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Tea Cakes and Hot Chocolate:

 The History of the Port Arthur Alumni Chapter of

Kappa Alpha Psi

March 13, 1953

 

PORT ARTHUR ALUMNI CHAPTER:  IN THE BEGINNING

 

As the sweltering summer heat overtook the mild spring days in Port Arthur, Texas, seven men of achievement, Perry Coleman, Arthur Craft, Russell M. Getwood, Anderson H. Harrison, Oscar J. McNeil, Spurgeon Wallace, and Thomas Welch, III, gathered at the home of Brother Harrison’s sister, Rosa Lee Harris, and, in her living room, over teacakes and hot chocolate, she prepared especially for them, discussed the formation of the Port Arthur Alumni Chapter (PAAC) of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.  Hailing from notable chapters such as Alpha Delta (Fisk University), Alpha Chi (Wiley/Bishop College), Beta Iota (Xavier University), Beta Psi (Kansas State University), and the Kansas City Alumni Chapter, many of these men returned home after graduation while others chose to begin a new life in Port Arthur with their Kappa brethren.

 

Having been a member of the Kansas City Alumni Chapter, Brother Arthur Craft chaired the initial meeting where all the essentials associated with the submission of an application for chartering an alumni chapter were discussed.  After several meetings, the appropriate paperwork was submitted to Grand Chapter, and approved, and the PAAC received its charter on March 13, 1953, from the 15th Grand Polemarch Dr. William Henry Greene.  Arthur Craft became the chapter’s first polemarch, and Tom Hannah, Chauncey Martin, Hillary Robinson, and Dr. Thomas L. Welch, Jr., formed the chapter’s Alpha line.  The PAAC’s membership was comprised of men of achievement poised to make an impact—men who desired to work together in service to their community and in fulfillment of the Fraternity’s goals.  The charter, the leadership, and the brothers were all in place for the PAAC to begin its work in a city with problems similar to those found in many southern cities during this period.

PORT ARTHUR ALUMNI CHAPTER:  IN ACTION

Much of the African-American population in Port Arthur resided on what was commonly referred to as the Westside, bounded by railroad tracks to the east and the petrochemical refineries, which served as the city’s primary industry, to the west.  The brothers used these extant conditions to strengthen their fraternal bonds by organizing outings including their annual picnic and Kappa Kamp Out on McFaddin Beach.  They hosted social affairs that were the talk of the town such as the Annual Kappa Kostume Ball, held at the Pleasure Pier Ballroom, and the Black and White Ball which was attended by many of the prominent black civic leaders in the community. 

In addition to those social events, the PAAC’s service projects were well known throughout the community. 

 

The chapter sponsored stage band contests at Abraham Lincoln High School, highlighting the talents of youth in the area, as well as, several concerts featuring gospel choirs and singers from local churches.  These projects preceded the PAAC Guide Right Program which began small but soon expanded with mentoring and the annual awards day program where high school students were recognized for their academic achievement and presented with scholarships.  In September 2001, the Port Arthur Guide Right Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit foundation, was formed to seek tax-deductible contributions for the chapter’s Guide Right projects.  The Port Arthur Guide Right Foundation is a major sponsor in the James Gamble Award program that honors two outstanding high school basketball players from a four-county area and nearly 30 high schools.  The award is named after James Gamble, a former Lincoln High School basketball coach who has won four Texas state basketball championships, a legend among coaches in Texas, and a member of the PAAC.  Over the last two years, the foundation has, also, presented its Annual Trailblazer Awards to local African Americans who have paved the way for others with their personal achievements. 

 

The brothers of the PAAC were well aware that change in their community was imperative, and they played an active role in the desegregation efforts undertaken in Port Arthur.  In collaboration with the local NAACP branch, the brothers participated in sit-ins at the Kress and Walgreen’s food counters in support of integrating these establishments.  The brothers did not stop there; the PAAC was replete with individuals who advocated a social change from within the political infrastructure:  Alfred Z. McElroy as the first black member of the board of education; Donald Floyd as the first black state judge in Jefferson County; Arthur Craft, Port Arthur city council member; Thurman Bartie, justice of the peace; Fred Mitchell, the board of education; Russell M. Getwood,  the first black juvenile probation officer in the county.  Over five decades, members of the PAAC have excelled in numerous fields of human endeavor from municipal and county government to education to law to medicine all with the aim of improving the lives of Port Arthurian and continuing advancement toward achievement—the hallmark of Kappa Alpha Psi.

 

The Port Arthur Alumni Chapter is a relatively small chapter and has been for most of its history with 10-20 brothers working assiduously on community projects and Fraternity business.  But what the Port Arthur Alumni Chapter may lack in numbers, it more than makes up for in the level of commitment each of the brothers in action exhibit.  For example, less than five years after its charter, the PAAC hosted the 22nd Southwestern Province Council in 1958.  Brother Alfred Z. McElroy served as general chairman and along with the PAAC brothers and silhouettes organized a successful meeting.  In 1985, the chapter hosted the 49th Southwestern Province Meeting and as recently, as 2001, served as the host for the 20th Texas-New Mexico Kappa Caucus.  The current members of the PAAC are cognizant of the reputation established by its charter members and the brothers who preceded them.  The name Kappa Alpha Psi epitomizes excellence and the commitment to achievement; in its 67th year, the PAAC continues to dedicate itself to that goal and the principles established by the Founders over a century ago.

 

PORT ARTHUR ALUMNI CHAPTER:  IN CONCLUSION

When individuals mention the term “fraternity,” it is not uncommon that it immediately evokes images of undergraduates and the various rights and rituals associated with fraternal life, but the Port Arthur Alumni Chapter is one of the many examples of what alumni chapters can accomplish.  When the first alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity was formed in Chicago in April 1919, it was a step to ensure continuity in the Bond.  While fraternities are by nature social and an association of like-minded men who share a bond that forever connects them as brothers, Kappas are committed to not only being a part of the environment in which they exist but, also, to shaping that environment for the better.

  When our college days are done, we depart our college campus not leaving behind the memories we shared but striving to maintain that connection with brothers and the Bond for many years to come and to go forth forever mindful of the mission and objectives of Kappa Alpha Psi. 

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