OMEGA PSI PHI FRATERNITY, INC. SIGMA ALPHA CHAPTER Chartered 1939 On March 13, 1939, by fourteen young Miami professional men, with ideals and attainments similar to those of the Fraternity’s founders, organized the Sigma Alpha Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. The Supreme Council led by Grand Basileus Albert Dent had approved Sigma Alpha’s Charter, along with two others on February 13, 1939. The total number of chapters in 1939 was one hundred eleven with a total membership of slightly more than nine thousand. Officers of the new Chapter were: A. B. Benson, M.D. (physician), Basileus; G. W. Styles (teacher), Vice Basileus; J. E. Hogan (teacher), Keeper of Records and Seal; E. A. Ward (pharmacist), Keeper of Finance; A. F. Crosby (teacher), Keeper of Peace; and J. E. Scott (administrator), Chaplin. Brother Styles and Brother Hogan subsequently earned medical degrees and returned to practice medicine in the community for many years. The other charter members were L. H. Portlock (minister), L. E. Thomas (attorney), G. W. Hawkins (dentist), C. D. Wyche (teacher), E. B. Haley (teacher), E. R. Jones (teacher), C. H. Carey (teacher), and H. E. Martin (teacher). Once organized, Sigma Alpha Chapter endured the normal growing pains of a new chapter. In 1950, eleven years later, the Chapter hosted its first Seventh District Meeting. One year later in 1951, Sigma Alpha hosted the 37th Grand Conclave. Brother Hawkins was Chapter Basileus. W. Pinkston served as Grand Marshal. Many of the visiting brothers were housed at the new Lord Calvert Hotel (Sir John). The Booker T. Washington Junior/Senior High School served as the headquarters. Grant Reynolds, a former Miamian, was elected as the 21st Grand Basileus. A boat cruise to Havana, Cuba, was one of the highlights of the 1951 Grand Conclave. Approximately forty Chapter members participated in the 1951 Grand Conclave. After the Conclave, there was a steady decline in membership. In 1958, with approximately one hundred brothers in the area, only eight made an effort to keep the Chapter alive. Chapter officers for that were: Edward Braynon, Jr. (Basileus), John H. Davis (Vice Basileus), Thomas Sanders (Keeper of Records and Seal), and William B. Haley (Keeper of Finance). After a couple of very hard years and much Perseverance, the Chapter started to rise again. Chapter representation at District and National meetings resumed. The Chapter was represented at the historic 1961 Golden Anniversary Grand Conclave (Washington, D.C.), by Basileus Edward Braynon, Jr. This was the last time that founders Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper, and Frank Coleman would attend a Conclave together. Brother Coleman, after an extended illness, entered Omega Chapter in 1967. Brother Ernest Just had entered Omega Chapter in 1941. Brothers Oscar Cooper and Edgar Love entered Omega Chapter in 1971 and 1974, respectively. In 1963, Sigma Alpha hosted the Seventh District Meeting for the second time. Chapter membership had reached an all-time high. Approximately fifty brothers were affiliated with the Chapter. The Chapter made Seventh District history by housing the complete meeting in a hotel for the first time. Visiting brothers were quite impressed with the new Hampton House Motel. Edward Braynon was Chapter Basileus and U. G. Horne served as District Marshal. The Chapter entered the District Meeting in good financial condition and emerged from the meeting in an even better financial state.
Sigma Alpha’s success continued with the election of Edward Braynon as Florida’s State Representative in 1964. Brother Braynon served until 1968. Brother U. G. Horne was also elected as Florida’s State Representative in 1971 and served until 1974. In the 1970’s, Sigma Alpha’s representation at District and National meetings moved beyond the token stage. Eight Chapter members attended the 1971 Seventh District meeting in Jackson, Mississippi. Edward Braynon by acclamation became the first Floridian elected as Seventh District Representative. Brother Braynon was twice re-elected by acclamation. Six members of the Chapter in attendance at the 1973 St. Louis Grand Conclave helped elect Edward Braynon as First Vice-Grand Basileus. Sigma Alpha Chapter, still climbing, hosted the Seventh District Meeting for the third time in 1976. Again, Sigma Alpha Chapter raised the standards of housing. The Four Ambassadors Hotel (Headquarters Hotel) has no rooms, only suites. Visiting brothers were impressed because the rates were comparable to regular room rates. Herbert Day was Chapter Basileus and J. A. Chico-Arenas served as District Marshal for yet another successful Miami-hosted Seventh District Meeting. The 1976 Atlanta Grand Conclave was at that time the largest Conclave in the history of the Fraternity. A record number of thirty-two members of Sigma Alpha attended the Conclave. Most of the Brothers were accompanied by their families. The Sigma Alpha Brothers, known as the “Miami Mafia,” under the direction of U. G. Horne, Herbert Day, and J. A. Chico-Arenas, had waged a vigorous national election campaign. The group went to Atlanta armed with little money, plenty of strategy, and an over-abundance of enthusiasm. Ready for any eventuality, the Brothers found no opposition. Edward J. Braynon, Jr. was elected by acclamation as the 29th Grand Basileus of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Edward Braynon became the first Brother of the Seventh District (the Fraternity’s largest) ever elected to the Fraternity’s highest office. Re-election at the 1977 New Orleans Conclave was also by acclamation. In 1977, Sigma Alpha Chapter continued to move. Willie J. Wright was appointed as the Fraternity’s third National Executive Secretary. Also in 1977, Brother U. G. Horne became the second member of the Chapter elected as Seventh District Representative. Brother Astrid Mack was elected to the office of District Keeper of Records and Seal in 1977. Therefore, during the year of 1977, Brothers of Sigma Alpha Chapter simultaneously held offices of the Grand Basileus, National Executive Secretary, Seventh District Representative, and Seventh District Keeper of Records and Seal. Never in the history of the Fraternity has one chapter controlled so many prestigious positions in Omega. Sigma Alpha hosted its second Grand Conclave in 1982. The very successful Conclave was headquartered at the Fontainebleau-Hilton Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida. Brother Herbert Day was Chapter Basileus. Brother U. G. Horne served as Grand Marshal and also ran a very spirited but unsuccessful election campaign for the office of Grand Basileus. The election was won by Brother L. Benjamin Livingston. Chapter member Elmer Ward was presented to the assembled Brothers of the 1982 Grand Conclave by Immediate Past Grand Basileus Edward J. Braynon, Jr. Brother Ward, initiated at Alpha Chapter (Howard University) in 1914, had been a member of the Fraternity longer than any other living Brother. The Brothers responded with a standing ovation. In the late 1980’s, Brothers of Sigma Alpha were still making major contributions to the Fraternity. In 1986, Brother Edward Braynon wrote A Summary of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, 1911 – 1986. Since 1986, all perspective members of the Fraternity, among other requirements, must pass a written examination based on information contained in the above-named document. Also in 1986, Brother Astrid Mack became the third Brother of Sigma Alpha elected Seventh District Representative. Brother Mack had earlier served four terms as District Keeper of Records and Seal. He was twice re-elected as District Representative. Brother Mack, like Brothers U. G. Horne and E. Braynon, is a former Basileus of Sigma Alpha Chapter. Brother U. G. Horne continued to give leadership at the National level just as he did at the Chapter and District levels for three decades. Brothers A. K. Mack and J. A. Chico-Arenas have also remained involved at the Chapter, District, and National levels. Other members of the Chapter have also served as chairmen and members of numerous State, District, and National committees.
The list of Chapter members who have provided leadership in the local community is much too long to print in the limited space that is available. However, mention must be made of the following outstanding Brothers: Former Dade County Commissioner, Former City of Miami Commissioner, and NAACP Leader, Edward T. Graham; Former City of Miami Commissioner and NAACP Leader, Theodore Gibson; and City of Miami Commissioner, Miller Dawkins kept the tradition alive. Every Black male City of Miami Commissioner has been a member of the Sigma Alpha Chapter. Former City of Miami Manager, Howard Gary, is also a member of Sigma Alpha Chapter. Brother Elmer Ward was a civil rights activist for more than fifty years. Brothers Garth Reeves, Sr., John O. Brown, M.D., and T. Willard Fair have been very visible and vocal in the civil rights arena for several decades. Brother L. E. Thomas, in 1945, was appointed as the first Black judge in the south since the Reconstruction Era. Brothers Henry Arrington and Harold Braynon were two of the earlier Black judges. Brother Ralph Person is a Circuit Court Judge. Brother Charles Felton served as the Director of the Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation Department, while Brother T. S. Greer was one of the highest-ranking Blacks in the Dade Public School System. Scholarship funding has been a very important facet of the Chapter’s program for more than forty years. Many of the students who were assisted by the Chapter are now productive community residents. The Chapter has contributed hundreds of food baskets to needy families in the community. In the late 1980’s there was a sharp increase in the number of Omega men in the area. Brother Manson Brown (Keeper of Records and Seal, 1989) helped to alleviate some of the problems by computerizing the Chapter records. The next major hurdle was finding a suitable meeting place. On November 24, 1991, after a very long and difficult journey, the Omega Activity Center was dedicated. The two-story 9,000 square foot building is located immediately south of the Florida Memorial College campus. The Omega Activity Center serves as the Chapter’s meeting place and is also very popular for weddings, wedding receptions, banquets, luncheons, political rallies, etc. Along with some members of the local community, many Brothers supported the building project with funds and labor. A list of some of the key Brothers would include: Edward T. Graham, Garth Reeves, Sr., Miller Dawkins, McArthur Carter, Bernard Kelly, Robert Thomas (Basileus), Elliot Scavella (Project Director), Astrid Mack (President, Sig-Al, Inc.), Sherwood Dubose, Audley Coakley, Manson Brown, Charles Sargent, U. G. Horne, and many others. The Omega Activity Center stands as a magnificent monument to all past and present Omega men of the Miami Community. In January, 1994, Charles D. Wyche, Jr., the last living Chapter charter member, entered Omega Chapter. Wyche was preceded in death by charter members E. A. Ward (1991), L. E. Thomas (1989), and J. E. Hogan (1989). In 2004, Sigma Alpha and Omega Psi Phi lost a little of its glimmer by the passing of Brothers Richard Harris, Sr., Earl Higgs, Sr., and Ulysses G. Horne into Omega Chapter. Today, the Brothers of Sigma Alpha Chapter, one of Omega’s premier chapters, continues to rise to great heights. Following in the footsteps of the brothers who have gone before him, Brother Larry Handfield, Esquire is the Chairman of both the Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County, one of the largest and most comprehensive medical facilities in the nation, and the City of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel. In 2003, the Chapter established The Omega Activity Center Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation, to continue the tradition of providing Uplift to the community through scholarships and programs for at-risk youth. The Chapter remains committed to giving back through its Social Acton programs, from assisting the battered women’s shelter during Valentines Day; tutoring and providing guidance to young men through the Lamp Lighter’s Program; donating food baskets to families for Thanksgiving and Christmas; and providing needed goods for the victims of Hurricane Jeanne in Haiti, to name a few. As we march on into the 21st century – the Brothers of Sigma Alpha, through its actions and deeds, continues to illustrate the Fraternity’s cardinal principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift. Long live the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and one of its shining stars – the Sigma Alpha Chapter. This brief history was written by Brother E. J. Braynon, Jr., D.D.S., 30th Grand Basileus, and is being updated by the brothers of Sigma Alpha Chapter to ensure that our story continues to be told.