Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.Fraternity History
IN THE BEGINNING
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C., January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students. The founders, Honorable A. Langston Taylor, Honorable Leonard F. Morse, and Honorable Charles I. Brown, wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would truly exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service.
The founders deeply wished to create an organization that viewed itself as "a part of" the general community rather than "apart from" the general community. They believed that each potential member should be judged by his own merits rather than his family background or affluence without regard of race, nationality, skin tone or texture of hair. They wished and wanted their fraternity to exist as part of even a greater brotherhood which would be devoted to the "inclusive we" rather than the "exclusive we".
Today, 99 years later, Phi Beta Sigma has blossomed into an international organization of leaders. No longer a single entity, the Fraternity has now established the Phi Beta Sigma Educational Foundation, the Phi Beta Sigma Housing Foundation, the Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union, and the Phi Beta Sigma Charitable Outreach Foundation. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., founded in 1920 with the assistance of Phi Beta Sigma, is the sister organization. No other fraternity and sorority is constitutionally bound as Sigma and Zeta. We both enjoy and foster a mutually supportive relationship.
Theta Eta was founded the spring of 1976 by the Honorable Brother Jermal Clarke of Jackson, Mississippi, Mu Sigma chapter.
He was able to gather twelve honorable young men from the University of Southern Mississippi. During the seventies the university wasn’t to open to the idea of a black Greek community. Earlier in the year the fraternity of Omega Psi Phi was allowed on the yard, but Phi Beta Sigma wasn’t. Because of this Theta Eta had to form under a city charter. These young men who are also our charter members were as follows:
The Honorable Brother, Earl Nix
The Honorable Brother, John Mcklay
The Honorable Brother, Joseph Young
The Honorable Brother, Larry Tyrone
The Honorable Brother, Frank Brown
The Honorable Brother, Emmanuel Debo Taylor
The Honorable Brother, Mwananyanda M. Lewanika
The Honorable Brother, DeWyte Bridges
The Honorable Brother, Danial Williams
The Honorable Brother, Harry Eaton
The Honorable Brother, Tedmon Davis
The Honorable Brother, William Dublin
Our charter members were pledged by the brothers of Alpha Beta for a whole semester. They crossed the sands on the campus of Jackson State, home of Alpha Beta. Theta Eta’s first line was named the Twelve Sticks of Sigma Dynamite. From there, they blew up in the state just as their name insinuated.
A. Langston Taylor
A. Langston Taylor, the founder of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from the Howe Institute in 1909 which is now Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. He received his college and professional training at Howard and Frelinghuysen University in Washington, D.C.
Founder Taylor chose business for his life’s career and from 1917 to 1926 he conducted a real estate and insurance business. He was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Potomac Investment Company, Director of the Federal Life Insurance Company and President of the Taylor Tobacco Company.
Founder Taylor coined “Culture for Service, Service for Humanity”. He began serving humanity by founding Sigma, to which he gave twelve consecutive years of service as a National Officer, serving as National President, National Treasurer, National Secretary and Field Secretary. He also served as President of the Distinguished Service Chapter.
Brothers have described our Founder as distinguished, poised and truly a hard worker. The members of the Alpha Sigma chapter called Founder Taylor “Prof”, short for professor, because he was always carrying a book, files or reading. He held offices and was instrumental in the following organizations: The Washington Art Society, The Derby Club, The Banneker Research Society, The Mu-So-Lit Club and the Tennessee State Club.
A tireless worker, he worked hard to see that Sigma maintained its illustrious history, by serving on the history committee and providing numerous forms of notes, minutes and oral history to those who served with him. Founder Taylor retired from federal service from the Smithsonian Institute.
Founder Taylor is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland (right outside of Washington, D.C.). His gravesite sits at the highest peak.
Founder A. Langston Taylor, the Greatest Name in SIGMA.
January 29, 1890 – August 8, 1953
Leonard F. Morse
Leonard F. Morse was the proud son of a distinguished New England family, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Morse of Boston, Massachusetts. Trained in the elementary and secondary schools of New Bedford, Massachusetts, he became the valedictorian of his integrated high school and entered Howard University. In 1915, he graduated from Howard University and was the first person to graduate in 3 years with an A.B and a B.Ed degree.
Later, the degree of Bachelor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the Payne School of Divinity, Wilberforce University. He received his Master’s degree from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and the degrees of Doctor of Metaphysics and the Doctor of Psychology from the College of Metaphysics, Indianapolis, Indiana. The Honorary Degree of D.D. was conferred at Allen University, Columbia, South Carolina, and the LLD at Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida.
An outstanding educator and prophet, he lived a busy and resourceful life, having served in many institutions and areas of educational and religious life. He was Dean of Theology at Edward Waters College, Head of the Department of Religious Studies, President of Edward Waters and a Mason. Founder Morse founded and chartered numerous Sigma Chapters especially in Florida.
Founder Morse was a student of the Greek language, and he named our beloved fraternity. In addition, he wrote Sigma’s first constitution and was the first president of Alpha Chapter. In the 1915 Howard University yearbook entitled “The Mirror”, Founder Morse had listed by his name the following: Director of Social Service, YMCA, 1913-1914; Organizer and President of Phi Beta Sigma, 1914-15; President, Young Men’s Progressive Club, 1914-15; tutor of languages and history.
Founder Morse was married and had five children, two of which are Brothers in this fraternity. Most recently his grandson became a Sigma. Leonard F. Morse was the last living Founder of Phi Beta Sigma. In the 1915 Howard University yearbook, Founder Morse left us with “Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep.”
Founder Leonard F. Morse
January 12, 1891 – May 22, 1961
Charles I. Brown
According to the 1914 Howard University yearbook, Founder Charles I. Brown is documented as Finished Howard Academy, 1910; Class Chaplain, 1913; Chaplain Classical Club, 1912-1913; President Classical Club, 1914; Vice-President Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, 1914; will do post-graduate work in Latin. In addition, Founder Brown was chosen “The Most To Be Admired” for the Class of 1914.
Founder Brown is said to have been born in Topeka, Kansas in 1890. Census records show that his father was Rev. John M. Brown and that his mother was Maggie M. Brown. However, records at Howard University from 1910 have Founder Brown living at 1813 Titan Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He was very cordial and very popular with the student body and Howard University administration. He is credited with choosing the nine charter members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Founder Brown founded the Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, on April 9, 1917 and was a teacher at the Kansas Industrial School for Negroes in Topeka, Kansas.
Census records and oral interviews have showed us that Founder Brown was alive in the Topeka, Kansas area until 1931. Some believe that he was a casualty of the First World War; others believe that he moved overseas. In the spring of 1949, Founder Leonard F. Morse wrote “We live in daily hope that we shall one day learn the fate of our beloved Brother and Founder”.
In the 1914 Howard University yearbook, under the Personals and Applied Quotations section, Founder Brown left us with this, “No legacy is so rich as honesty”. Founder Brown graduated from Howard University on June 3, 1914. The last correspondence that the fraternity received from him was a letter to Founder Taylor in 1924, in which Founder Brown indicated that he was teaching in Kansas.
Although we may never find out the fate of our beloved Founder, always remember, “March on, March on, Ye mighty host” for Founder Charles I. Brown will remain in our hearts.