history is due to the dedicated work of Brother Ricky O'Brien.
Phi Lambda Epsilon
was founded February 12, 1892 at Clinton Academy, Missouri.
The circumstances that led up to its
organization were similar to those that caused the formation of other
Greek letter societies. Already feeling provoked by a factional fight for
control of the Bryant Literary Society, (which was connected with the
school) the conflict was intensified by an after school hazing incident
that took place on the Academy grounds. Because of this incident, most of
the officers of the Academy Cadet Corps were reduced in rank and suffered
other consequences. Among these officers were three of the founders of the
Fraternity, Nichols being second lieutenant, Lamkin first sergeant, and
McKee a corporal. This rift led to the formation of Phi Lambda Epsilon.
The idea of a fraternity first
occurred to C.F. Lamkin, who had graduated the year before and was doing
special work at the Academy prior to college. He enlisted the help of R.H.
McKee. The two then secured the support of F.Y. Nichols, and the three
recruited F.B. Owen as the fourth member. Although it may be debated
whether McKee or Nichols was the first interested, these four men were
united together by the middle of December, 1891.
On February 12, 1892, the first formal
meeting of the society was held in an upper room of Nichol's home. At this
meeting, Owen was unable to be present. Lamkin already prepared a charter
so officers were elected, a constitution was adopted, rituals approved,
and colors chosen. Some peculiar things about this meeting may be of
interest. First was the selection of colors. All of the founders present
knew that a local college fraternity had three colors. They knew nothing
of the colors of other fraternities, so they concluded that all
fraternities had three colors. They adopted that number and each of the
three suggested a color. Also, the original constitution and rituals were
spoken completely in Latin, as was the secret motto. Finally, Greek names
were adopted to enable the membership to remain secret in case the minutes
or papers of the organization were discovered. The fraternity at that
time was sub-rosa.
The first new brother to be initiated was
E.M. Violett. Shortly after, U.W. Lamkin was taken in, and the first
school year of the fraternity's closed with these six members.
Hardly had the fraternity been founded
before it took a room over Brother Violette's store which it furnished,
papered and stocked with the paraphernalia needed for initiations. The
furniture excepting the chairs was made by the members and the decorations
including the painting and paper hanging was executed by them. This was a
room used exclusively by the Alpha Kappa Chapter and was a source of pride
to the members. None but Phi Lambda Epsilon men were allowed in it. A fire
broke out immediately behind the store over which the Chapter hall was
located and the store itself caught fire. Though the burning store was
Violette's father's. Viloette first rescued books and papers of Phi Lambda
Epsilon. The Alpha Chapter kept this or a similar room, during its
The first chapter began the practice of
designating each member by some famous Greek's name, the minutes showing
those names only; this practice had been retained by a few chapters who
have found and added charm in the atmosphere it creates.
At the outset there was no idea of the
fraternity going outside of the Academy at Clinton. When it was about a
year old, however, it had an opportunity to enter the State Normal School
at Warrsburg. Robt. L. Zoll was pledged, but nothing came of it until the
summer of 1893 when Zoll sent S.S. Stark to Clinton and he was initiated.
Stark then initiated Zoll and together with E.M. Violette (who was sent to
Warrensburg for that purpose) initiated A.P. Hunt, B.S. Lemmon and W. L.
Lamkin on January 26, 1894, thus establishing the Beta Kappa Chapter (now
Missouri Beta). At this time an organization of the fraternity as a whole
was made, C.F. Lamkin being elected Gr. M.N.A.; E.M. Violette, Gr. FH.S.
and R.L. Zoll, Gr. H.G.T.
In February of the same year F.B. Owen
entered the State Normal School at Kirksville and assisted by C.F. Lamkin
shortly afterwards initiated six students of that school, the first one
being Samuel H. Ellison - one of the most popular men that Phi Lambda has
ever enrolled. The initiation of these men established the Gamma Kappa
Chapter (now Missouri Gamma).
This Chapter has had the honor of saving
the life of the fraternity- for a space of some three months it was the
only active Chapter.
It has had the longest continuous
existence, Missouri Beta having been inactive the early fall of 1896.
During the summer of 1894 the first Grand
Conclave was held at Clinton with Missouri Alpha Chapter the entertaining
Chapter. Besides the local men there were five delegates, R.L. Zoll, A.P.
Hunt and C.W. Bliss of Beta, and F.B. Owen and S.H. Ellison of Gamma. At
this Conclave the future policy of the order was outlined and has been
consistently followed ever since.
During the summer of 1894 students from
Kemper Military School at Boonville were initiated and a charter was
granted in October that year, established the Delta Chapter. In April of
the following year (1895) five students from the Marmaduke Military
Academy at Sweet Springs were initiated at Boonsville by the Delta Chapter
assisted by the men from Alpha and Beta. This established the Epsilon
Chapter, which was destined to flourish until the decline of the school.
At this initiation the first man taken in was A.W. Nelson of Kansas City.,
and he afterwards established Mo. Zeta without any outside help. To him
the fraternity will always be grateful.
The second Grand Conclave was held at
Warrensburg in June, 1895. No delegates were present from the Epsilon
The year 1895-6 was the evil year of the
fraternity. The Alpha Chapter died; the Beta Chapter kept but a semblance
of life; the Delta Chapter was outlawed; the Epsilon Chapter died. So at
the third grand conclave at Kirksville it looked like the days of the
fraternity were numbered. The fall of 1896 saw only the Gamma Chapter
alive. Some active work revived Beta, restored Epsilon for a time and then
anew life came with the announcement that Arthur Nelson had entered the
Central High School of Kansas City.
Prospects were brighter then, and the Mo.
Eta at Sedalia High School followed in the spring of 1897, delegates from
the Alpha Alumni, Beta, Gamma, Zeta and Eta Chapter were present.
Further detail is unnecessary. The
Missouri Theta Chapter was planted by Missouri Zeta in the Kansas City
Manual Training School, Missouri Iota at Springfield High School by
Missouri Eta, Missouri Lambda at Cape Girardeau by Missouri Gamma.
Missouri Eta also put in Montana Alpha at
Helena, (Mont) High School. Missouri Zeta has the credit for Colorado A
(Pueblo High School). To Missouri Theta belongs the credit of Kansas Alpha
at Topeka. Missouri Alpha Alumni put in Kansas Beta at Wichita High School
and Kansas Beta established Kansas Gamma at Lewis Academy.
The Grand Council of 1902-03 established
Nebraska Alpha at Lincoln and Missouri Lambda at St. Joe.
During the year 1903-04 Kentucky Alpha was
established at Louisville, KY., and Missouri Mu at St. Louis, Mo.; the ;
latter being established by the efforts of Father, F.B. Owen, who was
spending his senior year in the St. Louis Law School.
It would draw this account out to too
great length to attempt to follow the rapid spread of the fraternity
during the next two years.
Special mention should be made of the leap
across the Rockies to the Pacific Coast. Brother Horace Ivie, of Missouri
Gamma, in pursuit of his chosen profession located at San Francisco about
1900. Dr. Ivie had been one of the Grand Officers of the fraternity just
prior to his going to the Coast and was one of Phi Lambda Epsilon’s most
enthusiastic supporters and advocates. He had not been in San Francisco
long before he saw the fine possibilities there. He soon had his
petitioners together and the Grand Council followed Dr. Ive’s advice, thus
planting the fraternity’s widened and given us so many splendid chapters
and men, of whom the whole fraternity will always be proud.
In 1910 founder Owen, having located at
Oklahoma City in the practice of the law, found a band of young fellows
in the High School who were organized as a “local”; they desired to
nationalize and eagerly embraced the opportunity to petition Phi Lambda
Epsilon. The chapter has since proven to be one of the best in the
At Dallas, Texas in 1913, the Grand
Conclave there assembled passed one of the most drastic resolutions in the
history of the fraternity, since known as the “Dallas Resolution.” This
resolution recorded the decision of the fraternity to abide by the
seemingly popular opinion of all school boards and cease to exist in all
public secondary schools. Truly this may be recorded as a “dark period” in
the history of our organization. Within a short while the number of
chapters fell off from forty-eight active ones to but three, which were
maintained in private military academies and normal schools.
In spite of this serious setback, the
fraternity gathered together the remnants a short while later and started
once again an almost impossible up-hill battle. Many were the differences
in opinion as to procedure, but a few loyal workers managed to finally
restore order from the chaos created at Dallas.
Following almost as a reward for the few
brothers who did lend a hand when things were at their ebb came the
Twenty-third Annual Grand Conclave at San Francisco in 1915, during the
Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Much good was accomplished at
this meeting in addition to the fun had. The idea was conceived that
chapters might and would be chartered on a non-scholastic basis as well as
a scholastic one. This idea has since been responsible for the
installation of some very strong chapters in the fraternity.
Things in general looked much brighter
during the following year and at the next Grand Conclave held at Peoria,
Illinois, in 1916., the reports showed considerable progress, particularly
in the West and Middle West. Brothers Ed Seagrave, Grady Standeffer and
Max Miller stand out in heavy type on the books of the fraternity during
this period as the heavy work-horses whose efforts so helped to advance
the growth of the organization.
In 1917 and 1918 no Grand Conclaves were
held. Things again looked gloomy from the standpoint of fraternity growth
due to he Great World War into which the United States entered in April of
1917. Standing for the principles of the fraternity, our brothers could
not help but do exactly that which they did-step out to a man, into a
uniform and do their bit. And let it be recorded right here that theirs
was some “bit”, a record of which larger and older organizations might
well be proud. Throughout these two years, the fraternity owes its
existence mainly to two or three brothers, Max Miller, Clarence Parsons,
and Ed Freyschalag. How much work and how little reward for doing it was
accorded these men only they themselves know.
In 1919, at Kansas City Mo., the
Twenty-fifth Grand Conclave was held. During this three-day session much
was accomplished. The constitution and rituals were revised, and the whole
organization for the government of the fraternity thoroughly gone over,
with a view to absolutely preventing anything holding back that growth
which the assembled brothers knew about to take place.
In 1920 Oklahoma City entertained at the
Twenty-sixth Annual Grand Conclave. Here more progressive legislation took
place, some quite radical in nature. The resulting healthy growth has
however, justified the move made. As we go to press, which means in
November of 1921, we find ourselves with twenty-five active, health
chapters, with excellent immediate prospects for six other chapters. With
a continuance of the present rate of health expansion, Bother Ed
Freyschlag’s efforts should be rewarded by an active chapter roll at the
end of 1922 of fifty active chapters. Let’s all lend a hand that our
objective may be reached. The 1923 Conclave at St. Louis, convened and all
living Founders were present, as well as thirty-two delegates from 35
active Chapters, and five of the Founder\s sons.
Building For the Future
By the 1925 Conclave in San Antonio, the
Chapter roll was increased to 39 active Chapters, Brother Pottter had
suggested the principal of an Endowment Fund at the Colorado Springs
Officers’ meeting in 1924 which was put into effect by the work of
Brothers Mathis, McManus and Hamilton at San Antonio, with Brother Buford
Breeding as Chairman. He guarded and nurtured this fund until it became
certainly on of the most important assets in Fraternity history. The
scholarship award was also created at the Colorado Springs Officers
Meeting in 1928. This was important as it furthered our arguments against
school opposition, giving boys a real incentive for scholastic
improvement. Our Chapter roll was still at 35, some lost, others added. By
the time of the Conclave in Oklahoman City in 1935, the Fraternity had
reached a total of 41 active Chapters, the largest in its history. This
Conclave, which had climaxed four years of leadership under Grand M.N.A.
Cres H. Wells, also saw the permanent establishment of the Endowment Fund.
This Conclave was the last time that our three remaining Founders were
present. Fredrick B. Owens passed away on November 27th, 1935.
Second Great War
Phi Lambda Epsilon continued to move in
the late thirties. Large Conclaves were held in Los Angeles in 1937 and in
New Orleans in 1939. Regional meetings were held too, the most popular
being the Zeta Province Conclave in California, and the Delta-Gamma “East
of the Rockies” joint Province Conclaves.
Then came the War
With the entry of our country into World
War II in 1941, many of our Chapters were wiped out because their members
were called into the service. The non-scholastic Chapters were completely
eliminated because of this drain, leaving only the high school groups to
hold the Fraternity together. The entire Grand Council, elected in 1939,
entered the service. During these years, four Grand M.N.A.’s served
temporarily, until called to the colors: John Watts, Paul Gravey, Udo
Hinck, and Jack Hart, Truly, it was a desperate hour for the Fraternity.
In 1941, Grand M.N.A. Udo Hinck called
upon Joe Terresi, who was in an essential industry, to add to his busy
schedule the burden of a Grand Council position. Because of this
appointment and the fact that Joe was needed at home, Brother Terresi
provided the leadership through the long years of the War that kept Phi
Lambda Epsilon together. At one time, he was the only Grand Officer and
was, in fact, the Fraternity.
By the time of the 1946 Grand Conclave in
St. Louis, most of the fellows were back from the War and Phi Lambda
Epsilon was again on the move. This meeting saw the re-election of Terresi
as Grand M.N.A. which Udo Hinck and Jack Hart, both past Grand M.N.A.’s
returning as Officers. Grand F.S. William Hulsey had succeeded in reviving
several Chapters, new groups had been formed, and the Fraternity was in
excellent financial position.
In 1948, at the New Orleans Conclave, the
Chapter roll was at twenty. Dr. Hulsey was elected Grand M.N.A. This was
the last Grand Conclave attended by Father Lamkin whose farewell speech
was truly immortal.
On to the Fifties
The 1950 Grand Conclave, in Sacramento,
was a healthy one. Convened at the Senator Hotel, a large group of Phi
Lambs enthusiastically faced the future. But already lurking in the
background, was the Korean Conflict which was to again take its toll.
Grand M.N.A. Farrington, elected in 1950 was in the armed forces, and the
Chapter roll had again dwindled.
1952 saw a former Grand Council member,
Walter L. Dorris come out of retirement and assume leadership. He
carefully selected his other officers, who energetically worked for the
Fraternity for two years.
Despite the work done by Brownie and his
Council, and the Councils to follow, the tide was running against most
organized groups, whether they be social, fraternal, or civic. The recent
conflicts and the resultant attitudes of a more liberal nature, had caused
some groups to increase their outcry against anything that everyone
couldn’t join. Phi Lambda Epsilon felt the effect.
And so it was too that Phi Lambda Epsilon
has become a small, but exclusive society, through choice. Eliminating the
deadwood improving the internal organization, the Fraternity is no longer
interested in how big it is-only how good it can be.
And so it was too that Phi Lambda Epsilon
has grown-from a toddling infant in 1892 to a mature adult of almost
three-quarters of a century. Great men have given much to the Order
through the years but all would surely agree that the Fraternity of today,
with its firm and basic principles, is a far better organization than in
to be continued . . .