The 1920s witnessed the birth of the Harlem Renaissance—a flowering of African American art, literature, music and culture. Alpha brothers Charles S. Johnson, W. E. B. DuBois, Countee Cullen, Noble Sissle, were entrepreneurs and participants in this creative upsurge.
During this time, the Fraternity had chartered 85 chapters in the United States and initiated over 3,000 members. During the Eighteenth Annual Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, which met in Detroit, Michigan on December 27-31, 1925, the convention authorized the establishment of Graduate Chapters at Nashville, Tennessee.
Tau Lambda Chapter was organized in 1926, at what was then called Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College at Nashville, Tennessee, after its application was accepted by the General Convention. Brother Maney Owen, president of the Chi Chapter (Meharry Medical College), set aside the chapter in January, 1927.
The charter members were Brothers
- G. W. Gore
- W. S. Ellington, Jr.
- C. H. Harper
- Roy Clinthorne
- James J. Tapp
- J. W. Riley.The first initiates were Brothers
- R. B. J. Campbell
- I. I. Moore
- W. S. E. Ellington, Sr.
- A. R. Turner
- A. E. Lockert.
In its first quarter century, working as a chapter, Tau Lambda requested and was granted permission to host the 25th General Convention of the fraternity, and the 29th Anniversary Convention. 1935, Tau Lambda, along with Chi, Alpha Chi, and Beta Omicron chapters, served as host chapters. The Convention held its sessions at Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, and Tennessee A&I State College.Tau Lambda Chapter planned cooperatively with Chi, Alpha Chi, and Beta Omicron. The roster of visitors and delegates numbered 230. There were 55 chapters that were officially represented by one or more delegates and members.
Although Tau Lambda continued functioning as a good chapter, the most memorable of its events concerned the individual achievements of its members: Brothers Meredith G. Ferguson as the Fraternity’s General Treasurer; William D. Hawkins as General Auditor; Charles S. Johnson as the first African-American president of Fisk (1947); and George W. Gore as president of Florida A & M (1950).
YEARS 1951-1976The second quarter century was one in which the chapter continued to provide leadership to Alpha Phi Alpha beyond Nashville. Brother Zenoch Adams served ably State Director for the District of Tennessee. During Brother Adams’ tenure, three chapters were established in Tennessee: Kappa Theta at Vanderbilt University; Kappa Eta at Memphis State University; Mu Beta at University of Tennessee Martin, Theta Pi at Austin Peay State University, Eta Phi at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Nu Eta Christian Brothers College, and Kappa Xi at Middle Tennessee State University. Kappa Zeta Lambda in Clarksville and Kingsport TN
Brother Floyd Jones later assumed the position. Meanwhile, the chapter honored all of its observances and performed all of its duties but recognized that it could so far better if it had a home of its own and an instrument for a more efficient focus of its efforts.
YEARS 1976-PresentThe current half century is one in which it has all come together. The individual accolades have continued: Brother Ponder became Alpha Phi Alpha’s General President; Brother Julian Blackshear became General Counsel; Brother Otis Floyd became TSU President and later Chancellor of Tennessee’s Board of Regents. However, two achievements longed for and sought most came to pass: Tau Lambda’s home of its own and an instrument to focus its efforts for greatest impact.
The ambition of the chapter was demonstrated by unusual leadership by Brother William L. Hipps and Brother Julian Blackshear who led the local campaign to purchase a fraternity house. With the support of the brotherhood, the idea and proposition became a reality in May 1990
The chapter’s existence has been marked by the notable achievements of its members involved in every aspect of business, social, civic and educational development of Nashville. Medical practitioner and educator, Brother Axel C. Hansen, served as president of Alpha Chi at Fisk University and later of Chi Chapter (Meharry Medical College), and penned the words to the fraternity’s Sweetheart Song. Through the years, the chapter has grown in reputation and influence. Brother Frederick Humphries served as president of Tennessee State University from 1975-85; Brother Otis Floyd became the 5th President of Tennessee State University, and later Chancellor of Tennessee’s Board of Regents.
Several chapter members have held national offices in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity: Henry Ponder, (during his 12 year tenure as president of Fisk University) became General President; Julian Blackshear, General Counsel; M.G. Ferguson, General Treasurer and Reavis Mitchell, National Historian.
In addition, the chapter sponsors numerous civic and social activities in the community including Project Alpha, Go-to-High School, Go-to-College, Voter Registration, Boy Scouts of America, March of Dimes, the Yellow Rose Ball, Sweetheart’s Dinner, and the annual Mack C. Jolley Senior Citizens Holiday Luncheon.