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Alpha Phi Alpha

Fraternity History

The founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. were no ordinary achievers. Given racial attitudes in 1906, their accomplishments were monumental. As founder Henry Arthur Callis euphemistically stated because the half-dozen African American students at Cornell University during the school year 1904-05 did not return to campus the following year, the incoming students in 1905-06, in founding Alpha Phi Alpha, were determined to bind themselves together to ensure that each would survive in the racially hostile environment. In coming together with this simple act, they preceded by decades the emergence of such on-campus programs as affirmative action, upward bound and remedial assistance. The students set outstanding examples of scholarship, leadership and success preceding the efforts even of the NAACP and similar civil rights organizations.


Brother Henry Arthur Callis

The Jewels' Jewel

Henry Arthur Callis was born January 14, 1887. he attended Cornell University in the fall of 1905, where he worked part time as a janitor and a waiter. Due to financial difficulties he was forced to drop out of school in 1907, but returned the following year. After graduating in 1909 he went on to Rush Medical School and became a practicing Physician, Howard University Professor of Medicine and prolific contributor to medical journals. Often regarded as the philosopher of the Founders, and a moving force in the Fraternity's development, he was the only one of the Cornell seven to become General President. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., he was a Medical Consultant to the veterans hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. Upon his death on November 12, 1974, at age 87, the Fraternity entered a time without any living jewels. His papers were donated to Howard's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.


Brother Charles Henry Chapman

The Reclaimed Jewel

Charles Henry Chapman was born in 1876. Before attending Cornell he was a student at Howard University. after graduation, he entered higher education and eventually became professor of agriculture at what is now Florida A&M University. Chapman was a founder of FAMU's Beta Nu chapter. During the organization stages of Alpha chapter, he was the first Chairman of the committees on initiation and organization. A university funeral was held with considerable Fraternity participation when he became the first Jewel to enter Omega chapter in 1934.


Brother Eugene Kinckle Jones

The Visionary Jewel

Eugene Kinckle Jones, born July 30, 1885, entered the Cornell Graduate School of Sociology in 1906; after obtaining a B.A. from Virginia Union University. A versatile leader, he organized the first three Fraternity chapters that branched out from Cornell: Beta at Howard, Gamma at Virginia Union and the original Delta at the University of Toronto in Canada. In addition to becoming Alpha chapter's second President and joining with Callis in creating the Fraternity name, jones was a member of the first committees on constitution and organization and helped write the Fraternity ritual. He later became the first Executive Secretary of the National Urban League. His 20-year tenure with the Urban League thus far has exceeded those of all his successors in office. Jones also has the distinction of being one of the first initiates as well as an original Founder. His status as a founder was not finally established until 1952. He died in 1954.


Brother George Biddle Kelley

The Devoted Jewel

George Biddle Kelley, born in 1884, became the first African American engineer registered in the state of New York. He worked many years for the New York State Barge Canal, and later went on to being a very successful tax consultant. Not only was he the strongest proponent of the Fraternity idea among the organization's founders, the Civil Engineering student also became Alpha chapter's first President. In addition, he served on committees that worked out the handshake and ritual. Kelley was popular with the brotherhood. He resided in Troy, New York and was active with Beta Pi Lambda chapter in Albany. He died on May 5, 1962.


Brother Nathaniel Allison Murray

The Passionate Jewel

Nathaniel Allison Murray continued in graduate work after completing his undergraduate studies at Cornell. He later returned home to Washington, D.C., where he taught in public schools. Much of his career was spent at Armstrong Vocational High School in the District of Columbia. He was a member of Alpha chapter's first committee on organization of the new Fraternal group, as well as the committee on the grip. The charter member of Washington's Mu Lambda chapter was a frequent attendee of general conventions. He died on December 6, 1959.


Brother Robert Harold Ogle

The Methodical Jewel

Robert Harold Ogle entered the secretarial field and had the unique privilege of serving as a professional staff member to the United States senate committee on appropriations. He was an African American pioneer in his Capitol Hill position. He proposed the Fraternity's colors and was Alpha chapter's first secretary. Ogle joined Kelley in working out the first ritual and later became a charter member of Washington, DC's Mu Lambda chapter. He died on December 3, 1936.


Brother Vertner Woodson Tandy

The Outspoken Jewel

Vertner Woodson Tandy was born on May 17, 1885. in 1904 he attended Tuskegee Institute, transferring the next year to Cornell. Upon graduation, he became the state of New York's first Black registered architect, with offices on broadway in New York City. The designer of the Fraternity pin also holds the distinction of being the first African American to pass the military commissioning examination and was commissioned First Lieutenant in the 15th infantry of the New York State National Guard during the first World War. He was Alpha chapter's first treasurer and took the initiative to incorporate the Fraternity. Among the buildings designed by the highly talented architect is Saint Phillips Episcopal Church in New Tork City. He died on November 7, 1949.

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