History of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and Gamma Beta Boulé Chapter

Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. is the country’s oldest African American fraternity.

Unlike most fraternities which you can commonly identify, Sigma Pi Phi selects its membership from male college graduates who are recognized as outstanding achievers and productive citizens.

At the dawn of the twentieth-century black men of distinction had long functioned in various leadership posts, especially in the churches and benevolent association movement. In 1904 a small group in Philadelphia set out to create an organization that would provide a vehicle for men of standing and like tastes to come together to know the best of one another.

Henry McKee Minton was the leading figure in the discussions about organizing a group for such purposes. Henry Minton was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on Christmas Day in 1871. He went to school at the Academy at Howard University and, eventually, Phillips Exeter Academy, from which he graduated in 1891.

Minton studied law for a year and then went to pharmacy school at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, from which he graduated in 1895. Minton then received the M. D. degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1906.

Minton also spent considerable time contemplating the isolation in which accomplished black men lived and worked. He began to talk with other black professionals – Dr. Algernon B. Jackson (b. 21 May 1878) being chief among them about their shared conditions and about his ideas for forming an organization that would bring them together in fellowship. Minton thought that black learned and professional men should have an organization that “should be a fraternity in the true sense of the word; one whose chief thought should not be to visit the sick and bury the dead, but to bind men of like qualities, tastes and attainments into a close and sacred union that they might know the best of one another.” Members would not be “selected on the basis of brains alone – but in addition to congeniality, culture and good fellowship; that they shall have behind them [at initiation] a record of accomplishment, not merely be men of promise and good education.

After months of conversation with Jackson and some discussions with Edwin C. Howard, M.D. (b. 21 October 1846) and Richard J. Warrick, D.D.S. (b. 29 December 1880), both physicians, the four men met together at Howard’s home on May 15, 1904. The men agreed that they would meet again in two weeks and recruited two other physicians, Robert J. Abele (b. 2 June 1875) and Eugene T. Hinson (b. 20 November 1873), to join their group.

On June 9, 1984, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., officially called Gamma Beta Boulé as its 74th subordinate chapter at the Sheraton at St. John’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida.

During the summer of 1983, Dr. Wendell P. Holmes, Jr., called a meeting at his home on Gillislee Drive inviting community leaders and professionals for the purpose of introducing the fraternity to potential members and exploring the possibility of establishing a chartered chapter in Jacksonville. While most fraternities on college campuses were quite visible and their names recognizable, few persons in Jacksonville were familiar with the organization. Dr. Holmes served on college boards at Bethune-Cookman College and at Hampton University. He also was very aware of the caliber of men associated with the fraternity and was driven to interest enough successful individuals in Jacksonville to seek admission as a Jacksonville Chartered Chapter. His prior investigation of requirements made it clear that individuals should be of highest professional caliber, be able to afford the financial requirements of the fraternity’s taxes and planned activities, and  would interest the minimum number of candidates to start a chapter.

All are accompanied by Sire Archon Jarik Conrad and Grand Sire Archon James Payne

After a series of meetings, the preliminary process for admitting a newly formed subordinate Boulé was completed under the guidance of the National Office. The chartering ceremony was planned and held at the Sheraton at St. John’s Place in Jacksonville on June 9, 1984. The ceremony was conducted by Grand Grammateus Butler Henderson from New York City. He was assisted by Archons from Subordinate Boulés around Florida, principally Archon T. Winston Cole from Gainesville and Archon Roger P. Fair, from Beta Xi Boulé. Fifteen Archons were installed in the newly chartered Gamma Beta Boulé on that Saturday evening.

They were: Dr. Chester A. Aikens, dentist: C. Ronald Belton, an investment broker with Merrill Lynch: Dr. Charles Cline, assistant superintendent, Duval County Public Schools: Dr. Cecil W. Cone, president of Edward Waters College: Gillard Glover, chair/president of the New Afro-American Life Insurance Co.: Robert Gordon, Esq., attorney at law: Dr. Walter Haltis, assistant superintendent, Duval County Public Schools: Dr. Wendell P. Holmes, Jr., Chair of the Duval County School Board and president of Holmes and West Funeral Home, P.A.: Earl M. Johnson, Esq., attorney at law: Ronald Van Johnson, president, Century National Bank: Dr. Orrin Mitchell, orthodontist; Dr. Robert L. Mitchell, associate vice president for academic affairs/chief administrative officer, Downtown Campus, University of North Florida; Willard Payne, owner, McDonald’s Restaurant; Dr. Rodell F. Roberts, conference lay leader, United Methodist Church: and Dr. Alvin G. White, Area Superintendent, Duval County Public Schools.

This is the 31st annual Gamma Beta Boulé High Potential Youth Recognition Awards Program, where scholarships are presented to the top African American students in the Duval County Public School system.

National website: http://www.sigmapiphi.org/home/

Local website: http://www.gammabetaboulé.org/