Omega Psi Phi
Omega Psi Phi's History starts with the amazing story of three young men who became friends for life on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C. And under the tutelage and guidance of their graduate advisor they initiated the greatest fraternity known to black men worldwide.
The History of
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
On Friday evening, November 17, 1911, three Howard University undergraduate students, with the assistance of their faculty adviser, gave birth to the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. This event occurred in the office of biology Professor Ernest E. Just, the faculty adviser, in the Science Hall (now known as Thirkield Hall). The three liberal arts students were Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper and Frank Coleman. From the initials of the Greek phrase meaning "friendship is essential to the soul," the name Omega Psi Phi was derived. The phrase was selected as the motto. Manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift were adopted as cardinal principles. A decision was made regarding the design for the pin and emblem, and thus ended the first meeting of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
In 1922, Grand Basileus J. Alston Atkins appointed the first District Representatives. Today, there are eleven such officers who are elected annually by the district conferences/meetings. In 1922, the office of Vice Grand Basileus was created. The Grand Keeper of Records became the Grand Keeper of the Records and Seal. The first Omega Bulletin was published in 1928. Campbell C. Johnson was the Editor. "Omega Dear" was adopted as the official hymn in 1931. Two faculty from Howard University, Charles R. Drew, Professor of Surgery, and Mercer Cook, Professor of Languages, were the composers. Cook wrote the music and first stanza; Drew wrote the last two stanzas.
The Omega "Sweetheart Song", with words and music by Don Q. Pullen, was adopted as the official sweetheart song by the 1940 Nashville Grand Conclave. Founder Ernest E. Just entered Omega Chapter in 1941. In 1941, Dr. Charles Drew perfected the use of blood plasma as a life saving tool. William Hastie resigned as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War in protest against discrimination in the Armed Forces. He was later appointed Governor of the Virgin Islands by President Truman. In 1949, the first National Headquarters Building at 107 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. was purchased. H. Carl Moultrie, I was selected to serve as the first National Executive Secretary. In 1949, the scholarship fund was renamed the Charles R. Drew Memorial Scholarship Fund.
During this era, the thrust was social change. Thousands of Omega men in every area of the country were actively involved in the fight to eliminate racial discrimination. An entire book could be written about this phase of Omega activities. The 1955 Los Angeles Grand Conclave initiated a program whereby each graduate chapter would purchase a Life Membership from the NAACP. Between 1955 and 1959, chapters contributed nearly $40,000 to the NAACP. In the fifties, Omega Psi Phi took an official position against hazing as a fraternity activity. This anti-hazing position remains in effect today, and the policy banning hazing has been strengthened.
The struggle for social justice shifted into high gear. Brothers were active participants in the "sit-ins" and other demonstrations designed to call attention to the plight of black Americans. Undergraduate brothers especially were involved in the demonstrative aspect of the civil rights struggle. In 1961, the Washington, D.C. Grand Conclave did an excellent job of highlighting the fifty years of accomplishments by Omega. Brothers attended the 1961 Golden Anniversary Conclave in record numbers. Founders Love, Cooper, and Coleman were present. Thirteen of twenty-three former Grand Basilei were in attendance.
The newly revised Constitution and By-Laws and the Ritual became effective at the close of the 1970 Pittsburgh Grand Conclave. H. Carl Moultrie I, Omega's only National Executive Secretary to this point, was appointed as a judge to the Superior Court of Washington, D.C., in 1972. Moultrie's resignation was accepted with regrets. Omega conferred upon Moultrie the title of National Executive Secretary Emeritus which was later changed to Executive Secretary Emeritus.
The 1980's, 1990's & Today
In 1981, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity endowed its first Omega Faculty Chair. Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi, was the recipient. President W.A. McMillan stated that the Chair would be used to promote the humanities. The fraternity completed its 250,000 dollars contribution to the United Negro College Fund, an organization under the direction of Christopher Edley, and approved a plan to continue the annual gift of 50,000 dollars to that organization in perpetuity. The fraternity accelerated its financial support to the National Urban League. Mr. John Jacobs, Executive Director of the Urban League, participated in Grand Conclaves on a regular basis.