History of Epsilon Chi Zeta
The Epsilon-Chi Zeta of Lambda Chi Alpha at Mississippi State University (then known as Mississippi State College) was formed from the local fraternity, Rho Zeta, which was on the campus at that time. During this same period, a colony of Theta Kappa Nu was also located at State. The history of that colony and Epsilon-Chi became one after the merger of Theta Kappa Nu and Lambda Chi Alpha on September 1, 1939.
The founders of Rho Zeta fraternity, faculty members H. C. Simrall and N. M. McCorkle with students M. B. Butts, H. L. Boyd, and Wallace McRoy held their organizational meeting on February 20, 1937. They held their first general meeting of prospective members and interested parties on the following day. On the 25th, the first officers were elected and work was begun on the Rho Zeta constitution. The pin adopted by the Rho Zetas was a black shield with gold lettering and trim. The Rho Zetas were outstanding on campus in both scholarship and athletics, having several lettermen in the fraternity.
After deciding to affiliate with a national fraternity, the Rho Zetas submitted a formal petition to become a colony of Lambda Chi Alpha on April 25, 1938. The petition was accepted and Rho Zeta became a colony of Lambda Chi Alpha on May 28, 1938.
The chapter remained a colony for less than a year and was formally installed as Epsilon-Chi Zeta of Lambda Chi Alpha on April 28, 1939, by an installation team from Omega Zeta at Auburn. The installation was followed by a banquet on the next day at the Methodist Church in Starkville.
The banquet was a lavish affair with Chicken a-la-King as the main course and strawberry shortcake for desert. Speakers were Mitchell Butts, EX 1; W. F. Hand, the Vice-President of the college and for whom the Hand Laboratory Building on campus is named; and Amos B. Miller, then the National Secretary of Lambda Chi Alpha. Also, on hand were faculty advisors G. K. Bryan, EX 26, then the head of the Political Science Department and M. P. Robelot, EX 27; Thomas G. Abernathy, then the District Attorney at Okolona; and Tozier Brown, then a Traveling Secretary for Lambda Chi Alpha.
At the installation the twenty-seven charter members were initiated. However, ten members of Rho Zeta were never initiated due to the fact that they had graduated and were gone before the installation, but the charter members provided leadership and worked to get Epsilon-Chi on its feet during the early years of the chapter.
Early History - Merger with Theta Kappa Nu
On the first meeting after installation, the members voted to have the minutes bound and preserved. These minutes provide most of the information for this history. The first class of new members was initiated in November of 1939 and at that time "Help Week," which all successive Epsilon-Chis have endured, was instituted to help prepare the new members of their future duties as actives.
The meeting room was in the YMCA building and had long since become unsatisfactory; therefore, in the fall of 1939 a small house was obtained on campus. This house was located at the present location of Butler Hall. Although it only slept eight members, the house served as a gathering place for all twenty-five actives and fifteen pledges.
By the time that the merger with Theta Kappa Nu was completed, twelve new members had been added to the rolls of Epsilon-Chi, and the members of Theta Kappa Nu here became members of Lambda Chi Alpha, receiving the Zeta designations EX 43 through EX 56. By the spring of 1940, the Epsilon-Chi chapter had thus come to represent the histories and traditions of three separate groups, the Rho Zetas, the Theta Kappa Nus, and the Epsilon-Chis of Lambda Chi Alpha - about 70 people, undergraduate and alumni in all. Epsilon-Chi was now a well-established institution on the campus of Mississippi State.
The War Years
By the fall of 1941, the chapter was seeking to expand its activities on campus even farther by merging with Beta Kappa, which was then a local fraternity on the campus. This fell through due to the steadily growing demands of the Second World War following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Big Brother-Little Brother organization was established here in the spring of 1942, but the number of actives and pledges continued to decline due to the manpower needs of the war.
On May 10, 1943, an agreement was signed by the remaining members on the dispositions to be made of the fraternity for the duration of the war. On May 17, 1943 the house was vacated for use as a barracks and the furniture was sent to Mrs. G. S. Oakley for safekeeping. Many other items, included the large Theta Kappa Nu badge, pictures of the charter members of Theta Kappa Nu and Epsilon-Chi Zeta, a painting of the Rho Zeta badge, and most of the ritual equipment were stored in Lee Hall. These items were later destroyed in one of the numerous fires that have ravished Lee Hall from time to time.
Most of the brothers went on active duty, but Epsilon-Chi, unlike many of the other chapters on campus, never went completely inactive. By 1944, only five active members remained. At one time the membership was down to just faculty advisor G. K. Bryan, EX 26, and undergraduate J.D. Kirkland, EX 90, but meetings were held every week, roll call consuming very little time. A crisis occurred when two pledges wanted to be initiated, but somehow enough Lambda Chis were rounded up to carry out an initiation. This feat tripled the membership. Much of the credit for holding the chapter together during this period must go to G. K. Bryan, who was faculty advisor from the days of Rho Zeta into the 1950's.
Following the surrender of Germany and Japan, several million soldiers returned to civilian life. Many Epsilon-Chis returned to State and the membership returned to its pre-war level strength. New members were initiated, pledging picked up, and roll call began to take a little longer.
In the fall of 1946, the first chapter newsletter under the name of EXIT was put out. Meetings during this period were held in a chapter room on the fourth floor of Lee Hall, a meeting place that was less than satisfactory, and the search for a new house began.
The tradition of the Pewter Pitcher was begun at Epsilon-Chi during this period. The pitcher was placed near the door to the chapter room and members would contribute odd change as they entered. The pitcher also was passed for contributions when a motion for an assessment was voted down.
Scholarship was high on the list of attainments at this chapter when we were twenty-second in the scholarship of all Lambda Chi chapters for 1948-49. Than annual Pledge-Active football game was started in 1948, a traditional game which has been played every year since.
Nationals established the new Greek letter office of Kappa in the fall of 1952 at about the same time as this chapter was negotiating for the purchase of the house at 508 University Drive. The house was purchased from Mrs. Saul, the mother of alumni Rev. R. L. Saul, EX 122, for $15, 000.
Epsilon-Chi moved into the new house on January 27, 1953. Mrs. G. S. Oakley, mother of alumni Warren Oakley, EX 69, and fondly remembered as Mother Nan by over two hundred Epsilon Chis, became "temporary" housemother at this time, a position she held until 1967. The house looked rather different then as many changes to the house were made over made over the years. The basement was unfinished, the front porch was screened in, the stairs had carpeting, and the windows had troublesome Venetian blinds, which were later sold. The left back bedroom on the first floor was occupied by Mother Nan, the room next to the basement stairs was a kitchen and had a set of steps leading up to it, and the "Hole" on the second floor had not yet been created. The garage had a ping- pong table in it and served as a game room.
Construction of the barbeque pit was begun as a pledge project in the spring of 1955. Scholarship again was high on the list of attainments, the chapter ranking third of all Lambda Chi chapters for 1956-57.
Before the basement was finished, there was a big problem with mice, which led the chapter to adopt a large number of cat mascots, mostly strays and veterans of many a Starkville scandal, during the 1950's. Most of these cats turned out to be short-lived, either being run off by the mice, getting hit by a car, or in the case of one unfortunate yellow kitten named "Butterball" from an overdose of alcohol.
The makeshift arrangement of having meals fixed only once a week in the first floor kitchen and having Mother Nan living in just one room was remedied in 1960 when the chapter spent $3,000 to have the basement fixed up. With the purchase of some dishes and tin cups and the hiring of Pearl, the cook at the time, meals began to be served on a regular basis in 1961. The chapter as an assistant cook hired Miss Lucielle, Pearl's sister, in 1967.
In 1962, a chapter first was made when the Brothers "sang" to the sweetheart at the Crescent Ball. This experiment has not been repeated since. The rush film, which most rushees have sat through at one time or another was obtained on from Nationals in this year.
Epsilon-Chi of Lambda Chi Alpha became keepers of the Bulldog mascot of MSU in the spring of 1965 with the acquisition of "Joker" for $125. A pen was constructed in the backyard for him, but he soon took to living in the house. When "Joker" died from heartworms in December of 1966, the search for a new dog began. With the aid of $300 donated by the MSU Alumni Association, the mascot "Sergeant Mack" was purchased in April 1967.
In 1966, two fraternity flags were made by the mother of E. J. Clark, EX 267, and sent to the chapter. In the spring of that year the White Rose Organization was started for wives and girlfriends of the members and for special friends of the chapter as a little sister organization of the chapter. This year also saw the first Epsilon-Chi death in combat action when John Sabine, EX 230, was killed in Vietnam. The only other Epsilon-Chi to die on active duty was R. C. Shows, EX 56, was killed during a during a training flight in 1943.
In April of 1967, Mother Haney replaced Mother Nan who after serving 14 years to Epsilon-Chi retired. The same month saw the formal adoption of the Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority as a little sister group by the chapter.
In 1968, Bother F. D. Cohenour retired as High Pi of Epsilon-Chi and was replaced by Brother Clyde V. Williams, TE 462, a former High Alpha of our chapter. Brother Cohenour can be credited with saving the chapter in the early 1960's by refusing to let the brothers give up or become discouraged when the chapter fell on hard times.
During late 1969 and early 1970, the House Corporation of Epsilon-Chi Zeta was organized upon the initiative of Brother F. E. Henson, EX 15, and other of our alumni. The concern of Brother Henson, who became our first House Corporation President, over the chapter's need for new housing, was central to the drive to build on Fraternity Row, which began in earnest in 1970. At the request of Brother Henson and other House Corporation members, Brother C. H. Templeton, EX 107, did extensive work in researching and reorganizing the House Corporation to meet with legal and IRS requirements.
Once the House Corporation was on a solid foundation, Brothers Henson and Templeton began moving Epsilon-Chi down the road toward building. Just as everything was falling into place, the chapter experienced a disastrous rush in the fall of 1971, and the housing drive disintegrated. In 1972, the chapter experienced a rebuilding year as fall rush netted the chapter 36 new associate members, which is still a record.
In February of 1973, Brother Paul Karre, EX 378, was elected President of the Interfraternity Council. Brother Karre, who was the chapter's first B. M. O. C. in many years was remembered by the 1973 Reveille as "MSU's number one flim-flam man." April of 1973 saw the election of Brother John Hendricks, EX 368, as President of the House Corporation, replacing Brother Henson.
At the initiative of Brother Hendricks, the housing drive was begun again. Over the next years, Brother Hendricks, working closely with the chapter and with Brother C. H. Templeton, helped bring the chapter to the proud moment, when at the House Corporation meeting at Founder's Day in March of 1974 Brother Keith Winfield made a motion which was seconded by Brother E. O. Templeton, that we build the house to be located on fraternity row.
The house effort was by no means a sure and certain thing and moved ahead primarily through the courage and daring of the brothers involved. In April of 1974, the chapter sent out invitations to Groundbreaking Ceremonies to be held on May 19, 1974. On May 16, the Board of Trustees on Institutions of Higher Learning approved our lease with the University, without which the Groundbreaking could not have taken place. On May 20, 1974, construction was begun on the house.
Construction progressed smoothly and quickly through the summer and fall of 1974, and on January 15, 1975, Epsilon-Chi Zeta waded through mud (there were no streets or sidewalks completed) to occupy its new house. It might be pointed out that the move to the new house was made barely six hours before we legally had to vacate our old house to its new owners, Triangle Fraternity.
At the 1974 General Assembly held at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, our chapter was among five others honored with that Grand High Alpha Award, the highest award, which the fraternity bestows upon its chapters.
In March of 1975, after a long and extensive search for a new Housemother, "Mom" Moreland was hired. In May of 1975, chapter President Mansell McCord was named to serve on Lambda Chi Alpha's Student Advisory Committee representing the Dixie Conclave.
At the fraternity's General Assembly in August of 1976, at Roanoke, Virginia, the chapter was honored in the form of awards received by two of its members. Brother Charles H. Templeton became the first initiate of Epsilon-Chi Zeta to receive the Order of Merit for outstanding dedication and service to the fraternity, and Brother Mansell McCord was named the 1976 recipient of the Cyril F. "Duke" Flad Award as the fraternity's most outstanding undergraduate member.
Spring of 1978 brought about the first "Lambda Chi Kidnap," by the notorious gangsters of Lambda Chi Alpha. This event raised over $1000 and won Lambda Chi Alpha first place in the fraternity division of the fund drive for the Creative Arts Complex. After three years, Mom Moreland retired and Mom Latimer was hired. In the summer of 1978 at the General Assembly, Brother John Futrell received honorable mention for the Cyril F. "Duke" Flad Award. After many years of devoted service, Miss Lucille retired from the kitchen staff. Hurricane Casino was born that year also, and became an annual tradition.
1980 was a year of several changes and accomplishments. In February, Epsilon-Chi hosted Dixie Conclave and proved a big success setting records in attendance with 130 people attending. In August at the General Assembly in Denver, Brother Jim Oakes was selected to the National Ritual Team. In the fall, we entered our first display in Homecoming in five years and won third place. Mom Latimer resigned in October to be replaced by Mom Ferguson.
In 1983, Lambda Chi Alpha held its first annual Watermelon Fest. It was a big success, and improved relations with sorority girls and raised money for the Creative Arts Complex.
In 1985, we set a new record for raising money as the combined funds raised from the annual Watermelon Fest, Hurricane Casino, and the biannual Kidnap raised over $4000. Chapter retreat at Lake Tiak-O-Khata was a big smash. Mom Ferguson retired, and she was replaced by Mom Martha Graham. Also in this year, Brother F. E. Henson was awarded posthumously with the Order of Merit, and the library was dedicated to him at Founder's Day.
In 1989, Epsilon-Chi Zeta celebrated a half-century of being on the campus of Mississippi State University with its 50th anniversary. Plaques were made in order to commemorate this occasion.
In the Spring 1996 edition of the Cross & Crescent, Brother John Hendricks, EX 368, was recognized as the Volunteer of the Quarter. His volunteer service includes Kiwanis, Starkville Chamber of Commerce, Oktibbeha Economic Development Council Board, member of the Board of Directors for the Mississippi State Alumni Association of Oktibbeha County, and president of University Spirit of America. However, Brother Hendricks is being recognized most of all for his dedication to the chapter at Mississippi State University as chapter advisor.
1998 marked some key points of history for the members of Epsilon-Chi Zeta. February 27th to 28th, the Dixie Conclave was hosted once again by the chapter on campus. This would be the last Dixie Conclave to be held as Headquarters was changing to a new format of Superclaves. On September 26th, Jay Tucker became the 1000th initiate of Epsilon-Chi. To celebrate this milestone, a banquet and an alumni reunion were held at the M Club overlooking Scott Field. In attendance were Mitchell Butts, EX 1, and Gordan Bryan, EX 26, the first faculty advisor for the chapter. All members active and alumni that were present signed a coat-of-arms, which now hangs in the house library.
Watermelon Fest saw improvement throughout the decade with totals increasing every year. In 1995, the chapter raised 2,843 lbs. of food; 1996, 3,360 lbs.; 1998, 10,525 lbs.; and in 1999, 20,364 lbs. Watermelon Fest included spirit night, a volleyball tournament with a bar-b-q dinner following, a night out at Rick's Cafe, and watermelon games held on the last day. These games ended with the traditional watermelon fight in the side yard of the chapter house.
In 1999, the chapter celebrated 60 years of excellence on the Mississippi State campus. This year the members demonstrated their scholastic excellence by receiving the Ritter Award for Most Improved GPA for the 98-99 semesters.
The New Millennium
Epsilon-Chi continued its academic excellence by having the #1 overall GPA for the spring (3.108 GPA) and fall (2.926 GPA) semesters in 2000. However, the chapter's efforts did not end there as Epsilon-Chi had the highest overall GPA out of every club, fraternity, and other school association on campus for the 2000-2001 academic school year.
The 19th annual Watermelon Fest was held in 2001 and the chapter raised 36,164 lbs. of food, which sets the record for the highest amount that Epsilon-Chi has ever raised for the North American Food Drive.
On October 13, 2001, the Epsilon-Chi Zeta Alumni Association held its first meeting during Homecoming weekend. The agenda included objectives for the following spring, general goals, officers, dues, budget, operating procedures and by-laws. Officers elected included J. B. Conant, EX 954, President; Jeff Darnell, EX 956, Treasurer; and James Walley, EX 979, Secretary. A Vice-president was not elected at this time. Initial committees were formed to address the formation of by-laws, Founder's Day and Super Bulldog Weekend.
In the Spring Semester of 2002, Brother Tom Taylor, EX 1038, took third place in the Greek God competition and the chapter won third place in the Greek Week food drive.
In the Fall Semester of 2002, Epsilon-Chi Zeta associated 21 new members after a period of steady decline in membership. The chapter broke the old record of 36,000 lbs. of food for the North American Food Drive with a new record of 52,091 lbs. This food was then given to the Oktibbeha County Food Bank. The chapter continued an excellent semester through placing 2nd place in Greek Week. Associate member Allen Gressett then won the Greek God competition.
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