In the fall of 1922 when Alpha Omega Chapter was launched, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was only 11 years old, a youth with a lot of questions both about itself and about everything around it. Only two years earlier, the fraternity had come up with an answer to one of the most burning questions facing it: How could a young Omega build a structure that would allow members who had received so much from their undergraduate experience to continue to derive benefits and the “good fellowship” as they moved into their careers and on to graduate education. As Herman Dreer wrote in The History of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, “They wanted the place of their new abode to feel the transforming power of Omega.” The solution was to set up graduate chapters, with the first one being Lambda of Norfolk, Va., in November 1920 (now Lambda Omega). In 1922, Grand Basileus J. Alston Atkins would restructure the system for assigning names to chapters, adding the word “Omega” to the names of graduate chapters and tying them to the name of the undergraduate chapter in the city. For Washington, D.C, the birthplace of Omega and the location of its Alpha Chapter at Howard University, this new system meant that the graduate chapter carried the name “Alpha” as a tribute to the first chapter and the name “Omega” to distinguish it as a graduate chapter. Not surprising, many of the earliest members of Alpha Omega were men who had entered the fraternity through Howard University.
For 75 years, Alpha Omega Chapter has had a distinguished history in Washington, D.C. The chapter has been the second-largest and largest chapter of the fraternity in terms of membership. Alpha Omega’s members have won national recognition for their ambitious programs and reclamation efforts, and the chapter has been home to most of the founders, including Founder Edgar A. Love, as well as to contemporary national officers such as current Keeper of Records and Seal Robert Fairchild and former Keeper of Finance Kenneth Brown. Moreover, Alpha Omega was the home of the first National Executive Secretary, Brother H. Carl Moultrie I, and the chapter was the impetus for the D.C. Superior Court being renamed in honor of Brother Moultrie.
The idea for a graduate chapter in Washington, D.C., “had its birth in the minds of men in the spring of 1922,” said Brother Spurgeon Burke during an interview in 1975, and was formed and launched in fall 1922. “Alpha Omega evolved from the Alpha Chapter because as we advanced through the academic curriculum in the college or from the professional schools, we became graduates of the university,” Burke said. “Many of us lived in the District of Columbia, and we did not want to lose our relationship with Mother Omega. And out of our combined yearning to continue in the service of Omega, these graduates decided to build the Alpha Omega Chapter.” Burke added, “The actual desire was extended to the point that we felt that there was an opportunity for leadership in this city among adult citizens who were out in the world and in many instances had already made their mark, and we wanted to have their association and support. In those instances we made it our business when we first made an effort to organize Alpha Omega Chapter to select the leadership.” Among the charter members of the chapter were Bradshaw Marshall, Campbell Johnson, Leonard Johnson, Herbert Marshall, Edwin B. Henderson, Robert Mattingly, Gene Clark, Guy Wilkerson, Kyger Savoy, Clyde McDuffie, Walter Smith, G. David Houston, Cato Adams, and Howard Long, as well as Burke.
The founders of the chapter were principals, college instructors, language instructors, authors, and officials in the physical education department of the city. “These men had already made excellent records, were outstanding, and had been accepted by community leaders,” said Burke. The first basileus of Alpha Omega was Brother Charles H. Marshall, according to the late Brother Cato Adams, who was also interviewed on the chapter’s history in 1975. Brother Adams was its first Keeper of Records and Seal. During its 75-year history, Alpha Omega has left its mark in many ways. The following is a sample only of the chapter’s activities:
Alpha Omega hosted the 1945 Grand Conclave, as well as joined with the other Washington Chapters in hosting the 1961 Grand Conclave–Omega’s 50th anniversary celebration–and the 1976 Grand Conclave, the fraternity’s 75th anniversary. In fact, a total of nine Grand Conclaves have been held in Washington, with the first in 1912. In the year 2011, Alpha Omega will join the Washington Chapters in hosting the fraternity’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Every year, Alpha Omega’s Scholarship Commission provides $10,000 to $20,000 in scholarships to deserving young men graduating from the Washington, D.C., public, private, and parochial schools to help them attend college. In total, the chapter has given more than $90,000 in college scholarships over the last 10 years. The chapter has also provided emergency grants to undergraduate and graduate students who are members of the fraternity. This is just a sample of what Alpha Omega has accomplished during its first 75 years in Washington, D.C. The chapter has set a high standard for fraternity life, and the members feel they are ready for the next challenges and opportunities life in Omega offers.