Nu Phi History

“THE CHAPTER OF CHOICE SINCE 1926!”

In the early spring of 1926, a group of prominent Houston businessmen, educators, attorneys and physicians were informally socializing with visiting Omegas Carter Wesley, Jasper “Jack” Atkins and law student James Nabrit Jr. During their gathering, one of them presented the idea that they needed to organize a fraternal club. These men, undoubtedly influenced by Wesley, Atkins and Nabrit, decided that they wanted to be part of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. The enthusiasm for a chapter in the Omega organization had enveloped their hearts and the sensation was well on its way. Within a few weeks, these young men were meeting formally to exchange procedural ideas on establishing a new graduate chapter.

The first meeting was held at the Odd Fellows Temple located on the corner of Louisiana and Prairie streets in downtown Houston. James Nabrit and Carter Walker Wesley provided written information on how to organize a chapter. Brother Nabrit, acting as chairman, asked H.P. Carter to select several prominent men to serve as the nucleus and submit those names to Grand Basileus George E. Vaughn for consideration in establishing a chapter in Houston.

Former Grand Basileus (1921-24) and Houston attorney, Jack Alston Atkins, developed the goals and objectives for the new chapter. After long hours of work, the documents requesting a charter were finally completed and submitted to Brother Walter Mazyck, the Grand Keeper of Records and Seal.

After submitting the proposal and waiting patiently for months, the Houston men received word from the National Office that their request for a new chapter (the first graduate chapter in Texas) had been granted. With this good news in hand, Brother Nabrit began the process of organizing the chapter. Brother Pritchard Willard, an Omega man from Wiley College, assisted him and played an integral part in the establishment of this new chapter – a chapter that would become the pulse of the Houston community.

On Thursday August 26, 1926, during the second year of Grand Basileus Vaughn’s administration; this new chapter was founded and given the name NU PHI Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Future Grand Basileus Albert W. Dent of Louisiana and Brother Willard of Beaumont conducted the ceremony. W.P. Terrell, of Rho Omega, assisted and would go on to be the Chapter’s first Vice Basileus. Nu Phi’s official charter was issued on October 1, 1926.

Charter members were Howard Payne Carter, Dr. D.F. Barclay, James Delbridge Ryan, Gilbert T. Stocks, E.A. Chester, Richard G. Lockett and Olen P. Dewalt.

The charter members of Nu Phi and the men that worked so diligently to establish the chapter were all men of distinction, dedicated professionals and fierce civil rights champions.

 

THE CHARTER MEMBERS

Olen P. DeWalt graduated from Prairie View College, after which he worked as a real estate agent. He was principal of Independent Heights School for a brief period before opening the Lincoln Theater – the first Black owned, exclusively Black theater in Houston. During the 1920s he was president of the Houston branch of the NAACP and also pushed for the establishment of a branch of the National Urban League in Houston. He was heralded as an influential civil-rights leader who stood up to the KKK. DeWalt remained NAACP president until his death. On April 24, 1931, the 41-year-old Texas civil rights leader was assassinated after speaking passionately against the Klan. Brother DeWalt is buried in Livingston, TX.
James Delbridge Ryan, a graduate of Prairie View A&M University, received his Masters from Wiley College in Marshall, TX. He taught at Second and Third Ward schools in Houston and eventually became principal of the Colored High School (now the reconstructed Gregory Museum) and later, Jack Yates High School. J.D. Ryan Middle School was named in his honor.   Brother Ryan is buried in the historic Olivewood Cemetery near Houston’s Fourth Ward. He was Nu Phi’s first Keeper of Finance.
E.A. Chester, a graduate of Wiley College, worked at the Tuskegee Institute as a contemporary of Dr. Booker T. Washington. From 1926 to 1927, he was principal of the school in Independent Heights, TX – the first incorporated Black city in Texas (the area is now known as Studewood). In 1927, he became principal of Harper School. He was Nu Phi’s first Keeper of Peace.
Howard Payne “H.P.” Carter, a native of Tennessee, began his teaching career in Seguin, Texas. After military service, he came to Houston, eventually becoming the first African-American secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). After organizing the first football team at Old Colored High School, he became the Texas manager for National Benefit Life Insurance Company. The Carter Career Center was built in 1929. H.P. Carter was Nu Phi’s first Basileus (1926) and was appointed the second District Representative of the southwestern area. This area would officially become the Ninth District in 1937.
Richard G. Lockett was a native Houstonian born in 1882. He graduated from Atlanta University in 1905 and returned to Houston where he taught in and later coached at the Colored High School for Blacks. Because Blacks were not allowed to use Houston’s public libraries, he along with Walter L. D. Johnson, Sr. and Leonard Spivey (all of whom would later become Omega men) championed and succeeded in the establishment of Houston’s Colored Carnegie Library which opened in 1913. In 1926, he was also involved in the establishment of and a charter member of the Houston Affiliate of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas, Free and Accepted Masons of which Dr. Roett would later become a member.   Brother Lockett continued teaching and R.G. Lockett Junior High School was named after him in 1959.
Dr. D.F. Barclay, a graduate of Houston High School, entered the Student Army Training Corp at Howard University in September of 1918. He entered Dental School in 1919 – graduating in 1923. He was Nu Phi’s first Keeper of Records and Seal.
Gilbert T. Stocks, a World War I veteran, graduated from Walker Baptist Institute in Augusta, Georgia. The Valedictorian of the 1910 class of Morehouse College – Atlanta, Georgia, later taught at Western College in Macon, Georgia before serving as a Dean at Rogers Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee – a historical black college created in 1866 as an educational facility for newly freed slaves. Professor Stocks was the first Chaplin of Nu Phi.

On Nov 5, 1926, C.H. McGruder and Clifton Frederick Richardson, Sr. – both of whom were long thought to be charter members – along with J.B. Morris and J.W. Beverley, were initiated.


THE MEN BEHIND THE CHARTER

James Nabrit, Jr., was born in Georgia on September 7, 1900. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1923 and from Northwestern University Law School in 1927. Nabrit taught school in Louisiana and Arkansas from 1927 to 1930. From 1930 to 1936 he practiced law in Houston and later taught law at Howard University from 1936 to 1960. In 1938, he started the first formal civil rights law course in the United States and would later become president of Howard University.   Beginning in the 1940s and through the 1950s, Nabrit handled a number of civil rights cases for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, working with prominent attorneys such as ThurgoodMarshall, who became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Notably, Nabrit argued Bolling v. Sharpe, a companion case of Brown v. Board of Education.
Jasper (Jack) Alston Atkins, a native of Winston-Salem, NC received his B.A (magna cum laude) from Fisk University in 1919. He received his LL.B (cum laude) and J.D. in 1922 from Yale Law School where he served as editor of the Yale Law Journal. He practiced with the firm of Saddler, Atkins & Wesley in Muskogee and Tulsa, OK until he and Carter Wesley moved to Houston in 1927. In 1935, J.A. Atkins argued the case of Grovey v. Townsend, an early civil rights case involving the Texas primaries, before the U.S. Supreme Court and later cases against the North Carolina School system. He died June 28, 1982.
Carter Walker Wesley, a native Houstonian, attended Fisk University and Northwestern University’s Law School. He met Jasper (Jack) Alston Atkins at Northwestern and the two practiced law in Oklahoma for five years during the 1920s. After earning a large sum in the Leonard Ingram case involving oil claims, Wesley and Atkins moved to Houston and set up a law firm that included James M. Nabrit Jr. – an Omega man from Howard University. (At one time, Wesley, Richardson and Carter were business partners and owners of the Houston Informer).
Born in Barbados, Dr. Rupert O. Roett graduated from Meharry Medical College.   He completed his internship and residency at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. On his way to California, he was persuaded by other Black physicians to stay in Houston. Together in 1919, they founded Union Hospital, Houston’s first Black hospital, at the corner of Howard and Nash Streets in Houston’s Fourth Ward. In 1927, this same group was also the nucleus that established and built The Houston Negro Hospital, which is now named Riverside General Hospital. His residence at 3274 Holman in the Third Ward was named and is a City of Houston Landmark. Rupert O. Roett, also thought to be a charter member of Nu Phi, was possibly an Honorary Member of Delta Chapter – Nashville, Tennessee.

On May 5th and 6th of 1937, the Ninth District of Omega Psi Phi, Inc., was formed under the direction of Nu Phi’s, Dr. J.D. Bowles. He was appointed the first Ninth District Representative by Albert W. Dent – who had risen to the position of the 16th Grand Basileus of the fraternity.

None of these bridge builders is with us today, but their foundation will forever remain and be a vital part of the history of Nu Phi Chapter and Omega Psi Phi.

THE MANSION


Nu Phi Chapter Fraternity House circa 1965

During the 60’s, the brotherhood began to think about having a permanent meeting facility and providing dormitory housing for the undergraduate brothers attending Texas Southern University. Under the leadership of Basileus C.W. Thompson, the members of the chapter decided to make a big commitment for themselves and began the task of finding the perfect real estate. After many months of searching for the right financial deal and location, an exquisite house located at 2615 Calumet Street in Houston’s Third Ward was selected by the members.

The brotherhood agreed to purchase the house and in order to legally enter into a financial arrangement, a board of trustees was established. The original members of the board of trustees were Brothers H.P. Carter, W.L.D. Johnson, Samuel L. Prince, C.W. Thompson and Ned Wade. With the board of trustees in place, the chapter was ready to move forward. A financial agreement was worked out with the owner, Mr. Barry Tobias, and with additional financial assistance from the National Office, the signing of the Deed of Trust was completed on June 24, 1965.

Unfortunately, in the early morning hours of December 26, 1976, Nu Phi experienced a very disheartening event. The Frat House was nearly destroyed by fire which was discovered to be an act of arson. More than seven separate fires had been set. However, being true Omega Men, the members of the chapter set about the business of pulling themselves up by their Omega bootstraps. Basileus James Hendricks held the chapter together during this low period in Nu Phi history. Brother Hendricks and his Ad Hoc Housing Committee began the slow process of rebuilding and redesigning the Frat house. Brother Harold “Rembrandt” Houston and Brother Marcus Sheppard, Sr. served as the architect and designer for this project, respectively.

In 1986, during Brother Raymond Bourgeois’ administration, the restoration of the “Frat House” was completed and under the steady leadership of Brother Charles Qualls, Chapter Keeper of Finance, all financial obligations on the house were retired. The burning of the deed ceremony was held in 1986 – thus creating a new era and a new philosophy for the use of the “Frat House.”

During the late 90’s and the early years of the new millennium, under the leadership of Basilei Warren Moody, Ramon Simon, Joel Richards, Marcus Sheppard, Sr. and Byron Keith “B.K.” Watson; the chapter experienced a tremendous leap in the energy due to the leadership becoming younger in age. They were instrumental in getting the seasoned brothers and the younger brothers to work more effectively for the good of the chapter. From their efforts, reorganization of the Chapter community activities such as, youth mentor programs, food and clothing drives for the needy, the Adopt a Family program, the Nu Phi Chapter Annual Reclamation & Retention Reunion and the Talent Hunt Program, were given new lives and direction from an emboldened Brotherhood. The mechanisms by which business was conducted evolved as well, as the chapter embraced the technology of the new century.

Nu Phi Chapter Annual Reclamation & Retention Reunion

Inspired by a vision that focused on the potential the Mansion had to offer, Nu Phi set on a new course to remodel and upgrade the facility for improved utilization. The Frat House had to assume an identity that would provide the chapter with the flexibility to function in the new millennium. In 1999, the final plan was completed; emphasizing an educational area, rental space, kitchen and restroom improvements, a game/media room, and meeting rooms. Implementation was the next pursuit.

The brothers of the chapter rose to the occasion to demonstrate their love and willingness to serve Omega by making personal contributions to help with the financing of the project. Raymond Bourgeois, Johnnie Johnson, Warren Moody, James Thomas, and B.K .Watson signed the note to secure funding for the “Project of the Decade”. Brothers Alonzo Harley, James S. Thomas, Johnny Johnson, Thorton Lamply, Louis Morris, Joel Pearsall, Traversia Viola, Raymond Bourgeois, Bennie Rucker, Thomas Mathis, Raymond Glass, Orlando Williams and Wendell Van Smith each made $1,000 dollar contributions for the renovation.

In 2001, under the leadership of Basileus Marcus Sheppard Sr. and ONPEC President James Thomas, the “Project of the Decade” began to move forward and brothers stepped up to the plate offering their services. Brothers Marcus Sheppard Jr. – project architect, Joel Richard, – construction manager and M.D. Marshall, – contractor, did an outstanding job. The project was completed in the summer of 2003.

This facility remains in operation today with the guidance of Nu Phi members; however, the Frat House is under the leadership of the Omega Nu Phi Educational Center (ONPEC) – the 501(c)(3), non-profit extension of the Chapter. ONPEC was established in January 1994, under the leadership of Brothers James Thomas, William Dannie Harwell, Bennie Rucker and Al Harley, to provide more philanthropic efforts within the community and to offer its patrons the local, state and federal tax exemptions and benefits to which they are entitled.

Nu Phi Chapter Fraternity House 2013

 

THE COMMUNITY

In support of the community, the mainstay of Nu Phi is its Go Western Scholarship Dance.  The dance, established during Brother Fletcher Morgan’s administration in 1961, was generally held on the third Saturday of February.  This Go-Western gala has been considered the oldest, longest-standing, Black Go-Western in the Greater Houston area.  The proceeds generated from this affair are used to provide scholarships and to support the numerous community programs that the Chapter conducts and sponsors. The Go Western Dance now falls under the auspices of ONPEC in order to accept tax deductible donations.

The other major source of revenue for Nu Phi is its Annual Boat Ride. Boat Rides have been a part of Omega’s history for a long time. The first Houston-area Omega Boat Ride took place in 1987, “Moonlight Cruise with the Ques”, the dream of Nu Phi Brothers Ronald Ross and Raymond Bourgeois, who had experienced Omega Boat Rides on the East Coast and New Orleans. With the assistance of Brothers John Captain and Lavoid Perry, and chapter backing, Brothers Ross and Bourgeois were able to set the Labor Day cruise on course. In the early years, the Moody Gardens Paddle Wheeler, The Colonel, arrived from Galveston, Texas, where patrons loaded up at the San Jacinto Battleground to enjoy a five hour cruise and dinner.

Under the leadership of Bro. Henry Emanuel, the cruise now takes place on Memorial Day weekend with pre and post event flair. Today, everyone in Houston has a Boat Ride; however, Nu Phi’s Boat Ride continues to be “The Sellout Cruise” in the Houston area.

Nu Phi has always been a vital force in the social, political and educational arenas of the Houston community and has played an integral part in the growth of Omega within the Houston area.

THE LEGACY THAT CONTINUES

The Nu Phi chapter is directly responsible for the charters of four graduate and five undergraduate chapters:

Graduate – Theta Chi, Prairie View (02/01/55), Rho Nu, Galveston (04/01/71), Rho Xi, Freeport (08/31/77) and Rho Beta Beta, Missouri City (10/23/82).

Undergraduate – Tau Epsilon, Texas Southern Univ. (05/01/48), Rho Theta, Prairie View A&M Univ. (04/25/70), Omega Theta, Univ. of Houston (11/11/70), Eta Mu, Sam Houston State Univ. (02/15/83) and Nu Delta Delta, Texas A&M Univ. (05/29/92).

In 1986, under the leadership of Brother Raymond Bourgeois, the Houston Area Coalition of Chapters was established with Nu Phi and Rho Beta Beta being the charter chapters. The primary objective of the coalition was to promote unity among the brotherhood and bring all the Omega men together to pool their combined talents and resources in order to better conduct nationally mandated programs and meaningful community projects. As of today, the Houston Area Coalition of Chapters is the only coalition of this nature that is still functioning in Omega. In 2001, coincidental to Nu Phi’s 75th Diamond Anniversary and Omega’s 90th, Nu Phi hosted the Ninth District Meeting in conjunction with the Houston Area Coalition of Chapters.

Nu Phi Chapter – Co-host of the 2001 Ninth District Meeting

Since the birth of Nu Phi Chapter, it has been an active and expanding chapter. A number of loyal men have been initiated into the chapter, while many from other chapters have joined us. Thus, it is totally impossible to state the number of Brothers who have been affiliated with this grand old chapter since its origin.

Nu Phi Chapter has a number of noteworthy accolades, among them is the distinction of being the only chapter in the Ninth District to have six Brothers serve in the role of District Representative (H.P. Carter, J.D. Bowles, W.L.D. Johnson, Fletcher Morgan, Samuel Prince and Shelly Stewart). As a chapter, Nu Phi continues to affect policies and operations of the Fraternity at the National and District Level. The Chapter is the home of the current National Membership Selection Chairman, Bro. Raymond Bourgeois, and former National Registration Chairman Joel D. Richards, III.

     

L-R: Samuel Prince (Nu Phi Basileus); Founder, Oscar J. Cooper; Rupert O. Roett (Nu Phi) and Founder, Edgar A. Love 54th Grand Conclave   Houston, TX   December 1971

In 2010, at the 74th Ninth District Meeting in New Orleans, the Brotherhood elected Bro. Ramon Simon, First Vice District Representative, and Bro. Christopher Caldwell, Chaplain. They joined the incumbent District Keeper of Records and Seal Bro. Bernard R. Clayton, Jr. who was elected in 2008, to make Nu Phi Chapter the only Chapter in the History of the Ninth District to have three Brothers elected to sit on the District Council simultaneously.

Nu Phi continues to have Brothers serve on National and District Committees. District Committees previously chaired by Nu Phi Brothers include Elections – Bro. Marcus Sheppard Sr. and Ramon Simon, Budget/Ways and Means – Bro. Charleston Mitchell, and current Policies and Procedures Chair – Bro. Bernard Clayton, Jr. Rarely is there a function at the National or District level where Nu Phi Chapter is not demonstrating why it is the Chapter of Choice.

Nu Phi Chapter Basilei

Howard Payne Carter 1926 – 1927
James Delbridge Ryan 1934
J.D. Bowles, PhD 1937 – 1939
Lawrence C. Thomas 1940 – 1941
J.C. Sanderson 1945 – 1947
Robert Mel Dawson 1947 – 1948
Howard Wright 1948 – 1950
G.C. Burchett 1950 – 1952
Gene Richards, PhD 1952 – 1956
Fletcher Morgan 1956 – 1964
Ira B. Scott, Sr 1964 – 1965
Dr. C.W. Thompson 1965 – 1969
Samuel Prince 1969 – 1972
Clarence Miller 1972 – 1974
Louis Morris, PhD 1974 – 1976
James Hendricks 1976 – 1979
John Captain 1979 – 1981
Shelly Steward, IV 1981 – 1983
Walter Stafford 1983 – 1985
Raymond Bourgeois 1985 – 1990
James Thomas 1990 – 1993
Bennie Rucker 1993 – 1996
Warren Moody, Jr 1996 – 1997
Ramon Simon 1997 – 1999
Joel Richards, III 1999 – 2001
Marcus Sheppard, Sr 2001 – 2003
B.K. Watson 2003 – 2004
Ramon Simon 2004 – 2005
Henry Emanuel, Jr 2005 – 2008
Bertrand Simmons 2008 – 2011
Marvin Alexander 2011 – 2014
Bernard Clayton, Jr. 2014 – Present