The History of Districts
The history of the districts, and specifically the Talented Tenth District, represents the evolution of two organizational concepts now embodied in the present-day functions of the District Representative and various District Meetings. The first District Representatives were appointed by the Grand Basileus who was authorized by a constitutional amendment in 1922. The District Representatives were delegated the function of assisting the Grand Chapter in the supervision of chapters within a geographical area known as a District.
Districts were seemingly organized on the basis of states contiguous to each other, with consideration given to some of the amenities resulting from compatible regional and social relationships. The present district organization of eleven units reflects this logical development.
Besides supervising established chapters, the District Representative was expected to develop and expand the jurisdiction of Omega to all college campuses within the area. During the early days in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan the principal individual contacts between the Grand Chapter and local chapters or between chapters within the District were made by the District Representatives. With little, if any, funds from either the Grand Chapter or the loosely controlled District units, visitations depended largely upon both the dedication and affluence of the District Representatives.
The first step to strengthen the position of the District Representatives occurred during the administration of the 16th Grand Basileus, Albert W. Dent (1937-1939). District Representatives then became constitutional officers and were to be elected by the Districts at the annual meetings. Moreover, all initiations were placed under the supervision of the District Representatives.
The June 1919 Oracle mentions several chapters of the Fraternity that were newly established, but because of publishing deadlines it was too late to include details of their establishment in the issue. One of those chapters listed under the heading, "New Chapters" was Tau Chapter, indicating it had been, "established at the University of Michigan". Based on publication deadline dates to receive information for inclusion in an issue, it is believed that the establishment date would have been around April of 1919. Tau was later transferred on May 1, 1922 to Atlanta University. The establishment, and relatively quick relocation of chapters were not uncommon during the early years of the Fraternity.
Sigma Chapter, Sigma Omega Chapter and Iota Chapter
The questions are always asked, "why is the first graduate chapter established in Chicago named Sigma Omega instead of Iota Omega?" and, "isn't Sigma Chapter at Michigan State University in East Lansing?"
From its beginning, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity was created as an undergraduate organization that would have its chapters established strategically at colleges and universities. The concept of "graduate" members existed but their membership was initially viewed as honorary and termed, "elected active" - beginning with Founder Just... "elected" to Alpha Chapter at Howard University on February 28, 1912. The chapters established were therefore undergraduate chapters. Some were established on the campuses - like Alpha Chapter in 1911 at Howard University. Others were established within a larger jurisdiction like Gamma Chapter in 1916 in Boston to service multiple institutions.
As more Brothers graduated and as more active elected honorary graduate members were initiated, the desire to continue associations with the Fraternity beyond the college years grew. Graduate brothers still continued to be active members of the undergraduate chapters but their focus as graduates was understandably different. This led to the establishment of graduate chapters in the Fraternity. In many areas the graduate chapters still had undergraduate members as well, but they operated as a graduate chapter. The closest comparison as to how these chapters would be viewed today in how they functioned would be as intermediate chapters.
Up until that time, as chapters were established, with a few exceptions, they were named following the order of the Greek alphabet - Alpha in 1911, Beta in 1914, Gamma in 1916, and so on, however, this naming convention did not allow for distinguishing undergraduate chapters from graduate chapters. The 11th Grand Conclave in Philadelphia in December 1922 addressed the way to standardize the naming convention of chapters and chapter types.
Sigma Chapter had been established as an undergraduate chapter in Chicago in April 1921 for the University of Chicago and Northwestern University (Oracle, 1921), making Sigma Chapter, the first chapter of the Fraternity established in Chicago. The mandate at the 1922 Conclave was that when a new graduate chapter was chartered, they would be identified by adding "Omega" as the second greek letter at the end of the single letter undergraduate chapter that existed in that city. That meant the first graduate chapter established in Chicago would be named Sigma Omega...which happened on October 1, 1923. This action simultaneously caused the Sigma Chapter undergraduate charter to be anchored on the campus of the University of Chicago.
The Sigma Chapter undergraduate charter remained at the University of Chicago until Iota Chapter, the first graduate chapter of the Fraternity (Oracle 1921), was redesignated an undergraduate chapter and relocated from Atlantic City, NJ to the University of Chicago on November 1, 1923, displacing the undergraduate Sigma Chapter located there just one month previous. That charter was then relocated to McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on December 15, 1923 - and became the first International chapter of the Fraternity! Since March 4, 1961, Sigma Chapter, one of the most portable chapters in the Fraternity, has been located at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.
The Districts Today
Omega is truly international! Websites to the Districts and the geographic areas that comprise them are listed below:
(No District website)
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island & Vermont
Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York & Pennsylvania
Virginia & Washington, DC
Ohio & West Virginia
Kentucky & Tennessee
North & South Carolina
Alabama, Florida, Georgia & Mississippi
Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North & South Dakota
Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma & Texas
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota & Wisconsin
Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington & Wyoming
Hawaii, Liberia, Bahamas, Japan, Panama Canal, South Korea, U.S. Virgin Islands & Germany