Chapter History

It was during the Great Depression that six young men (J. Frank Smith, John H. Theus, T.J. Jordan, Clifton Purnell, H. Beecher Hicks, and William Harlow) felt the need for fraternalization. They had heard of an organization whose motto was “Friendship is Essential to the Soul.” Through the Lampados Club the initiates learned about the fraternity and its four cardinal principals of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift. Early in the history of the club Ludwig Freeman, an undergraduate, composed a song for the club. They also learned the words and music of “Omega Dear” and the Sweetheart song. So on Friday, May 8, 1936 these young men came together in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to form Lambda Alpha Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Brother J. Frank Smith was selected to serve as the first basileus of the new chapter.

For years the brothers met in each other’s homes in Baton Rouge and nearby areas. They attempted to carry out programs of the fraternity as well as local programs of the chapter. One such program was the annual dance. At first this was a Pan-Hellenic affair, but later each fraternity sponsored its own dance at the Temple Gardens or Purple Circle. Members were added to the chapter by initiated or brothers transferring from other chapters. By 1944 the chapter consisted of 24 active brothers.

Lambda Alpha considers it a specific duty to cooperate and support Beta Sigma, the under-graduate chapter on the campus of Southern University at Baton Rouge. The membership of Beta sigma was reduced to two brothers because of conditions produced by World War II. In this position the graduate brothers worked with Beta Sigma in order to keep the chapter intact. Beta Sigma has always looked to Lambda
Alpha for its on campus sponsors. From 1944-45, S.W. Austin, a member of Lambda Alpha and employee of Southern University faculty served in that capacity.

In 1946, Lambda Alpha was in the forefront to form an organization composed of the graduate Greek-lettered groups. At this time the Baton Rouge Inter-Fraternal Council was founded. Its two initial service projects included voter registration in the community and the investigation of government housing for returning veterans.

The chapter has celebrated Achievement Week from its beginning. However, it wasn’t until 1957 that Achievement Awards were given to the Citizen of the Year and Omega Man of the Year. The first such awards were given to Bro. William H. James, who was selected for both. In 1988, a third award category of Superior Service was added. This award was introduced by Bro. George Williams Jr. after attending Grand Conclave and bringing information to the chapter. The first recipients of this award were Brothers S.W. Austin and Melvin Sanders.

Another national program sponsored by the chapter is the Omega Talent Hunt. The first program sponsored by the chapter was held at Scotlandville High School in 1967. Talents were solicited from area high schools. Local winners went on to further
competition on the district level.

Lambda Alpha is one of many chapters in the Mighty 9th District, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Lambda Alpha prides itself in having over twelve active brothers with 50+ years of service to the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

In 2010, Lambda Alpha Chapter became a lifetime member of the NAACP.

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