13th District History...
The seeds that were planted and eventually germinated into what is known today as the International 13th District were sowed by the Founders Frank Coleman, Oscar J. Cooper, Ernest E. Just, and Edgar A. Love during the embryonic stage of development of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. at Howard University, Washington D.C. Between the period of March 1912 through October 1914, there was staunch resistance to the Fraternity’s growth outside of the campus at Howard University.
At the time the president and administration were quite apprehensive in their approach to fraternities and sororities but they had little objection to these organizations being locally based within the District of Columbia. Under the leadership of Grand Basileus Edgar A. Love, the Fraternity was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia on October 28, 1914. Earlier that year on February 14, 1914, Beta Chapter was chartered at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, but the Founders saw it to be fitting to put in place a structure that would be conducive to the expansion of the Fraternity outside the confines of Howard University and indeed beyond the jurisdictions of the District of Columbia.
In those early years, the Founders were most likely cognizant of the fact that with Brothers like Colonel Charles Young, the highest ranking Negro officer in the United States Army at the time, that expansions abroad was a possibility. They may have seen that Colonel Young being stationed in Africa during the early 1920’s may have signaled the Fraternity’s expansion abroad where Brothers like him could live and function under the banner of Omega Psi Phi in those far flung communities. The Founders may or may not have expected for there to be a number of “foreign” Brothers amongst the rank. However, what has unfolded, is that college trained men of African descent being either citizens of the United States or hailing from other nations around the world, have become contributing members of the Fraternity over the years.
In September 1923, two Omega men wended their way to Montreal in search of more light. Neither knew of the coming of the other, but with their first meeting a month later, Omega Psi Phi became international. Sigma Chapter was organized at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec (Canada) on December 15, 1923. Brother Walter R. Dunston, ex-basileus of Phi Chapter, with the assistance of Brother George W. Brown, known to all Howard men for his prowess as an athlete and his ability as a debater, set up the Fraternity’s first International Chapter in Canada. The problem was by no means an easy one as most of the men knew little or nothing of fraternities. Initially there was opposition, but this soon disappeared and the chapter assumed its rightful position as an influential power in the life of the community.
Remembering always that Omega men “do things” each Brothers pledged himself to take part in some branch of extra-curricular activities. The result was that Brother Brown represented his faculty in the inter-faculty debate and was later chosen for the university debating team to represent McGill against Dalhousie and Queen University. Many of the Brothers became members of “Mock Parliament” and valiantly defended their respective parties. Brother Dunston made the indoor track team and was asked to run for the outdoor track team.
In March 1924, Sigma chapter made its first appearance before the Montreal public in the form of a very successful “Young Memorial Service” held in the church of the Rev. Brother Charles Este. On this occasion the mayor of the city was invited as principal speaker, but was prevented by pressing political engagements in connection with the approaching elections. In May 1924, Sigma chapter consisted of thirteen carefully chosen men.
Even though Sigma chapter pledged to keep the sacred light of Omega Psi Phi burning brightly beneath the cold clear light of Canadian stars, the chapter went inactive and was moved to Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan.
As a natural progression, Brothers sprinkled across the globe eventually saw the need to organize themselves into chapters and sought recognition from the International body of the Fraternity. Thus international chapters were chartered around the world, continuing in December 1955.
The second international chapter, Tau Chi was chartered in Monrovia, The Republic of Liberia on December 1, 1955 during the tenure of Grand Basileus John F. Potts. From 1953 to 1955, Brother Potts, a scholar, was then the principal of the Avery Institute in Denmark, South Carolina, which is currently known as Voorhees College. Father Seth Edwards, Sr. who was initiated at Pi Chapter at Morgan State, had been in Liberia as an Episcopal Priest and professor at Cuttington University, was a known Omega man during that period. Brother Edwards lived and worked in Suakoko from 1948 until he entered Omega Chapter in 1978. During those days, it was rather difficult traveling from the hinterland to Monrovia because of the bad roads, if any at all. (Dr. Vivian Jones Edwards, wife of Brother Edwards, retired professor at St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh, N.C. interview March 29, 1998). It is safe to assume that with the ongoing political unrest in Liberia, many materials and data relating to Tau Chi at the University of Liberia in Monrovia, Cuttington University in Suakoko, and at other sites such as homes, military installations, and other institutions were most likely destroyed. Therefore, from incomplete documentation and from comments made by few living friends and family members of Brothers, one can only speculate about the development and contributions of this chapter.
In less than a decade another chapter became a reality outside the continental United States. This time it was in Europe, in the city of Frankfurt, Germany. It was chartered under the name Theta Rho on August 15, 1962. On behalf of the Supreme Council, Brother H. Carl Moultrie, Sr. corresponded with Brothers Joseph E. Washington of headquarters USASA Europe, where upon a listing of the fifteen charter members was forwarded. Theta Rho has made huge strides since its founding and made substantial contributions in the local community through its programs. Over the years the chapter membership for the most part has consisted of men serving in the U.S. military.
Precisely thirteen years later to the day, the fourth international chapter received its charter, and it was the first chapter to be formed in the Caribbean. This became known as Zeta Xi Chapter, chartered on August 15, 1976 on the island of St. Thomas, USVI under the leadership of Grand Basileus Edward J. Braynon. The National Executive Secretary, Brother Harold J. Cook forwarded the charter to the Chapter Basileus, Brother Edouard T. deLagarde. Brother Cook provided invaluable assistance to the chapter during its formation and paid a follow-up visit to St. Thomas later in 1976. The location of this chapter was interesting because Brother William H. Hastie, former Dean of Law at Howard University, had been appointed governor by President Truman to these islands from 1946 to 1949.
The year 1977 proved to be an exciting one for international chapter development because two chapters were created six months apart – Lambda Xi in Seoul, Korea and Pi Xi in Nassau, Bahamas. This expansion under Grand Basileus Edward J. Braynon was definitely a celebration for the Fraternity and especially for the Bahamas, which has always enjoyed close ties with the United States and like the Virgin Islands it was a delightful tourist destination.
While Lambda Xi’s application was initiated through the Third District Representative, Brother B.T. Garnett on October 20, 1974, it was actually chartered on February 22, 1977 with eleven charter members.
Pi Xi’s charter application was hand delivered from the Bahamas by Brother Lester J. Mortimer, Jr. on January 19, 1974, which was dated October 25, 1973. Results from persistent work by Cornel Mortimer, two and a half years later, the Supreme Council under the leadership of Grand Basileus Edward J. Braynon approved the charter on August 17, 1977. Within five days, Brother Braynon along with some sixty other Brothers hailing from the Eastern Seaboard of the United States came to Nassau to personally hand deliver the charter to Charter Basileus, Brother John A. Godet. Brother Samuel Sheppard, Editor-to-the Oracle and Brother Carver Portlock were also instrumental in leading the entourage of Brothers on the SS Rotterdam to Nassau. Pi Xi had the fortune of hosting the Fraternity’s Leadership Conference in 1997, the first major biennial meeting held outside the continental United States.
On June 25, 1982, a chapter was established in Honolulu, Hawaii under the name of Lambda Beta Beta. The majority of the Brotherhood making up this chapter consisted of men serving in the U.S. military service.
The Omega men in the Republic of Panama had been meeting for at least two years prior to receiving their charter via Grand Basileus Moses C. Norman, Sr. whereupon Brother Ernest M. Dilworth, a Captain in the U.S. Army wrote to the Fraternity’s National Headquarters to express the desire of the Brothers to establish a chapter in Central America. On December 7, 1985 the charter of Nu Gamma Gamma was approved by a vote of the Supreme Council lead by the International Chapter Liaison, Brother Richard H. Smith. Nu Gamma Gamma consisted of men serving in the U.S. military service and moved to Puerto Rico after the closing of U.S. military bases in Panama. Unfortunately, U.S. military bases in Puerto Rico would also closed, which forced Nu Gamma Gamma in an inactive status. Currently, Nu Gamma Gamma is located in Canada.
In the spring of 1984, there were thirty Brothers serving the military on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Despite the ongoing rotation of Brothers in and out of Japan, the desire for a chapter never died. Upon persistent effort of the Brothers in Okinawa and the necessary research and follow through by the Executive Secretary, John S. Epps, Ph.D., the dream soon became a reality. In a memorandum to the Supreme Council dated February 26, 1987, the International Chapter Liaison, Brother Richard H. Smith, recommended that a graduate chapter be formed in Okinawa, Japan. The chapter was approved two days later under the name Sigma Gamma Gamma Chapter. These Brothers along with others before them were instrumental in forming a local Pan-Hellenic Council in 1985, which started the surge forward for greek letter organizations on this Pacific island, and enabled them to make a more focused and purposeful impact on the local community even prior to their gaining official recognition from the Fraternity.
In March 1987, twenty six Brothers seeking an alternative, lead by Brother Clayton K. Harris, Jr., saw the need to form a second chapter in Germany which would be located in Wuerzburg, submitted an application for a charter to the International Chapter Liaison, Brother Richard H. Smith. On July 29, 1988, the application was approved by the Supreme Council. This enabled a further expansion of Omega in Europe and furthered a positive growth trend within the international arena.
From 1976 until 1990, the Brothers in the United States Virgin Islands had a dilemma where Brothers were located both on the island of St. Thomas where Zeta Xi Chapter was officially located and forty miles to the south in the Caribbean Sea in the island once called The Danish West Indies, now known as St. Croix. This island has a history of having been under seven European flags prior to being purchased by the United States in 1917.
The Brothers in St. Croix were also loosely organized and functioned for years leading up to their receiving a charter, where they were reorganized by the International Headquarters as “Zeta Xi Chapter II”. To correct this anomaly the Supreme Council under the leadership of Grand Basileus C. Tyrone Gilmore, Sr. approved a charter on December 8, 1990 to resolve the problem of one chapter split between the two islands.
THIRTEENTH DISTRICT DEVELOPMENT
Grand Basileus Moses C. Norman, Sr. and Edward J. Braynon both had a profound impact on the Fraternity’s expansion in general, and upon international chapter development. Brother Norman took it even a step further where he recognized that the Brothers in the international chapters had contributions to make. Brother Richard H. Smith became the first International Chapter Liaison and served in this capacity until August of 1992. Brother Smith would go on to serve as Assistant Executive Director to the Fraternity. The office of International Chapter Liaison would become equivalent to the position of District Representative for international chapters appointed by the Grand Basileus.
The first Supreme Council Meeting on record outside the continental United States was hosted by Theta Rho Chapter in Heidelburg, Germany, on December 8, 1988.During the beginning of the administration of Grand Basileus C. Tyrone Gilmore, Sr. at the 68th Grand Conclave in Atlanta in 1992, changes occurred that would further impact international chapter development. The District again hosted the Supreme Council Meeting at Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas, December 3-6, 1992 hosted by Pi Xi Chapter.
A few months earlier, on August 1, 1992 at the first Supreme Council Meeting held under Grand Basileus C. Tyrone Gilmore, Sr., Brother Peter L. Mitchell was appointed as the second person to serve in the capacity of International Chapter Liaison, replacing Brother Richard H. Smith who had served for six years as the first person to serve in the capacity of International Chapter Liaison. At the same meeting Brother Bernard V. Oliphant was appointed to the position of Deputy International Chapter Liaison.
In the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s there was noted camaraderie exhibited by members of international chapters that traveled to Grand Conclaves and Leadership Conferences held by the Fraternity. This bonding was quite evident due in large part to the insistence and resolve of Brother Charlie Banks III from Theta Rho.
A steering Committee was formed consisting of the existing International Chapter Liaison, Peter L. Mitchell, Ed Moore (Committee KRS), Bede D. Sands (Committee KF- Bahamas), Zollie White (Vice- St. Thomas, USVI), Bernard V. Oliphant, Michael Glenn (Korea), Henry T. Harrigan (St. Thomas, USVI), Renewick Lynch (St. Croix, USVI), Vaughn L. Culmer, and Earl A. Bastian (Bahamas). The above officers were chosen at this meeting. In addition, each Brother contributed five dollars towards the cause of promoting the idea of the formation of an International District.
Brother Peter Mitchell, with the support of the international chapters, conferred with the Grand Basileus and advised him of the initiative coming from the international chapters. In late August 1992, shortly after the Boston Leadership Conference, Grand Basileus C. Tyrone Gilmore, Sr. being apprised of this initiative, was very supportive and took the International Chapter Liaison’s plan under advisement and coordinated further planning between himself, Brother Mitchell, and the Executive Director, John S. Epps. As a result, a proposal was put forth by the International Chapter Liaison to form the International District which was initially being billed as the Eleventh District. The District plan proposal called for a split into four regions: the Pacific Rim, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean Region.
The proposal, on a motion from the Grand Basileus, was approved by the Supreme Council at its meeting on December 3, 1993 in Cleveland, Ohio. The District was to be known as the Thirteenth District as it was decided that the Eleventh District’s name was to remain separate so as to preserve its past existence. Hence with the birth of the Thirteenth District, ushered in the most recent expansion of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
The District has moved forward with the addition of more chapters. Kappa Lambda Lambda chapter was chartered in Freeport, Bahamas. Upsilon Lambda Lambda chapter was chartered in Tokyo, Japan. Zeta Lambda Lambda chapter was chartered in Bermuda.
On July 16, 2005 the Supreme Council approved the reactivation and transfer of Phi Gamma Gamma Chapter, formerly located in Wurzburg, Germany to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Through the diligent efforts of several Brothers, the dream of an established chapter became a reality and now provides many Brothers in the region an opportunity to continue to work for Omega and providing the fraternity a means to reclaim and retain Brothers currently serving and working in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
In the summer of 2007, the District received a letter from Brother Kweku Winful in Canada. This letter lead to the re-establishment of our presence in Canada. Nu Gamma Gamma chapter was transferred and reactivated in Ottawa, Canada in January 2008. In February 2008, we also established an undergraduate presence and were privileged to initiate eight young men from Carleton University. These young men entered Omega through Nu Gamma Gamma Chapter. The initiation took place in Toronto, Canada, and we were blessed to have Brothers from Texas (9th District), Washington State (12th District), Buffalo, NY (2nd District), and Brothers from the 13th District present.
At a Supreme Council meeting on June 7, 2008, a charter was approved for an undergraduate chapter at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Alpha Delta Xi Chapter was the name given and it is the Fraternity’s 1st International Undergraduate Chapter.
On June 23, 2012, the 13th District made history yet again when the charter for Chi Mu Mu was presented by the 39th Grand Basileus, Dr. Andrew Ray in Birmingham, England. This historic event saw the culmination of 2 years of strategic staging through community service in the UK spearheaded by Brother Trevor Hodge and the then 13th District Representative, Brother Matthew Coleman. What was once a dream came a reality when the charter was approved through a Supreme Council’s vote on April 17, 2012. Not only is Chi Mu Mu the first Chapter to be chartered in the United Kingdom, but it is also the first Chapter to be chartered in the second century of the Fraternity’s existence.
Not only did 2018 see the reactivation of Phi Gamma Gamma and its transfer back to Germany, but the chartering of the District’s second undergraduate chapter - Alpha Epsilon Beta at the University of Bahamas, Nassau, Bahamas. Under the leadership of District Representative Dr. Trevor Hodge, international expansion initiatives saw its crowning moment that year with the chartering of Chi Mu Nu Chapter - Shanghai, China on December 1, 2018. This historic event celebrated the establishment of the first Divine 9 organisation in all of China and was witnessed by a wide cross-section of Brothers from eight countries. Included in this number was the 41st Grand Basileus, Dr. David Marion.