This is a brief outline history of the Fifth District of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. It is not intended to be a complete history. The available documents are sketchy at best and in some cases nonexistent. However, I’ve done some research, using the GILL book and the Omega Men of Distinction book that I received from Brother Carl Blunt, 1st Vice Grand Basileus. This document should provide a starting point from which to develop a complete history of the district going forward. Fraternally, Bro. Edward Morant (Fifth District Representative 2008-2012)
In 1919 Delta Chapter in Nashville, Tennessee, was the first chapter to be established in what is now the 5th District, under the 7th Grand Basileus Brother Raymond G. Robinson. Delta was organized with twenty chartered members. Nashville can also be considered the birth place of what is now known as “Black History Month”. It was in Nashville at the 1920 Conclave that Carter G. Woodson delivered an inspiring address entitled, “Democracy and the Man Far Down”. The address was so eloquent and moving, that the Fraternity decided to devote a week each year to focus on disseminating accurate information on the life and history of the Negro.
Authority was given the Grand Basileus in 1922 to appoint representatives of the Grand Chapter, called District Representatives, to assist in the supervision of the chapters. Five such representatives were appointed at the time. The representatives were Charles W. White, (New England States), Carter L. Marshall (Mid Atlantic States), L.R. Hill (Central States), William J. Faulkner (Southern States) and George L. Vaughn (Western States). It is unclear which Representative supervised the states of Tennessee and Kentucky at that time. The year 1922 also saw the establishment of Theta Omega Chapter in Louisville, Kentucky during the administration of the 9th Grand Basileus, J. Alston Atkins. Brother Atkins was also a charter member of Delta Chapter. No other chapters that are currently in the 5th District were established until 1925, when Epsilon Phi in Memphis and Gamma Phi in Nashville were formed under the 11th Grand Basileus Brother George E. Vaughn.
The most significant movement toward forming the 5th District as we know it today came during Grand Basileus Z. Alexander Looby’s administration (1940 – 1945). Brother Looby served during the challenging years of World War II. Despite the dwindling number of active Brothers and potential members because of the war, Brother Looby was successful in establishing 14 new chapters. Among the chapters that were formed are Theta Iota (Jackson, TN) in 1944 and Kappa Iota (Chattanooga, TN) in 1945. The first attempt to structure the Fraternity into Districts occurred in 1937.
Brother Looby served as the first 5th District Representative from 1938 to 1941. In 1937 the Fraternity was organized with 11 Districts. At this point the state of Tennessee was in the Fifth District along with Mississippi and Arkansas. The state of Kentucky was placed in the 8th District along with Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri.
In 1945 the Fraternity made the decision to re-organize into 12 Districts. It was at this point that the 5th District in its present form, with the states of Tennessee and Kentucky was created. The first 5th District Representative after the re-organization was Brother L. W. Beasley, who served from 1945 to 1960, which remains the longest term served by any 5th District Representative. In 1984 Brother Willie A. Smith, who served as the 11th 5th District Representative was elected Grand Keeper of Records and Seal at the 74th Grand Conclave in Louisville, KY, thus making him the second 5th District Brother to become a Grand Officer.