnesota in 1933.
- Herman Dreer was a Washington, D.C. native, who graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bowdoin College, was elected District Representative in 1933. Dreer had earlier moved to St. Louis in 1914 and became an educator. Prior to that, he taught at Virginia Theological Seminary in Lynchburg and while there, received an M.A. in Latin Theology. Dreer’s contributions to the Eighth District and the Fraternity were indelible and countless. While teaching at Harris College, Dreer began the arduous task of researching and composing the Fraternity’s first history book. Eta Alpha Chapter was chartered in 1934 as a graduate chapter in Jefferson City, Mo. The 22nd Grand Conclave was held in St. Louis in 1934.
- By 1935, Illinois was added to the Eighth District. Eta Sigma Chapter was chartered in 1936 on the campus of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, thus making it the first undergraduate chapter in the Eighth District. That same year, Ulysses S. Donaldson, a member of Upsilon Omega in St. Louis, took over the reins of District Representative.
- In April 1937, the first Missouri State Omega Conference was held on the campus of Lincoln University in Jefferson City. The first annual conference was held a month later at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.
- By 1939, the Eighth District had evolved once more and consisted of chapters located in Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado and Minnesota.
- The District continued to grow even during the war years (World War II). Several chapters were chartered during this period (Pi Sigma Chapter – Little Rock, AR – 1941; Omicron Sigma Chapter- St. Louis – 1942; Tau Sigma Chapter- Arkansas AM&N- 1943) that would eventually become part of the Eighth District.
- Lucius Jones, Tulsa engineer and newspaper publisher was approved for membership during the 31st Grand Conclave held in Washington D.C., in 1945. Jones, a native of Birmingham, would later serve as Keeper of Records and Seal for Eta Alpha Chapter for more than 40 years.
- The Fraternity redistricted again in 1947 and Arkansas was added to the Eighth District. The configuration would exist for another decade when the Eleventh District was eliminated, adding the states of Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa to the Eighth District. Arkansas was moved to the Ninth District. Mu Omicron Chapter, located in Des Moines, IA, was given its chartered in August 1947.
- In 1949, the first National Headquarters building in Washington D.C. was purchased. H. Carl Moultrie was selected to serve as the first National Executive Secretary. On Nov. 30 of that year, Leon Ashford, a former student of Herman Dreer, was initiated into the Fraternity through Omicron Sigma Chapter. That same year, Beta Upsilon and Gamma Upsilon Chapter were awarded charters on successive days.
- The Grand Conclave returned to the Eighth District in 1957 when it was held in St. Louis.
- New Mexico was added to the Eighth District, in 1964 and thus the present configuration: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota and North Dakota. Members of Nu Rho Chapter in Albuquerque, New Mexico were awarded a chapter charter in April of that year.
- Chi Phi Chapter in Denver served as host of the 49th Grand Conclave.
- Edgar Burnett, an educator who had joined the Fraternity in 1951 through Omicron Sigma in St. Louis, was elected District Representative in 1967. Burnett would serve in that position for the next seven years. A year prior to Burnett leaving office, St. Louis hosted the 55th Grand Conclave.
- William Bowers of Chi Phi Chapter replaced Burnett as District Representative. In 1974, Xi Pi, located in Colorado Springs, CO, was chartered.
- Lynn Beckwith, who was initiated into the Fraternity on May 8, 1958, was elected District Representative in 1975. During his three-year tenure as District Representative, Omicron Xi Chapter, organized in Kansas City, Kan., received its charter as an intermediate chapter. Phi Xi Chapter also received its charter.
- The Eighth District would serve host to the Grand Conclave in 1979 – Chi Phi Chapter and in 1983, Kansas City.
- During the period of 1986 to 2010, the Eighth District witnessed its membership expand; its undergraduate ranks grow and the Grand Conclave return to St. Louis.
- The highlight of the past 25 years occurred in the summer of 1998 when Lloyd J. Jordan, a former District Representative and Grand Counselor, was elected the Fraternity’s 36th Grand Basileus.
- By 1986, the geographic boundaries of the Eighth District had expanded from a cluster of four states in the 1930s to now encompass eight states in the Great Plains region, including North and South Dakota.
- The new boundaries ushered in a new era of challenges and new opportunities.
- Mandrid N. Williams Jr. of Beta Omega in Kansas City led the District during the latter portion of the 1980s. Membership steadily increased and new programs and initiatives were executed.
- Doug Williams of Upsilon Omega Chapter in St. Louis led the district when it assembled in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The meeting was significant because it provided further evidence of the district’s westward expansion. The district constitution was amended to add the office of undergraduate representative at-large to the district council.
- Under the leadership of Kenneth J. Carson of New Mexico’s Nu Rho Chapter, the Eighth District increased its contributions to the United Negro College Fund, completed a membership directory and found ways to retain new members.
- Delvert T. Neal of Chi Phi Chapter in Denver served as District Representative from 1994 through 1996. The membership selection process was revised. New business procedures were established, membership cards were distributed and for the first time district reports books were disseminated at the annual meeting.
- In 1997, Dr. Robert L. Robinson of Eta Alpha Chapter in Jefferson City was elected District Representative. Several district members played prominent roles while serving on various international committees. Former District Representative Edgar A. Burnett was awarded the fraternity’s Founders Award and Kelvin Jones received the International Superior Service award.
- Melvin Jenkins of Kansas City’s Beta Omega Chapter followed as District Representative. Under Jenkins’ leadership, the district participated in voter education projects and sought to address black health issues as AIDS and prostate cancer.
- Kenneth R. Patterson of Upsilon Omega Chapter in St. Louis served as District Representative from 2001 to 2003. The 53rd Annual District meeting was hosted by Beta Upsilon Chapter in Omaha. Over 125 members registered for the annual meeting, which focused on “With Today’s Political and Judicial Maneuvering. What Must African American Males do to insure mainstream inclusion”?
- The District’s membership rolls continued to grow as graduate and undergraduate chapters exemplifying the Fraternity’s four cardinal principles.
- As District Representative from 2003 to 2006, Larry Burks of Gamma Upsilon Chapter in Wichita initiated a new emphasis on technology, district officer development, undergraduate chapter activation and a desire to recognize the historical aspects of the district.
- The first district website was created in 2003.
- The undergraduate action plan provided a systematic approach to reactivating undergraduate chapters. It resulted in the chartering of new graduate chapters in Iowa and Nebraska.
- Concurrently, the District participated in the grand opening of the Fort Des Moines Memorial Center and Museum. Bro. Gen. William “Kip” Ward was the keynote speaker.
- Fort Des Moines is important in the history of the fraternity because of the War Chapters activation in 1917. A number of distinguished brothers such as founders, Edgar A. Love and Frank Coleman were part of the Fort Des Moines experience.
- The grand opening of the Eighth District Archives was held at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Lucius Jones of Eta Alpha Chapter was instrumental in its creation. Today it represents a cornerstone portal for capturing the history of the Eighth District and the fraternity and is a model for all other districts to emulate.
- Lynn Beckwith, who served as District Representative from 1976-1978, received the International Founders Award at the 2004 Conclave in St. Louis.
- As District Representative, Jeffrey T. Smith of Chi Phi Chapter, in Denver, emphasized chapter development and administrative efficiencies. Smith served from 2006 to 2008.
- Glenn E. Rice of Omicron Xi Chapter in Kansas City, Kan. served as District Representative from 2008 to 2010. During those years, the district’s financial ranks grew to over 550 members; active undergraduate chapters expanded from three to 13; nearly 150 members were initiated and the district obtained its federal exempt status. An honors program was launched to recognize longtime stalwart members of the district. Additional emphasis was placed on technology, history and administrative efficiencies.
- Sadly, many of the district’s stalwart members enter Omega Chapter as the first decade of the 21st century came to a close. The District Archives at Lincoln University was renamed in honor Lucius Jones.
- The Rev. Robert C. Scott of Upsilon Omega Chapter was elected the 31st District Representative in 2010. The shadow of death fell on the Eighth with the passing of Edgar Burnett. Scott will lead the District as Omega enters its second century of service.
- Dr. William Ray Brown of Mu Omicron Chapter was elected the 32nd District Representative in 2013 in Albuquerque, NM. Kappa Mu Nu was awarded charter in 2016.
- The Eighth District presently is comprised of 39 graduate and undergraduate chapters. These chapters are active and participating in all phases of Omega. Each chapter is striving for the coveted “Chapter of the Year Award.”
- James R. Ball of Upsilon Omega Chapter was elected the 33rd District Representative in 2016 in Lawrence, KS.
Eighth’s District Notable History
The Eighth District has played a significant role in the growth and development of the Fraternity. Four sons of Omega who have ties to the Eighth have served as Grand Basileus.
James Crawford McMorries – 5th Grand Basileus (1916-1917)
Initiated into Alpha Chapter in 1913, Brother McMorries helped plant the seeds for Omega’s growth by assisting Founder Oscar J. Cooper establish Beta Chapter at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Elected in 1916, Brother McMorries’ administration established Gamma Chapter in Boston and “the War Chapter” at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. During World War I, an officer training facility for African-Americans was launched in Des Moines, Iowa. Several Omega men, including founders, Edgar A. Love and Frank Coleman were graduates of the program. Much progress was made during this period of Omega’s infancy; a chapter at Virginia Union University would also be established. Assisted by fellow officers, Brother McMorries sought to extend the Fraternity’s reach to southern colleges. Six years after the founding of Omega, keeping it alive proved to be a constant battle. But the financial condition of the Fraternity enabled the Grand Basileus to visit various chapters. Brother McMorries continued an effort begun by his predecessor, George E. Hall, to publish an issue of the Oracle. The Fraternity held several hundred dollars in its treasury by the end of Brother McMorries’ administration. Nevertheless, it was considered an impressive achievement at this stage of the Fraternity’s struggle.
Clarence Fitzhugh Holmes, Jr, – 6th Grand Basileus (1917 – 1918)
Clarence F. Holmes Jr. was initiated into the Alpha Chapter in February 1914. During his summer vacation in 1915, he returned to his native Denver and help found the NAACP chapter there. Indeed, Brother Holmes was an early pioneer of Omega and was elected our sixth Grand Basileus in 1917. The onset of World War I greatly hindered Omega’s expansion during the initial stages of Brother Holmes’s tenure. This state of flux continued in 1918. However, under his administration, the Howard University Campus Chapter was established. Its members went back as teachers to their respective areas of study and sowed the seeds for the proliferation of Omega. Brother Holmes also encouraged the Committee on the Oracle to continue its push for publication. The first official Fraternity Hymn, “Omega Men Draw Nigh,” was written by Brother Otto Bohannon and a testimonial banquet was held in honor of Colonel Charles Young. In 1925 Dr. Holmes, a well-known dentist and civic leader in the Denver community helped charter Chi Phi Chapter. He was also a co-founder of the Interracial Cosmopolitan Club for Human Relations. He received many awards including the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
George L. Vaughn – 11th Grand Basileus (1925-1926)
George L. Vaughn became one of the first initiated members of the newly charter Upsilon Omega Chapter of St. Louis in 1922. Brother Vaughn quickly established himself as a leader within the ranks of Omega. In 1922, he was appointed District Representative to the Grand Chapter, overseeing chapters in the western region of the United States. He was elected Grand Basileus in 1925 and was re-elected in 1926. Nineteen Omega chapters were chartered during his tenure. At the time he was elected, Brother Vaughn was the first Grand Basileus who held a national reputation as an outstanding lawyer and political leader. He successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that restrictive covenants were unenforceable. Active in Democratic politics, Brother Vaughn was a former Justice of the Peace and an assistant Missouri Attorney General. Other achievements during his administration were increased public interest in Negro Achievement Week and the endorsement of the Pan-African Conference. Vaughn believed that the Fraternity should have a civic mission and that Omega men should assume a greater responsibility in the well-being of the community.
Lloyd. J. Jordan, Esq. – 36th Grand Basileus (1998-2002)
Having been initiated into the Fraternity through Omicron Sigma Chapter in May 1975, Brother Jordan would serve Omega in various leadership roles. Brother Jordan had previously served as Basileus of the historic Upsilon Omega Chapter when he was elected the 19th Eighth District Representative. He also would later be elected Grand Counselor. During the Fraternity’s 70th Grand Conclave in New Orleans in 1998, Brother Jordan was elected the 36th Grand Basileus. He would be the youngest Omega to be elected to the head of the Fraternity in modern times. His administration had an enormous impact. Brother Jordan reformed the Fraternity’s operational procedures, which led to improved efficiencies and service to the brotherhood. Equally as important, Brother Jordan and his administration guided Omega through some very difficult legal battles as a result of several hazing allegations his administration inherited. As a result of numerous operational changes, the Fraternity had the financial stability to successfully combat litigation from illegal hazing activities and kept the fraternity’s infrastructure strong and viable. Brother Jordan’s administration was also instrumental in getting Omega more involved in local and national politics. The Fraternity joined with the NAACP to register 1 million voters.
- Lincoln Scott of Omicron Sigma; Samuel Johnson of Sigma Gamma and Lee Willis of Delta Delta, served as Second Grand Vice Basilei, respectfully.