The Gamma Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was born at the end of 1939, during the early days of World War II during the administration of the late Brother S. Herbert Adams, the Sixth District Representative. During this time of the dark days of the war, Brothers were being taken away very fast to serve in the Armed Services.
Brothers: Dr. E.C. Jones, James T. McCain, William “Billy” Fleming, and E.P. Palmer visioned a need for brotherhood, unity, and community support. Bro. E.C. Jones was elected as the Chapter’s first Basileus, E.P. Palmer/Vice-Basileus, James T. McCain/Keeper of Finance. Dr. C.W. Burnie was a prominent Omega Man, however, he was deceased before the chapter received its charter. It was the faith and unity of these Brothers, “to nurse this baby until the lights come on again and the Brothers return.” The Gamma Iota Chapter would include Sumter and Darlington.
These founding Brothers believed in the four cardinal principles of the Fraternity, and anything of a civic nature or for the community’s welfare was in the making. It was also believed that the men of Omega Psi Phi were expected to take the lead in the community. The Brothers were members of the local NAACP, leaders in the Boy Scout movement and members of other national charitable organizations. The Brothers felt that it was essential to aiding some worthy student in college each year, provide assistance to the Red Cross, March of Dimes, and the T.B. Association.
Brothers Jones, Palmer, McCain and Fleming felt in their hearts that it meant a lot to be an Omega Man. In 1940, the Chapter initiated the first group of men. Brothers Harold DeLaine, George McCain and Mathew O. Ramsey shared their common interest and would assist in “nursing this baby.”
In 1941, Gamma Iota opened its doors to the community again. This second line consisted of Brothers Everett Thompson and W.L. “Fats” Butler. Earlier this year, Brothers Dr. Edmond McDonald, Atty, I. DeQuincey Newman, J. Herbert Nelson and Moses C. Jackson joined Gamma Iota Chapter after pledging undergraduate chapters.
Gamma Iota would gain new membership from Brothers either returning from the war or from other undergraduate chapters. Amongst these Brothers were: John Bowen, John H. Kilgo, McCain, Dr. Mason, Wilson C. Deas, Julian “Chick” Tarleton, Robert “Bob” Palmer, LeRoy Scott, Rev. Otis Nelson, Rev. Willie Jefferson, Dr. Luns C. Richardson, Reynolds “R.E.” Davis and Ivey Bowen.
The first Basileus of Gamma Iota was Brother Dr. E.C. Jones (1939 – 1941). After Brother Jones, Brother Moses C. Jackson (1941 – 1949). Brother Edmond McDonald (1949 – 1964) would lead the Chapter for fifteen years, to be followed by Brother LeRoy Scott (1964 – 1966). Brother Willie Jefferson (1966 – 1968), Brother Wilson C. Deas (1968 – 1991) served as Basileus for twenty-three years. Brother Benny L. Webb (1991 – 1993) served two years and Brother John “Chick” Haynesworth (1993 – 1997). Brother Jerome Smith served three terms (1997 – 2003) followed by Brother Vincent Ferguson (2003 – 2007) and our present Basileus Stanley Scriven (2007 – present).
Brothers serving as Vice-Basileus were brothers James H. Nelson, William Blanding, Sloan Johnson, Paul Mickens and many others in which some later became Basileus.
In 1941, Brother Matthew O. Ramsey was elected as KRS and served for many years. Succeeding him are Brothers Sylvester Miott, Kenny Rose and Alvin Chambers. Ramsey also served as the District KRS for two years.
Brother Harold DeLaine assumed the duties of Keeper of Finance from Brother James T. McCain. DeLaine served for over fifty years and was succeeded by Brother Robert R. Hooper.
Chaplains of the Chapter have been Brothers: J. Hurbert Nelson, Ralph Canty, Willie Jefferson, Richard Baxter Robert Hooper and Larry Wilson. Nelson, also, served as Chaplin for the Sixth District.
Brother Willie Jefferson served as the Chapter’s Parliamentarian for many years.
After the line in 1942, it would be 1975 before there is another line. At this time, Brothers: J.B. Johnson, Leon Richardson and Sylvester Miott became members.
However, throughout the years, the Men of Gamma Iota continued its tradition and continues to support the community’s effort toward change. Brothers: Billy Fleming, Charles Heath and E.P. Palmer were instrumental in organizing the Talent Hunt Program. Brother Heath was the MC for every program. The first winner of the local Talent Hunt Program was Miss Fredrika Robinson, who was also the winner of the Sixth District Talent Hunt held in Charlotte, N.C. in 1946.
The Chapter hosted the Sixth District Talent Hunt Program in 1951 at Allen University in Columbia, S.C. Miss Robinson, not only acted as one of the judges for the program, but was chosen as Gamma Iota Sweetheart.
In 1976, Gamma Iota had another line. Brothers: Sloan Johnson, Ralph Canty and McDaniels became Omega Men.
In 1981, Brothers: Joseph Givens, Kenny Bradley and Leroy Campbell became Omega Men.
In 1985, Brothers: Roy Graham and James Miott became Omega Men.
In 1979, under the guidance and leadership of Brother Wilson C. Deas, the Epsilon Lambda Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was initiated on the campus of Morris College. Gamma Iota has successfully engaged in the life of the brothers of Epsilon Lambda to bridge the gap in the graduate and undergraduate brothers. Keeping them involved in all of Gamma Iota’s events and vice-versa, the Sumter community sees one fraternity and one brotherhood. Eventhough the District MOON program was established in the 21st Century, Gamma Iota was already fulfilling this mandate years before.
By the end of the eighties, it was evident that this “baby had been nursed”. Membership reached a record high with the joining of Brothers from undergraduate chapters. These Brothers included: Stanley Scriven, Frankie Moore, Kenny Rose, Marvin Boykin, Paul Mickens, Jimmie Farmer, Ernest Frierson and Jerry Commander.
During this same time, Brothers: Robert Hooper, Rick Murray, Dr. Charles Dawkins, Joseph Grice, Richaed Baxter, Rudolph Wheeler and Neopolean Bradford joined the Chapter.
In May 1990, Brothers: Alvin Chambers, John Haynesworth, Raleigh McCoy and Jerome Smith were initiated into Gamma Iota. McCoy is the oldest man to be initiated into the Fraternity at age 70 and is still an active member today. The Chapter, in 1992, elected every Brother from its last line as officers of Gamma Iota.
In 1991, by recognizing a need, and a lack of positive role models in our community, Gamma Iota initiated the William Blanding Mentorship Program – named in honor of Brother Blanding who was instrumental in its original structure. That same year, the Chapter hosted Camp A.M.I.G.O. (Acquired Motivational Ideals and Goals to Seize Opportunities). This week long summer camp attracted forty-six young men. The men of Gamma Iota continue to provide guidance to young men throughout Sumter County one Saturday in every month.
In October 1993, Brothers: Lorenza Bowen, Vincent Ferguson, George Spry, Darryle Albert, Larry Wilson, Jeffrey Jackson, Herman Muldrow and Caesar “Big P” Prince were initiated into Gamma Iota.
In 1995, a building located 12 miles east of Sumter was leased with the option to buy in order that the Chapter use it as a Fraternity House. The first idea of the Chapter constructing a Fraternity House was 1952. Later, the Chapter would be offered the land (donated by Brother Jackson) to construct a House. In 1980, a CD account was initiated in order that one day there will be funds for construction. The need for a house has always been a necessity.
For years, the Brothers used Ebenezer High School to host its annual picnic. Later, the location would change to Sander’s Park, located in Rembert. During the early years of the Chapter’s development, the Brothers would have its June meeting at the Beach House of Brother Mason in Atlantic Beach. The Chapter sponsored a “Spring Fling” every year at Mill Creek, during the 40’s and 50’s. We have kept this tradition alive by having a Family Day Picnic for the family and supporters of Gamma Iota every year as a way to say “thank you”. Eventhough it is a mandated program through the District, Gamma Iota has been doing this for years.
Eventhough many Brothers of Gamma Iota: E.C. Jones, J. Hurbert Nelson, Moses C. Jackson, William Blanding, Wilson C. Deas, E.P. Palmer, W.F. Bultman, John Kilgo, Charles Mitchell, W.L. “Fats” Butler, I. DeQuincey Newman, Billy Fleming, R.E. Davis, Dr. Mason, Charles Heath and John Bowen have all entered the Land of Omega, the tradition of brotherhood, unity and community support continues to be the mission for the Chapter today. Gamma Iota has attracted men from various walks of life, various professions and from the communities of Sumter, Lee, Clarendon and Richland Counties, because of the faith and vision of our founding Brothers shared. This tradition will continue for many years to come.