James Thompson Jr.
In the mid 1970s the campus of Troy State University (TSU) was like almost every other Southern college. It was a predominantly white college campus and lacked both racial and cultural diversity.
The city of Troy’s population was approximately 13,000, and there was very little African American (hereafter “black”) representation. There were a handful of black students on campus, and the first black professor wouldn’t be hired until over a decade later.
Other than the sign-of-the-times Afro Club, there were few organizations that openly welcomed and accepted black students as members. Many of the students felt left out, especially black males. Quite possibly, it was due to these chilly receptions during the wintry months of 1975 that an idea suggested by student Wendell Williams, from Cincinnati, Ohio, brought over 50 young black men together to discuss forming some kind of black male club.
Forming a fraternity seemed like a good idea, since there were already white fraternities on campus. The names of different traditional black fraternities were discussed, and the one that received the most interest was Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, originally founded in 1911 in Bloomington, Indiana.
Although the men did not know much about this particular fraternity, they knew others who were Kappa men. The closest undergraduate chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was the Beta Zeta chapter located about 50 miles away at Alabama State University, a predominately black college campus in Montgomery.
Determined that Kappa was the fraternity of choice, student James L. Thompson Jr. penned a petition letter to Ralph J. Bryson, faculty advisor of Beta Zeta, to officially request his help in forming a chapter of Kappa on the TSU campus. The decision would take months.
Bryson responded by asking that the TSU men first form a Men Interested in Kappa (MIK) group to help build unity and brotherhood while Beta Zeta deliberated on whether TSU would be a viable place to form another chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi.
However, before a fraternity could be seriously considered, there were certain university requirements that all fraternities had to meet.
For various reasons, the initial 58 interested men were reduced to 21.
Another university requirement was that all fraternities had to have an on-campus faculty advisor. Since there were no black faculty members at TSU, the idea to form a fraternity nearly halted.
As a last attempt, Simon Willis and Thompson approached popular history professor, Pat Harris, about serving as the group’s faculty advisor. However unlikely, Harris affirmatively answered and became the first white faculty advisor to a not-yet-formed chapter of a black fraternity.
A last requirement was to also have an off-campus advisor who was both a Troy city resident and a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. This person had to be active and in good financial standing with the fraternity. Bryson checked with the Montgomery Alumni Chapter of Kappa and disclosed that one of its members, Willie Thomas, both lived and worked in Troy.
Thomas agreed to be their advisor, and soon after that, the 21 men received the word that the Beta Zeta chapter had decided to sponsor an initial meeting with the young men in order to examine them and to give the TSU students a chance to meet other Kappa men before forming the fraternity.
The meeting lasted for several hours, and the young men impressed current Kappa members with their solid resolve to pledge Kappa above any other fraternity.
In February 1976, TSU’s first Scrollers Club of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was formed with all 21 men becoming pledges.
A few days after the Scrollers Club was formed, freshman Randall Wade Moore became the first Scroller to leave the unnamed charter group, citing personal reasons for his departure.
After Moore’s departure from the group, Scroller Terry Clark coined the perfect line name for the new group–The Historical Twenty also known as H20.
The men had made history in that they represented the first black fraternity on TSU’s campus.
After the group voluntarily shaved their afros and dressed in matching uniforms, the heckling from both sides intensified, but the group never lost sight of its motto: “Don’t quit!”
After nearly eight weeks of pledging, all of the members of H20 crossed the Burning Sands on March 26, 1976, and became full-fledged members of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, joining over 100,000 other Kappas nationwide.
The TSU campus now had its first black Greek organization and was dubbed the Beta Zeta Extension Chapter until it could get its own official chapter name.
A few months later the Beta Zeta Extension Chapter was granted its own fraternity charter and new chapter name as the Theta Phi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity on the campus of TSU.
H2O started a significant movement. After them came Delta Sigma Theta, the first black female sorority on TSU’s campus.
Since Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was formed on the campus of TSU in the mid-1970s, hundreds of young men, both black and white, have pledged under the Theta Phi Chapter.
Former Scroller Randall Wade Moore pledged a graduate chapter of Kappa years later and has since reclaimed his rightful place in history among the members of H20 and other great Kappa men. All the members of Theta Phi are currently living and working in highly esteemed careers. Through being members of Kappa Alpha Psi, they have made great achievements.
Who could have guessed that the predominately black campus of Alabama State University was directly responsible for affecting the culture of a predominately white campus just 50 miles away by establishing a black fraternity on TSU’s campus?
In short, the Theta Phi Chapter is credited with changing the culture of the TSU campus and enhancing the college experience for everyone. The rest is history.