History of Beta Phi Chapter
of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Compiled and researched by Bro. Robert Hoover
"The model graduate chapter is one which appropriates and transfers into the practical affairs of a busy world the attributes and principles of undergraduate life. The undergraduate chapter organizes an influence behind each of its members, dignifies his attainments in student life and incites to new achievements, softens the hard places in his striving and hardens the soft places in his character; in other words, stiffens his preparation, fixes his ideals and interprets his to the students world. Most of all, it renders him subject to the power of a dominant will, which is the crystallization of the free cooperation of the brother members; and this submission widens his perspective and rids his soul of selfish desire.
In true juxtaposition, the model graduate chapter assumes all of the functions above enumerated; and their practical application is equally, if not more, beneficial to the brothers who are bread-winners in a hard and often unfriendly world. In business and in the professions, an organized force which supports the brother members in their several callings, which multiplies the sources of their strength and sympathetically interprets them to the community is indeed a tower of might. The Durham idea is one of cooperation and mutual support. Certainly, no organization is better fitted, by precept and experience to function more freely in such a community than our beloved Fraternity."
The supreme test of a graduate chapter resides in the selection of a group of Brothers of like aims and ideals, possessing the necessary qualifications, who are Fraternally-Minded; Men otherwise qualified to whom the four-square cardinals of Manhood, Perseverance, Scholarship and Uplift are to be an undying fire. By this test, Beta Phi acknowledges with pride that her Sons of Omega will yield to no others in measure of their devotion to the Fraternity. The traditions of Omega are being upheld by the members of Beta Phi, and in all respects the Chapter approximates the standard of an undergraduate chapter; it is animate, buoyant, loyal, and resolute. The ideal of FRATERNITY, of faithfulness to its spirit and of insistence upon its precepts, is the basis of orientation.
Omega in Durham is considerably more than a Greek organization. It is a vital force in the making of a city which enables and inspires the maximum of accomplishment on the part of the members of the unit. It is superimposed upon the already well laid understructure of organized activity, successful pioneering in commerce and a high community morale. Therein lies the supreme opportunity of the Unit: for it is molding a character and founding a dynasty of enlightened leaders whose influence, through the national organizations residing here, will be impressed upon succeeding generations. The proof of this assertion is best demonstrated by enumeration of the strategic positions occupied by the members of Beta Phi.
The Twenties and Thirties
"Beta Phi Chapter, Durham, North Carolina, was chartered December 15, 1924 at the Thirteenth Grand Conclave, upon the petition of R. McCants Andrews, Alpha '15; C. W. Blackmon, Alpha '21; R. N. Harris, Eta Omega '22; John Fouchee, Zeta Omega '23; and J. W. Jones, Tau Omega '23. It was not long before the jurisdiction of Beta Phi was extended to include Raleigh and Eastern North Carolina. This chapter has participated in making effective the policies of each Supreme Council that has been in control of Omega Affairs since it was chartered. It has sponsored scholarship awards in various colleges and high schools; it has made contributions to worthy causes; it has given books on Negro history to libraries and schools in this section, and has established a loan fund for worthy undergraduates of local schools. It has regularly given social affairs and entertained national officers of Omega and other Greek-letter organizations. The Basilei have been R. N. Harris, W. D. Hill, J. D. Lewis, G. W. Cox and J. W. Goodloe, incumbent.
"Beta Phi fostered the establishment of Delta Psi Chapter at Shaw University and Tau Psi Chapter at North Carolina College in Durham (now NCCU) and has continuously acted as a big brother to these undergraduates. Beta Phi was the first chapter to take initiative towards the establishment of a state conference (now known as the District Council Meetings and the Annual District Meeting). In 1933 it entertained the Twenty-second Annual Conclave at Durham. The following have been members of Beta Phi: L. A. Oxley, Grand Basileus in 1933; and George A. Isabell, the present Grand Keeper of Records and Seal. Leading business and professional men of this area are members of Beta Phi. For the Omega Hall of Fame were selected five in their chapter mentioned in their report as nationally-known characters: Dr. G. C. Shaw, President of Mary Potter Memorial School; Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, official of the U. S. Public Health Service; L. W. Wilhoite, Secretary-Manager, Bankers Life Insurance Company; I. H. Smith, Insurance Broker and Realtor; and R. McCants Andrews, Attorney." (Dreer, The History of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, 1940, pgs 194-195)
The first Basileus of Beta Phi Chapter was Brother Rencher Nicholas (R. N.) Harris. A resident of 409 Formosa Street, Brother Harris was Executive Vice President of Bankers Fire and Casualty Insurance Company of Durham. Other early Basilei have been Brothers W. D. Hill, J. D. Lewis, G. W. Cox, and J. W. Goodloe (Incumbent in 1940). Charter members of Beta Phi Chapter were: Allen Foushee, J. W. Jones, G. Wayne Cox, R. N. Harris, R. McCants Andrews, W. D. Hill, Harry W. Hill, H. I. Hill, H. I. Wilson, J. C. Scarborough, J. H. Midgette, L. W. Midgette, L. W. Wilhoite, Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Charles A. Blackman, M. A. Goins, Dr. Caswell V. Rice, and Dr. George Kirkland. Known as the "Father of Beta Phi," Brother Harris was to see his organization serve as a catalyst for others. Beta Phi Chapter also fostered the establishment of Psi Delta Chapter at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Omega Zeta Chapter at Duke University.
While the jurisdiction of Beta Phi extended throughout Raleigh and Eastern North Carolina, this chapter has participated in making effective the policies of each Supreme Council that has been in control of Omega affairs since it was chartered. It has sponsored scholarship awards in various colleges and high schools; it has made contributions to worthy causes; it has given books of Black History to libraries and schools; and has established a loan fund for worthy undergraduates of local schools. It has regularly given social affairs and entertained national affairs of Omega and other Greek-letter organizations.
The fraternity has felt and seen the dynamic qualities of this chapter. In December of 1932, at the Biltmore Hotel in Durham, Beta Phi Chapter hosted one of the most memorable and successful Grand Conclaves (the Twenty-second) the fraternity has witnessed. At this meeting, Brother Lawrence A. Oxley was elected Grand Basileus. "In 1933, the first year of his administration, the following chapters were organized: Beta Alpha, a graduate chapter at Jackson, Mississippi; Gamma Alpha, a graduate chapter at Roanoke, Virginia; and Phi Psi, an undergraduate chapter at Langston, Oklahoma. In 1934, the second year of Oxley's administration, the following graduate chapters were added: Zeta Alpha, at Oxford, North Carolina; and Eta Alpha at Columbia, Missouri. In 1935, the third year of Brother Oxley's administration, the following chapters were established: April 19, Iota Alpha as a graduate chapter at Knoxville, Tennessee; on April 29, Theta Alpha as a graduate chapter at Dallas, Texas; on May 9, Kappa Alpha as a graduate chapter at Rock Hill, South Carolina; and in June, Alpha Sigma as an undergraduate chapter at Morris Brown College, Atlanta, Georgia." (Dreer, 42).
Many of Beta Phi's early members were active in establishing the Durham Committee on Black Affairs in July of 1935. Likewise, many members of the infant Beta Phi Chapter worked diligently in the establishing of the local Durham branch of the NAACP.
The Fourties and Fifties
Beta Phi Brothers continued to follow the responsible and civic minded precedent set by their earlier brothers. Not only have the Durham Committee and the NAACP been recipients of the wisdom and direction of members of Beta Phi, but the Durham City Council and Board of Education have benefitted as well from the knowledge, expertise and leadership of men of Beta Phi.
In 1944, Beta Phi Chapter assisted in the chartering of the Iota Iota Chapter in Raleigh, North Carolina. Before that time, Beta Phi served as the local base for Omega in Raleigh and the surrounding area, as well as Durham, with monthly meetings being held alternately in both cities.
Brother I. Gregory Newton was elected as National Basileus in 1958 and served three terms, presiding over the Fiftieth Anniversary Grand Conclave which was held in Washington, D.C. in 1961. The Golden Anniversary of the Fraternity was a grand occasion that featured speeches by the Founders - Bishop Edgar A. Love, Dr. Oscar J. Cooper and Professor Frank Coleman. In addition, Dr. Leroy T. Walker, Track Coach at North Carolina College, (along with Woody Hayes of Ohio State) participated in a symposium to emphasize the theme, "Manhood as a Part of the Fraternity Ritual." The major portion of Dr. Newton's professional career was spent at North Carolina College. He joined the faculty of the college as an instructor in political science and later became Professor and Chairman of the Department of Political Science. He also served as the Director of Athletics at the North Carolina College.
The Sixties and Seventies
In 1962 Dr. Newton left North Carolina College to accept a position with the Peace Corps as coordinator of Latin American Training Program. Beta Phi Chapter was also featured on the May 1966 cover of the Oracle.
Omega Men held some of the top positions of the largest Black owned and operated financial institution in the world, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company of Durham, North Carolina. Moving from hosting general meetings in the homes of various brothers of the chapter, the Chapter has had meeting places like the North Carolina Mutual Building, Biltmore Hotel and the Algonquin Tennis Club in its early years.
Under the leadership of Basileus Fred D. McNeill, Beta Phi Chapter experienced growth to 125 active members during his tenure from 1975 to 1977. McNeill's administration also hosted the chapter's first Mardi Gras event. The Beta Phi Mardi Gras consisted of a Grand Mardi Gras Parade, concert, Que round-up, and Grand Mardi Gras Dance and Breakfast. This initiative, which still provides funding for scholarships and other chapter endeavors, was conceptualized by James Hayslett, who later served as Basileus from 1977 to 1978. Hayslett's administration was notable for the continuation of the Mardi Gras initiative and the implementation of internal business procedures and policies for the conducting of chapter business and meetings. In addition, the concept of a Chapter fraternity house was initially discussed and examined during the administration of James Hayslett.
The Eighties and Nineties
Now, with a combination of young, energetic members, including fifty and sixty year men, to provide its stability and wisdom, Beta Phi began the 80's with a proud knowledge of the firm ground on which it was established and nurtured, and a keen awareness of its capabilities to tackle the needs and problems of the present and future. During 1992 Beta Phi hosted the 48th Sixth District Annual Meeting where Brother John H Scott was District Marshall and Brother Quan Williams was Chapter Basileus. At the time this was the largest Sixth District Annual Meeting in terms of the number of registered brothers at 101. During 1995 Brother Scott was elected the 29th Sixth District Representative, becoming the first member of Beta Phi to serve in this capacity. During 1998 Brother Scott was elected 1st Vice Grand Basileus where he served two 2 year terms.
Beta Phi hosted yet another record setting very successful Sixth District Annual Meeting in 2009, where Brother James Mills was District Marshall, and Brother Derrick Vines was chapter Basileus for 2 terms. In 2011 Beta Phi have two Sixth District officers, Brother Jim Harper II - District Assistant Keeper Records and Seal and Brother Brian Beverly, who is completing his third term as Sixth District Counselor and two terms as chapter Basileus. Brother Jim Harper II was elected for 2012 and 2013 terms. Elected as 2013 Sixth District Officers were Brother Brian Beverly, 1st Vice District Representative, and Brother Jim Harper II - District Keeper of Records and Seal.