Who Are The Jewels of Alpha Phi Alpha?
On December 4, 1906, it had been decided that the organization known as the Social Study Club during 1905-06, and also as the Alpha Phi Alpha Society since October 23, 1906, should be a fraternity. Two of the original club members, Mr. C. C. Poindexter and Mr. Thompkins, had resigned from the organization on learning that the decision had been made to organize a fraternity, and another Mr. Morgan T. Phillips, who had been active during the previous year, had not returned to school.
Considerable discussion had developed over the names of the Founders of the Fraternity. There has grown up the desire on the part of the friends or relatives to secure honor and place for those who were nearest to them, because of some evidence that the persons were associated with the organization in its incipiency.
The Founders of the Fraternity can be only those persons who initiated the fraternal idea and remained steadfast to their design even in the days of struggle and conflict.
The original seven include those men who were members of both organizations, the Social Study Club, 1905-06, and the Fraternity, 1906-07, who had remained steadfast to the ideal of a Greek-letter Fraternity during the months of uncertainty through which the club was passing, who did not waiver in their efforts to bring about the realization of their vision, and who dared to be pioneers in an untried field of Negro student life. These seven men are the fraternity Jewels.
Callis 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 in 1974, at age 87, the Fraternity entered a time without any living Jewels. His papers were donated to Howard’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
Henry Arthur Callis
Charles Henry Chapman
Chapman entered higher education and eventually became Professor of Agriculture at what is now Florida A&M University. A university funeral was held with considerable Fraternity participation when he became the first Jewel to enter Omega Chapter in 1934. Described as “a Brother beloved in the bonds,” 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.
Eugene Kinckle Jones
Jones 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. 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. 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.
George Biddle Kelley
Kelley became the first African American engineer registered in the state of New York. 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 in 1963.
Nathaniel Allison Murray
Murray pursued graduate work after completing his undergraduate studies at Howard. 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 in 1959.
Robert Harold Ogle
Ogle entered the career 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’s Mu Lambda Chapter. He died in 1936.
Vertner Woodson Tandy
Tandy became the state of New York’s first registered black architect, with offices on Broadway in New York City. The designer of the Fraternity pin 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. 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 York City. He died in 1949, at age 64.