Our History in Words
Pi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated was founded on the campus of Morehouse College on April 23, 1921. The chapter was not only the first chapter of any fraternity on Morehouse’s campus, but it also was the first chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi in the Deep South. Overcoming a multitude of obstacles and resistance, Caesar Felton “Zip” Gayles (who had been exposed to Kappa Alpha Psi while growing up in Evanston, Illinois and attending Northwestern University) founded Pi Chapter and became the Chapter’s first Polemarch.
The Charter line consisted of: Caesar Felton “Zip” Gayles (Founder)- Evanston, Illinois; Dr. Hamilton M. Holmes, Sr. (The Krust of Pi) - Atlanta, Georgia; Adolphus W. Plump, Sr. - Birmingham, Alabama; Arthur D. Grose - Memphis, Tennessee; Byron Gentry - Indianola, Mississippi; Lycurgus Gentry - Indianola, Mississippi; Truelove Gurley - Stephenson, Alabama; Griffen A. Davis - Memphis, Tennessee; Henry A. Johnson - Augusta, Georgia; Theodore Pinckney - Augusta, Georgia; Dotson Shockley - Atlanta, Georgia; Joseph T. Walker - Augusta, Georgia; Thomas N. Roberts - Savannah, Georgia; Willard Winters - Indianola, Mississippi; Monroe Worthy - Thompson, Georgia.
The Chapter’s advisor, J. H. Alston, a Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, joined the Morehouse faculty in the Fall of 1919 (which is when he first approached Caesar Felton “Zip” Gayles among others to join the Fraternity). Brother Alston was a co-founder and charter initiate of Epsilon Chapter (Lincoln University) in 1915. On April 30, 1921 Grand Polemarch George F. David, II arrived in Atlanta; and with the aid of Alston, Bro. David initiated the charter line into Kappa Alpha Psi.
The Chapter’s first officers were: Polemarch - Caesar Felton “Zip” Gayles; Vice Polemarch - Dr. Hamilton M. Holmes ; Keeper Of Records - Adolphus W. Plump; Strategus - Byron H. Gentry; Lieutenant Strategus - Griffen A. Davis; Keeper of Exchequer - Willard Winters; and Chairman, Board of Directors - Theodore Pinckney. As the first chapter of the Fraternity in the Deep South, Pi assisted in the founding of other chapters in the region. The Gamma Kappa Chapter (Clark College) of Kappa Alpha Psi’s charter initiates pledged at Pi Chapter, as did the charter line for Theta Kappa Chapter (West Georgia College).
Early meetings of the Chapter were held at the home of Vice Polemarch Dr. Hamilton M. Holmes Sr. (Spr. ’21), who was initiated as a college graduate because there was no alumni chapter nearby. Other early initiates include: Kimuel A Huggins (Spr. ’22), Atlanta University Chairman of the Department of Chemistry; Byron H. Gentry (Spr. ’21) and his brother Lycurgus Gentry (Spr. ’21); Dr. Franklin L. Forbes (Spr. ’23), Chairman of the Department of Physical Education at the College; T. Lee Curry (Spr. ’23), Atlanta Insurance Man; Charles Clark (Spr. ’23), former baseball great; E. Davidson Hutt (Spr. ’22); Dr. Aldolphus Plump Sr. (Spr. ’21), successful Birmingham, AL physician; and Dr. Edward A. Jones (Spr. ’23), Chairman of the Department of Modern Languages at the College and Chapter correspondent for the Kappa Alpha Psi Journal. His column was titled “Slices of Pi.”
The first 20 years would set a precedent for achievement both in the Fraternity and at the College. Pi produced two editors of the Morehouse student newspaper: John Pittman (Spr. ’23), who changed the newspaper’s name from The Athaeneum to The Maroon Tiger; and T. Harvey Burris (Spr. ’23) who was also Polemarch and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in three years. In 1925, E. Davidson Hutt (Spr. ’22) won first prize in a songwriting contest for The Kappa Alpha Psi Journal for his song entitled “Kappa Alpha Psi March.” In 1928, Polemarch Franklin L. Forbes (Spr. ’23) was President of the Athletic Association, captain of the baseball team, star halfback of the football team, and Junior Grand Vice Polemarch of the Fraternity.
The same year Graham W. Jackson (Fall ’27) composed the “Kappa Victory Song.” Brother Jackson would go on to become a successful composer and organist, performing 17 times for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including a rendition of “Going Home” at his funeral. The Valedictorians for the College from 1929 – 1931 were members of Pi.
In 1946 Polemarch William C. Jefferson (Spr. ’44) was elected to the Grand Board of Directors. In 1947 Lorenzo Gunn (Spr. ’46) was elected Grand Strategus. Donald L. Hense Jr., President of the Panhellinic Council at the College, was elected Junior Grand Vice Polemarch in 1968. Founder Caesar Felton “Zip” Gayles was a member of the second class of Elder Watson Diggs Laureates, the second highest award in the Fraternity, at the Fraternity’s Golden Anniversary Celebration in 1961. He also became the 27th Laurel Wreath Wearer, the highest award in the Fraternity, in 1977. He became the second Fraternity member to earn the first and second most coveted honors the Grand Chapter can bestow. The same year Representative Sanford Bishop Sr. (D-GA-10) (Spr. ’66) and James O. Whaley (Spr. ’24) received the Elder Watson Diggs Award. Another prominent chapter member, Representative George Crockett (Spr. ’58) (D-MI-13), received the Laurel Wreath in 1986. In November of the year, Founder Caesar Felton “Zip” Gayles entered Chapter Invisible.
In 1987, Dr. Leroy Keith (Spr. ’61) assumed the role of President of the College, becoming the first Fraternity and Chapter member to serve in this capacity, and in 1991 Dr. Keith saw the class that entered the College with him graduate with Robert Crawford (Spr. ’91) as its Valedictorian.
Several Pi members received awards from the College at its annual “A Candle In The Dark” awards gala during the 1990’s: Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III (Fall ’68) received the Candle Award in Religion in 1990; Rep. George Crockett (Spr. ’58) received the Bennie Trailblazer Award in 1991; Clarence “Kappa” Brown (Spr. ’39) received the Bennie Service Award in 1992; and Dr. Henry W. Foster Jr. (Fall ’51) received the Bennie Service Award in 1996.
In 1995, Dr. Foster, Jr., then-senior advisor to President William Jefferson Clinton, was nominated to be Surgeon General. October of 1996, the chapter celebrated its 75th Diamond Anniversary during Homecoming. Rufus Bowling, Jr. (Fall ’56) served as keynote speaker for the Anniversary Banquet, held at the Atlanta Marriott Suites Midtown.
The new millennium ushered in a new era in Pi Chapter. The chapter flourished between 2001 and 2011, initiating more brothers than in any other decade. The Spr. ’01 line produced two Morehouse Student Government Association (SGA) Presidents, an editor-in-chief of The Maroon Tiger campus newspaper, a Major in the U.S. Marine Corps (Travis Reeves), and two Southeastern Province student of year winners. The Spring 2002 line boasts four practicing medical doctors and seven lawyers, all trained in some of the most competitive programs nationally. Spring 2003 produced the Southeastern Province Lt. Strategus for two consecutive years and two Southeastern Province student of the year winners.
Over the next fifteen years, Pi Chapter produced two Valedictorians, fifteen Phi Beta Kappa inductees, two Pickering Fellows, three Teach For America recipients, four Cambridge University fellows, four Peace Corp Volunteers, and an editor of College yearbook. Pi Chapter also was named Southeastern Province Chapter of the Year for the years 2004, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Another prominent member of Pi Chapter is veteran journalist and historian Lerone J. Bennett Jr. (Fall ’46), who served over 50 years in various positions, including 17 years as Executive Editor, of the nation’s largest Black magazine, Ebony. Upon his retirement from Ebony in 2005, he was named Executive Editor Emeritus of the magazine.
In 2006 jazz saxophonist Kenneth Whalum, III (Spr. ’03) was tapped to tour with Sean “Diddy” Combs. That gig would be a springboard for his successful career, performing and recording with some of the biggest names in music. In 2008, Glenn “Monty” Bell (Spr. ’02) became one of the youngest judge-magistrates in the nation, named in South Carolina at age 27. In 2014, Benjamin C. Jones (Spr. ’03) received a coveted development writing deal with Home Box Office (HBO).
In 2011, the year of the Fraternity’s Centennial Celebration in Indiana, Ali Haji Osman (Spr. ’09) received the Fraternity’s Byron Kenneth Armstrong Award. Most notably, Pi Chapter was named Chapter of the Year at the 80th Grand Chapter Meeting, a crowning achievement for its 90th Anniversary year. This same feat was achieved in 2015. In January 2013, Dr. John S. Wilson (Fall ‘76) became the 11th president of Morehouse College, the second member of the Fraternity and Chapter to serve in this capacity, following his position as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—appointed by President Barack Obama. And as a bellwether of achievements to come, the most recent line, Spring 2016, includes the College football team’s quarterback.