Fraternity

Learn about the Omega's illustrious history, famous members and international programs.

Origin and History

On a 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 advisor. 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 Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Omega has continued to flourish, largely because of Founders Love, Cooper, Coleman and Just were men of the very highest ideals and intellect. The Founders selected and attracted men of similar ideals and characteristics.

It is not by accident that many of America's great black men are/were Omega Men. To this date, there are very few Americans whose lives have not been touched by a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Fraternity History

Background Information

Phi Beta Kappa, the first American college fraternity, was organized on the campus of the College of William and Mary in 1776. Men and women are members of this college honorary scholarship society.

Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities have played a major role in American college life since 1776. Black college fraternities and sororities did not emerge until the early 1900's. Unlike their white counterparts, the black groups have remained very active at the graduate level. Since their founding, these groups have played a major role in the cultural, social and civic life of their communities.

The member organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council are:

  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Howard University, 1908
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Howard University, 1913
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Howard University, 1920
  • Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Butler University, 1922
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Cornell University, 1906
  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Indiana University, 1911
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Howard University, 1911
  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Howard University, 1914
  • Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Morgan State University, 1963

Birth of Omega

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 .

The next meeting was conducted on November 23, 1911. Edgar Love became the first Grand Basileus (National President). Cooper and Coleman were selected Grandkeeper of the Records (National Secretary) and Grandkeeper of Seals (National Treasurer), respectively. Eleven Howard University undergraduate men were selected as charter members.

Alpha Chapter was organized with fourteen charter members on December 15, 1911. Love, Cooper and Coleman were elected the chapter's first Basileus, Keeper of Records, and Keeper of Seals, respectively.

On March 8, 1912, the previously submitted fraternity constitution was rejected by the Howard University Faculty Council. The Faculty Council proposed to accept the fraternity as a local but not a national organization. The fraternity refused acceptance as a strictly local organization.

Oscar Cooper became the fraternity's second Grand Basileus in 1912. Cooper authorized the investigation of a proposed second chapter at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania.

Edgar Love was elected as the third Grand Basileus in 1912 and served until 1915. In 1914, Howard University withdrew its opposition, and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia on October 28, 1914. Beta Chapter at Lincoln University was chartered in February, 1914.

George E. Hall, the fourth Grand Basileus, had been initiated at Alpha Chapter in 1914. Grand Basileus Hall authorized the establishment of Gamma Chapter in Boston, Massachusetts. However, the chapter was eventually established during the administration of the fifth Grand Basileus, James C. McMorries.

During the administration of the sixth Grand Basileus, Clarence F. Holmes, the fraternity's first official hymn, "Omega Men Draw Nigh", was written by Otto Bohannon.

Raymond G. Robinson, the seventh Grand Basileus, established Delta Chapter in Nashville, Tennessee in 1919. Robinson left office in 1920 with a total of ten chapters in operation.

Stanley Douglas served as Editor of the first Oracle published in the spring of 1919.

Harold K. Thomas, the eighth Grand Basileus, was elected at the 1920 Nashville Grand Conclave. It was at this Conclave that Carter G. Woodson inspired the establishment of National Achievement Week to promote the study of Negro life and history.

The 1921 Atlanta Grand Conclave brought to an end the first decade of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Internal Growth

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 Forties

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.

The Fifties

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 Sixties

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. Young brothers had the once-in-a-life-time opportunity to mingle with some of the greatest black men that America had produced.

The Golden Anniversary Conclave authorized $140,000-$150,000 for the construction of a new National Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C.

In 1964, the new National Headquarters Building was dedicated. The building was a dream come true and was the first building of its type to be built by a black fraternity. Founders Love, Cooper and Coleman participated in the ceremonies. The name was later changed to the International Headquarters. It is located at 2714 Georgia Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

Robert H. Lawrence (in 1966) was selected as the first Black to serve in the Astronaut Program. Lawrence had earned a Ph.D. Degree in chemistry at Ohio State University.

Founder Frank Coleman entered Omega Chapter in 1967.

The 1968 Charlotte Grand Conclave mandated a Constitutional Convention for the revision of the Constitution and By-Laws as well as the Ritual. The Convention was held in Atlanta in 1969.

The Seventies

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 Seventies brought more unpleasant news. Founder Oscar J. Cooper entered Omega Chapter in 1972. In 1974, Edgar A. Love, the only surviving founder, entered Omega Chapter.

On November 16, 1975, an impressive granite monument was dedicated to the memory of the four founders. The monument is just a few feet away from Thirkield Hall, the site of Omega's birth place on the Howard University Campus.

A revived Life Membership Program resulted in a very large number of new Life Members.

The 1976 Atlanta Grand Conclave was the largest in the history of the fraternity up to that point in time.

Many new undergraduate chapters were chartered, because of the increased enrollment of black students at previously all-white colleges and universities.

"Operation Big Vote" was successful in getting thousands of black people to vote in the 1976 election. Many Omegas were active participants.

The 1979 Denver Grand Conclave made a commitment to contribute a minimum of 250,000 dollars to the United Negro College Fund over the next five years.

The Eighties & Nineties

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.

Jesse Jackson, former president of Operation PUSH and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, attended Grand Conclaves on a regular basis and received support for these organizations as well as for his 1984 and 1988 campaigns for the presidency of the United States.

The Seventy-fifth Anniversary Grand Conclave celebration was deemed the single most significant event on Omega's horizon. The dates selected were July 25-August 1, 1986 in Washington, D.C., the city of Omega's birth. It was the largest Conclave ever.

Grand Basileus Moses C. Norman, Sr., elected at the 1984 Louisville Grand Conclave, appointed a committee to review the structure and operations of the fraternity as a means of future focus. In 1984, John S. Epps was selected as only the fifth Omega Man to wear the title of Executive Secretary. In 1990, the title was changed to Executive Director.

Two revised methods of bringing members into the fraternity were approved by the organization. Pledging was abolished and the new Membership Selection and Education Program came into being on August 1, 1985. In April, 1991, the new Membership Intake Program was implemented.

Initial plans were begun for the writing of an updated history of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. H. Carl Moultrie, I, Executive Secretary Emeritus and Ronald E. McNair, noted Astronaut, entered Omega Chapter. Don Q. Pullen and W. Mercer Cook also entered Omega Chapter.

In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, the Fraternity reaffirmed its policy against the use of a canine (dog) reference in association with the organization. The Fraternity looks with disfavor upon members who violate this policy by wearing paraphernalia with a canine image. Further, it forbids

the wearing of any such paraphernalia at its meetings and advises non-members that persons so attired or who make such references do not represent the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in their actions.

Omega continued to flourish, largely because Founders Love, Cooper, Coleman and Just were men of the very highest ideals and intellect. The Founders selected and attracted men of similar ideals and characteristics.

It is not by accident that many of America's great black men are/were Omega Men. To this date, there are very few Americans whose lives have not been touched by a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Our Founders

Dr. Ernest E. Just

Dr. Ernest E. Just

1883-1941
Ernest E. Just was born in Charleston, South Carolina.
Graduated from the Industrial School of the State College, Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Kimball Union Academy, Meriden, New Hampshire
Bachelor of Arts Degree, Dartmouth College (Phi Beta Kappa)
Doctor of Philosophy Degree, University of Chicago
Awarded the Springarn Medal by the NAACP, 1915
Professor Frank Coleman

Professor Frank Coleman

1890-1967
Frank Coleman was born in Washington D.C.
Graduated from the M Street High School, Washington, D.C.
Bachelor of Science Degree, Howard University, 1913
Master of Science Degree, University of Chicago
Advanced Training, University of Pennsylvania
Professor and head of Physics Department, Howard University
U.S. Army Officer, World War I
Dr. Oscar J. Cooper

Dr. Oscar J. Cooper

1888-1972
Oscar J. Cooper was born in Washington, D.C.
Graduated from the M Street High School, Washington, D.C.
Bachelor of Science Degree, Howard University, 1913
Doctor of Medicine Degree, Howard University, 1917
Practiced Medicine in Philadelphia, PA for 50 years.
Bishop Edgar A. Love

Bishop Edgar A. Love

1891-1974
Edgar A. Love was born in Virginia
Graduated from the Academy of Morgan College
Bachelor of Arts Degree, Howard University, 1913
Bachelor of Sacred Theology Degree, Howard University, 1913
Bachelor of Divinity Degree, Boston University, 1918
Doctor of Divinity Degree (Honorary), Morgan College, 1935
U.S. Army Chaplain, World War II
Bishop, Methodist Church

Famous Omega Men

The Arts
Athletics
Business
Civil Rights
Education
Politics
Science
Bro. William "Count" Basie - Internationally known pianist, composer, arranger, and band leader.
Bro. Langston Hughes - The Black Poet Laureate, excelled as a poet, playwright, novelist, lyricist, and humorist.
Bro. Sterling Brown - Teacher, poet, writer, Professor Emeritus of Literature at Howard University, has a special foundation for folk culture and jazz music.
Bro. Joe Torry - Comedian.
Bro. William H. Cosby - Comedian, author, actor, producer.
Bro. Roland Hayes - Internationally known tenor of the 1920s. Hayes sang in five different languages.
Bro. Michael Jordan - Outstanding basketball player with the Chicago Bulls of the NBA.
Bro. De Hart Hubbart - A University of Michigan sprinter; was the first Black person to represent the United States in the Olympic Games (1924).
Bro. Ed "Too Tall" Jones - Outstanding player with the Dallas Cowboys football team.
Bro. Joe Black - An all-time great Brooklyn Dodger baseball pitcher. In 1952, he had the lowest earned-run average in the Major Leagues.
Bro. Charlie Ward - Heisman Trophy winner and NY Knicks guard.
Bro. Steve "Air" McNair - Outstanding player with the Houston Oilers.
Bro. John Salley - Renowned NBA Player currently a well-known tv sports commentator.
Bro. Shaquille O'Neal - Star center with the LA Lakers.
Bro. Jerry Ball - Player with the Oakland Raiders.
Bro. Cedric Maxwell - Outstanding professional basketball player with the Boston Celtics and other teams.
Bro. Leroy Walker - A U.S. Olympic coach (sprinters) for many years.
Bro. Keith Jackson - Outstanding football player with the Miami Dolphins.
Bro. Mark Duper - Another fantastic Miami Dolphins player.
Bro. William Floyd - Big man on the San Francisco 49ers football team.
Bro. Earl "The Pearl" Monroe
Bro. Earl Graves - Publisher of Black Enterprise magazine.
Bro. Gillard S. Glover - President, Afro-American Life Insurance Company.
Bro. Thurman McKenzie - Co-owner of M and M Products (Sta Soft Fro).
Bro. Otis M. Smith - General Counsel, General Motors Corporation.
Bro. Nathaniel Bronner - Co-owner of Bronner Brothers Beauty Supplies.
Bro. Jesse Hill - President of Atlanta Life Insurance Company.
Bro. William Kennedy III - President of North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company.
Bro. Rev. Jesse Jackson - Former Director of Operation PUSH; Founder, Rainbow Coalition.
Bro. Grant Reynolds - Played a major role in President Truman's 1948 decision to desegregate the United States Armed Forces.
Bro. James Nabrit - Former Dean of Howard University Law School and former president of Howard University. A leader in the training of the early Civil Rights lawyers.
Bro. Wiley Branton - Attorney of the "Little Rock Nine" and former Dean of Howard University School of Law.
Bro. Roy Wilkins - Long-time Executive Director of the NAACP.
Bro. Benjamin Hooks - Succeeded Bro. Roy Wilkins as Executive Director of the NAACP.
Bro. Vernon Jordan - Former Executive Director of the National Urban League.
Bro. Dr. Carter G. Woodson - The earliest and most outspoken proponent for the study of Black History.
Bro. Benjamin E. Mays - President Emeritus of Morehouse College, writer and lecturer.
Bro. Herman Dreer - Teacher, minister, writer, and author of The History of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., 1911-1961.
Bro. Lawrence Douglas Wilder - Former Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1990. He also received the Bronze Star for his military heroics in the Korean War.
Bro. William Hastie - First Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Bro. George L.P. Weaver - Former U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Bro. Vernon Jordan
Bro. Robert C. Weaver - First African American to serve on the Presidential Cabinet when he became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1966 under President Franklin Roosevelt.
Bro. Clifford L. Alexander, Jr. - Secretary, Department of the Army.
Bro. Rev. Jesse Jackson - Candidate for the United States Presidency in 1984 and 1988.
Bro. Dr. Ernest Everett Just - Internationally known biologist and professor at Howard University.
Bro. Dr. Charles Drew - Perfected the use of blood plasma; Professor of Surgery at Howard University.
Bro. Percy Julian - Discovered the use of foam to extinguish fires and discovered a method of producing cortisone synthetically.
Bro. Dr. Fred Drew Gregory - Astronaut, graduate of the United States Air Force Academy (pilot).
Bro. Charles Bolden - Astronaut, graduate of the United States Naval Academy (pilot).
Bro. Dr. Ronald E. McNair - Astronaut, graduate of M.I.T., Ph.D. in Physics (civilian).

Supreme Council

The Supreme Council of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is the highest governing body of the fraternity. The current Supreme Council was elected at the 2012 Grand Conclave in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Grand Basileus - Antonio F. Knox, Sr.
First Vice Grand Basileus - Dr. David Marion
Second Vice Grand Basileus - Cody Charles
Grand Keeper of Records and Seal - Kenneth Rodgers
Grand Keeper of Finance - Daniel B. Jones, Sr.
Grand Counselor - D. Michael Lyles, Esq.
Immediate Past Grand Basileus - Dr. Andrew Ray
Grand Chaplain - Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell
Grand Marshal - Dr. Terrence M. Augillard
2nd District Representative - Sherman Charles
The International Headquarters of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is located in Decatur, GA.

International Programs

Programs

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