Theta Chapter History


Theta Chapter was founded as the eight chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity on February 21, 1910. For the exception of the first seven chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Chapter at Howard University, Theta predates all other Black Greek chapters and Black Greek organizations.

Theta Chapter began as a statewide chapter, originally encompassing the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. Since then, Theta is considered the "Metropolitan Chapter" of Chicago, comprised primarily of the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Loyola University.

The story of Theta's founding began when 2nd General President, Roscoe C. Giles received a letter on November 28th, 1909, from Charles C. Middleton secretary of Epsilon Chapter (Univ. of Michigan) stating that an application had been received by his chapter for the establishment of a University of Illinois-Chicago chapter to "draw their members from all schools in Chicago." A recommendation was made and Alpha chapter approved the application on December 4th, 1909. It was not until the 2nd Annual Convention at Richmond, VA. (December 27-29, 1909) that the application was officially approved.

On February 13th, 1910, Brother William M. Thorne (Vice-President of Alpha Chapter, 1910) wrote to Bro. President Giles requesting authority to send Bro. George Ellison of Epsilon to form Theta Chapter in Chicago. On February 21st, 1910, with the assistance of Jewel Henry Arthur Callis, Theta was established.

It was during this time that the fraternity realized it needed to establish a general organization apart from individual chapters. During the 3rd annual convention at Philadelphia, PA. (December 29-31, 1910), the colors of black and old gold were officially adopted. Theta itself was committed to this realization and participated by sending delegates to the 4th Annual Convention at Ann Arbor, MI. (December 27-30, 1911) at the seat of Epsilon Chapter. Brothers Towles and Boger represented the chapter during the meetings. It is interesting to note during this convention that a committee for the official design of a shield was created. Another committee was established "Whose duty it shall be to do research work, especially as to the relation of the Ethiopian of ancient times to the black race of modern times." (Wesley, 75). As of 1911, Theta chapter had 8 active brothers and 4 alumni. And as 1913 rolled around, Theta boasted 16 active brothers and 10 alumni.

In 1914, Theta chapter was host to the 7th Annual Convention. On December 29th, 1914, the brotherhood assembled in Chicago. The welcome address was given by Brother W.E. Burton of Theta. A chapter report was given by Bro. McBeth. It was during this convention that Theta Chapter President, Jewel Brother Henry Arthur Callis was elected General President of Alpha Phi Alpha. This was the first and only time in Alpha's history where a founding Jewel served as General President. At the convention, an investigation was undertaken for the "employment of an executive secretary and the establishment of permanent headquarters." (Wesley, 100). During the 8th Annual Convention, Pittsburg,PA. (December 27-29, 1915), Charles H. Garvin was appointed Historian and began to gather the material for a history. A chapter historical survey was distributed via the Sphinx.

Theta Chapter was the first black Greek organization to purchase a fraternity house in Chicago, when a fraternity house at 4104 S. Vincennes Avenue in the heart of Bronzville was purchased in May of 1923. Later, in 1938 the Alpha House moved to 4432 S. Parkway Drive, later renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, which also served as the National Headquarters for the fraternity until it's unfortunate and unnecessary demolition in 1989.

Theta Chapter was founded by the following brothers:

Brother Dr. Thomas A. Boger

Brother Dr. Alexander Cecil Browne

Brother Dr. Ormville Coles

Brother Dr. Samuel Lecount Cook Jr.

Brother Dr. Gordon Henry Jackson

Brother Dr. Henry Howard Towles