Special to the Sentinel

Tampa, FL – 1914 was a year that changed the lives of Americans. It was the year of the first scheduled airline flight. That flight took place from St Petersburg-Tampa.

It was the year of the first Mother’s Day.

100 years ago, average house cost $6,156 and to buy a car folks had to spend on $550.
That was just $27 shy of the average yearly wage of $577.

1914 also brought about a major movement for hundreds of thousands of African-American men… it was the year Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity (Sigma) was founded.

On January 9, 1914 on the campus of Howard University in Washington DC, three courageous men forged new ground to form the fraternity.

This week, on January 9, 2014, the men of Phi Beta Sigma celebrate 100 years of service.

100 years ago, the founders A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F. Morse, and Charles I. Brown established the fraternity on the principles of Brotherhood, Scholarship, and Service.

A century later, the hope of the founders, to be an organization that is “a part of” rather than “apart from” the community, lives on.

The organization has evolved into a historical institution of more 150,000 college-educated men operating more than 650 chapters worldwide.

One of those chapters is here in Tampa.

The Gamma Eta Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was chartered in November of 1946. Prominent members of the chapter that were known in the city of Tampa included: Bro. T. N. Hill, educator and past State Director, one of the brothers responsible for the chartering of the collegiate chapter at the University of South Florida,  Bro. Dr. Caleb Wright, prominent dentist, Bro. Linnell DuPree, owner of the DuPree Press-printing company, Bro. Clifford Brady, City of Tampa Employee and Bro. George Dennis

The chapter has been involved with the NAACP, National Urban League and Voters Registration Drives. Also, the chapter was responsible for the chartering of the collegiate chapter at the University of Tampa.

Sigma is very involved in the community from the Community Easter Egg Hunt, Thanksgiving Food Drives, Christmas Toy Drive, Bigger & Better Business Reception and presentation of thousand of dollars in scholarships to deserving young men in Tampa Bay.

Newly elected Tampa Alumni chapter president Zannie Mount, a 35 year member of Sigma said the Fraternity has a rich legacy to pass on to the next generation of brothers.

“Phi Beta Sigma has always been about upholding our principles of Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service.  Tampa Sigmas are ready to continue our proud history of service to the community, mentoring our youth through our Sigma Beta Club and working hand in hand with our sisters of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and other community based organizations to improve the lives of the residents of the Tampa Bay area,” Mount said.

Tampa fraternity member and pro football player George Selvie said Phi Beta Sigma has taught him the true meaning of brotherhood.

“Because of Phi Beta Sigma, I am tenacious in my endeavors, community service, and relationships and I am thankful for the experiences and bonds that I have encountered during this and it will continue to foster strength and integrity in my everyday life,” Selvie said.

Jonathan A. Mason, Sr., 34th International President remarked “I am blessed to be serving as Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.’s international president at this time in our history.”  He added “I am most honored with the opportunity to present our distinguished and well-deserved honorees their awards on behalf of our organization,”

To commemorate their 100 years, events are taking place across the country.

Harry Belafonte, legendary humanitarian and civil rights activist, is set to be the keynote speaker at Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Centennial Gala in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 11, 2014. The historic event, slated to occur at the Renaissance Hotel Downtown, is a prelude to Phi Beta Sigma’s highly anticipated five-day Centennial Celebration which will also take place in the nation’s capital from July 16-20, 2014.

The legendary Mr. Belafonte is known for his many firsts, which include the overturning of numerous racial barriers in the world of culture in America. He prominently contributed to end the oppressive apartheid government of South Africa and for the release of his friend, Nelson Mandela after twenty-seven and a half years of incarceration. In 1987, Belafonte accepted the appointment as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, thus making him the second American to hold this title – the first being Danny Kaye, upon whose death Belafonte assumed the position. Belafonte has continued to devote himself globally to civil and human rights issues, focusing in particular on the United States and Africa.

The Gala, which is themed, “Stony the Road, We Trod,” will honor Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, former Chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Rev. C.T. Vivian, Freedom Rider and former President of Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President of National Action Network and Honorary Member of Phi Beta Sigma; Edophus Towns, former U.S. Congressman (Brooklyn, NY) and Phi Beta Sigma member; Mrs. Clayola Brown, President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute; Mr. Hank Thomas, an original Freedom Rider and Mrs. Elizabeth Williams-Omilami, daughter of Phi Beta Sigma member Brother Hosea Williams and President of Hosea Feed the Hungry. Former USA President William Jefferson Clinton, an honorary member of Phi Beta Sigma, will provide a “special video greeting.”

The Centennial Gala will be simulcast from the nation’s capital to six Regional Galas throughout the country. Those locations include Tinley Park Holiday Inn Convention Center, Tinley Park, (Chicago southwest suburb), IL; Doubletree Memphis Downtown, Memphis, TN; Hilton-Fort Worth, Forth Worth, TX; Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons, Greensboro, NC; 333 Live, Los Angeles, CA. and here in the Sunshine State at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity is steeped in scholastic, social advocacy and cultural traditions, having as members some of the most historical figures of the 20th Century’s “social change” and cultural movements. Among the hundreds of notable members throughout Sigma’s history that include College Presidents, Judges and Public Officials, business leaders, accomplished athletes and entertainers are: the first African American Rhodes Scholar, Dr. Alain Leroy Locke, the first black Executive Secretary of the NAACP and writer of the “Black National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice and Sing, James Weldon Johnson, the person singularly responsible for saving the South’s agriculture industry with his 20th Century advancements in crop rotation, Dr. George Washington Carver, the founder of the first AFL-CIO endorsed black labor union, A. Phillip Randolph, the first President of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, now Congressman, John Lewis, the most significant figure in America’s Pro-Black Radical movement and co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Dr. Huey P. Newton, Chicago’s first black Mayor, the Honorable Harold Washington and the 7th United States Secretary of Education, the Honorable Rod Paige.

Phi Beta Sigma also counts amongst its members four American educated African Presidents; Ghana’s first President, the Honorable Kwame Nkrumah; Nigeria’s first President, the Honorable Nnamdi Azikiwe; the Honorable William V.S. Tubman, the 19th President of Liberia; and the Honorable Dr. William Tolbert, the 20th President of Liberia, as well as one American President, the Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States.

Phi Beta Sigma members having held significant roles in the Niagara Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, the Chicago Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, the Pro-Black Radical Movement, the Million Man March and the election of President Barack Obama, the fraternity has left an indelible cultural imprint on America for centuries to come. With “Culture for Service and Service for Humanity” as its motto, Phi Beta Sigma has been a part of every significant political and cultural movement of the last 100 years.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s Centennial celebration will feature nationwide tributes to its founders and highlight significant events in the fraternity’s history. Beginning with a grand weekend of activities from January 9th through 11th in Washington, D.C., thousands of Phi Beta Sigma members are expected to return to Washington to celebrate Sigma’s “100th Birthday.” Activities will include a ground-breaking ceremony for a Sigma monument to be placed on the campus of Howard University later this year, wreath-laying ceremonies at the gravesite of Founder A. Langston Taylor and a nationally broadcast and webcast Gala at the Washington Renaissance Hotel, where significant contributors to the Civil Rights movement will be remembered.

Honorees include Congressman John Lewis, civil rights icon Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, former Congressman, Edolphus Towns, political commentator/civil rights leader, Rev. Al Sharpton, Freedom Rider Hank Thomas, civil rights leader, Clayola Brown and homeless activist, Elisabeth Williams-Omilami. Sigma member and actor, Malik Yoba, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. There will be a video greeting message from President Bill Clinton and the keynote message will be delivered by actor/entertainer/legendary activist, Harry Belafonte. The fraternity’s “Centennial charge” will be delivered by the honorable Mary Breaux Wright, the International President of Sigma’s sister organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

The grand centennial celebration will occur in July, 2014, where Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity members will return to Washington and will be joined by its sisters, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority during their Grand Boule, for five days celebratory activities throughout the city. Entitled the “Centennial Jubilee,” it will be held from July 16th-July 20th, 2014.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity has made a proud contribution to the advancement of American society. It invites its partners in the black Greek movement and in the society at large to join them in this100 year celebration of Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service.


For more information, go to www.pbs100.org.