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The History of Sigma Mu Lambda Chapter

Alumni Chapters in Philadelphia

Philadelphia had the distinction of being the seat to three Alumni Chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. – Rho (1914), Zeta Omicron Lambda (1956), and Omicron Delta Lambda (1985). This concentration of Alpha Chapters was great for the city of Philadelphia, yet it left a void in the surrounding suburban counties. As the pharmaceutical and technology industries have grown in the western suburbs, the number of Alpha Brothers in those communities grew. These Brothers began to get active in their local communities through churches, community organizations, and sports teams. However, they had no way to get connected to each other and other Alpha Brothers unless they were willing to drive into Philadelphia to associate with one of the those three chapters.

Through his work in the community and in his church, Brother Claude Mickle saw a need for a chapter in Montgomery County, PA to serve as a role model of leadership and manly deeds for the young black men in the county. Over the years, he discussed the formation of a new chapter with many Brothers and was often discouraged from making the effort. He never gave up on his dream for a new chapter and kept feeling out Brothers to gauge their interest and potential commitment in forming a new chapter.

The Cornerstone is Set

On November 27, 2017, Brother Mickle invited Brothers Gerald Baron, Kewin Gales, and Darone Littleton to meet with him at the Grand Luxe Café in King of Prussia, PA (Figure 1) to cast his vision for a new chapter. Brother Gales and Brother Mickle worked together on several committees in Zeta Omicron Lambda including the Brotherhood committee and the Founders Day committee. Brother Mickle lead the Zeta Omicron Lambda Founders Day Committee and eventually transitioned that responsibility to Brother Gales because of his management experience and leadership skills. They initiated discussion of a suburban Philadelphia chapter during these interactions. Brother Mickle had worked with Brother Littleton when he was chairman of the Zeta Omicron Lambda Brotherhood Breakfast Committee and had a firsthand knowledge of how Brother Littleton executed his responsibilities. His experiences with Brother Baron came through his role as an advisor to Brother Baron when he assumed the chairmanship of the Zeta Omicron Lambda Brotherhood Breakfast Committee.

These four Brothers spoke about the ways in which a new chapter could impact Montgomery County. Their hypothesis was two-fold:
  1. There are significant numbers of young black men in the target area who are not being served by an NPHC organization.
  2. There are significant numbers of inactive Alpha Brothers in the target area who have chosen not to affiliate with any of the existing Alumni chapters in Philadelphia.

Figure 1 - Location of first meeting to discuss a Montgomery County Chapter on 11/27/2017

These Brothers felt that some of the justifications for a new chapter in Montgomery County were:
  • A suburban chapter can serve unaddressed populations of young Black males living in the target area - Norristown, Pottstown, Royersford, and Coatesville
  • Other NPHC organizations that are operating in the target area demonstrate the need for a local presence. However, these NPHC are unable to cover portions of the target area leaving a void which a suburban chapter can fill.
  • Montgomery County is the largest and most prosperous county in Pennsylvania and is a natural place in which to expand the fraternity.
  • Suburban business hubs (e.g., King of Prussia, Conshohocken, Collegeville, Great Valley), attract Black professionals who would make excellent additions to the fraternity.

The Core Team is Formed

To further develop the concept, Brother Mickle convened a meeting at his home on January 6, 2018. Brother James Hamilton was invited to attend the meeting. His concern for Senior Brothers and his project management skills became evident to Brother Mickle when the two worked together on the Zeta Omicron Lambda Brother’s Keeper Program. At this meeting, Brother Mickle suggested that the group refer to itself as the Core Team, and Brother Tyrone LeCato, Sr. was identified as another Brother to be invited to the Core Team. Brother LeCato presented himself as a quiet and consistent Brother who could be counted on to do what he was asked to do while at Zeta Omicron Lambda.

District Leadership Buy-In

Brothers Mickle, Hamilton and Baron met with Brother Ryan McLeod, District Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Alpha Chapters (PAAC) on January 12, 2018 at Chili’s in Cheltenham (Figure 2) to make the case for a new chapter. Brother McLeod was receptive to the idea. He described the process, provided the Core Team with the “Application for (Re-)Chartering”, and shared some advice on completing the Charter Application. He indicated that Brother Gus Tolson, Jr. would be the main point of contact as the chairman of the PAAC Committee on Fraternal Standards.

Figure 2 - Location of meeting with PAAC District Director on 1/12/2018

The Core Team proceeded to address the requirements of the Charter Application. Several meetings were held at the home of Brother Mickle to discuss the requirements of the Charter Application and the plans for fulfilling those requirements. His wife, Glenda Mickle, who is affectionately referred to as “Aunt Glenda” graciously hosted the Brothers and prepared delicious meals. These meetings were collegial and demonstrated to these Brothers that they could have healthy debate about various ideas, reach a consensus on the way forward, and formalize a plan of action.

The Application Process Begins

Brother Baron assumed the role of Project Manager to complete the Charter Application. At the recommendation of Brother Sean McCaskill, Brother Baron reached out to Brother Tony Cheatham for advice on filling out the Charter Application. Brother Cheatham provided valuable advice about the elements that would be important in gaining approval for the Charter Application as well as the format of the Charter Application.

Expanding the Foundation

At a meeting at Brother Mickle’s home on February 3, 2018 the Core Team decided to recruit additional members for the Core Team to get to the minimum of seven Charter Brothers. Brothers Richard Austin and Derek Bell were invited to come alongside the original Core Team. Brother Austin brought experience as a past Chapter President, and Brother Bell was invited to join the Core Team to ensure that the team maintained a spiritual foundation in its work.

The Charter Members

The members of the Ithaca 1906 Group became the charter members in the Charter Application. The eight members of the Ithaca 1906 Group are:
  1. Richard A. Austin
  2. Gerald J. Baron
  3. Derek A. Bell
  4. Kewin D. Gales
  5. James H. Hamilton, Jr.
  6. Tyrone T. LeCato, Sr.
  7. Darone K. Littleton
  8. Claude W. Mickle

Regional Leadership Buy-In

Brother Mickle suggested that The Ithaca 1906 Group meet with the Eastern Region Vice President, Brother Lucien Metellus, to introduce him to the Core Team before he saw the Charter Application. Brother Metellus came to Pennsylvania to meet the group. A dinner meeting was set of August 23, 2018 at Davio’s in King of Prussia (Figure 3). Brothers Austin, Bell, Baron, Gales, Hamilton, LeCato, Sr., and Mickle were in attendance (Figure 4). Brother Metellus emphasized his key criteria for a new chapter – chapter sustainability and impact in the community.

Figure 3 - Location of meeting with Eastern Region Vice President on 8/23/2018

Figure 4 - 7 of the 8 Charter Brothers (front row: Hamilton, Mickle, LeCato; back row: Bell, Gales, Baron, Austin, missing: Littleton)

The Founding Brothers

The Ithaca 1906 Group provided an opportunity for Brothers who were interested in making a financial commitment to the establishment of the new chapter seated in Montgomery County. These Brothers signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and contributed financially to The Ithaca 1906 Group. These Brothers who were integral to the formation of the new chapter received the designation of Founding Brother.

18 Brothers became Founding Brothers as part of The Ithaca 1906 Group:
  1. Craig Browne
  2. Fred Carey
  3. Gregory Davis
  4. Louis DeVaughn
  5. Elmer Evans
  6. Tom Garrett
  7. Cedric Jones, Jr.
  8. Crandall Jones
  9. Kelly Jones
  10. Tony Melton
  11. Ed Purnell
  12. Ric Ramsey
  13. Vernon Ross
  14. Leonard Sloan
  15. Eric S. Smith
  16. Napoleon Stephenson
  17. Robert Stewart, III
  18. Henry L. Williams, III
Two other Brothers financially supported the efforts of The Ithaca 1906 Group and are considered Contributing Brothers:
  1. Dr. Edward Williams
  2. Charles Keels (and his wife Audrey)

First Draft of the Application Submitted

The first draft of the Chapter Application was reviewed with Brothers Tony Cheatham and Steven Cuffey. Once their recommendations were incorporated, a draft version of the Charter Application was submitted to the PAAC District Director Brother Ryan McLeod, PAAC Eastern Area Director Brother John E. Davis, and Chairman of PAAC Committee on Fraternal Standards Brother Gus Tolson, Jr. on August 9, 2018. Brother McLeod provided feedback on changes that he wanted made to the Charter Application on September 3, 2018. He wanted to make sure that the Charter Application clearly articulated the chapter’s growth plan, the chapter’s area of focus (i.e., Montgomery and Chester Counties), and the chapter’s plans for implementing the National Programs.

District Approval is Granted

On September 13, 2018 Brother Tolson provided feedback on the Chapter Application after review by the PAAC Committee on Fraternal Standards. He recommended some formatting changes to make the Charter Application more readable. The PAAC Committee approved the Chapter Application for submission to the Regional Committee on Fraternal Standards pending the recommended changes.

After a receiving a new guideline from the Regional Committee on Fraternal Standards, Brother McLeod sent a request on October 14, 2018 that the Charter Application be revised to follow the guideline. The Regional committee provided a rubric that would be used by the Regional Committee on Fraternal Standards to evaluate the Charter Application. They also gave guidance on how the budget and plans for the national programs should be presented. In a series of conversations, Brother Tolson advised Brother Baron on the changes needed to be made for the Charter Application to be ready to be voted upon at the PAAC District Conference.

The application was revised per the guideline and a version submitted to the PAAC Committee on Fraternal Standards on October 25, 2018. On October 26, 2018, Brother Tolson informed Brother Baron that the PAAC Committee on Fraternal Standards had approved the Charter Application and was going to bring it up for a vote at the PAAC Conference.

The PAAC Committee on Fraternal Standards recommended that the Charter Application for The Ithaca 1906 Group be approved by the PAAC Conference at a general session on November 9, 2018. The vote was passed in favor of the recommendation, and The Ithaca 1906 Group was poised for the next step in the process – Regional approval.

Regional Approval is Granted

The Ithaca 1906 Group’s recommendation was reviewed by the Regional Committee on Fraternal Standards on February 28, 2019. The Regional Committee on Fraternal Standards had several clarifying questions that it wanted to pose to the Charter Brothers. A conference call was held on March 3, 2019 for all the Charter Brothers, the PAAC District Director Brother McLeod, and the Chairman of the Eastern Region Committee on Fraternal Standards Brother David Rogers. The requested changes were promptly made, and a revised version of the Charter Application was submitted to Brother McLeod for forwarding to Brother Rogers on March 5, 2019.

The Regional Vice President Brother Lucien Metellus and Regional Assistant Vice President Brother Harold Daniels, III wrote their letters of support on March 13, 2019. The application was updated to include the letters of support from the Eastern Region leadership on the same day and provided to Brother David Rogers for submission to the National Committee on Fraternal Standards on the same day (Figure 5). The updated application was reviewed and approved by the National Committee on Fraternal Standards on March 17, 2019.

Figure 5 - The Ithaca 1906 Group Charter Application

The Ithaca 1906 Group attended the 87th Eastern Region Convention anticipating that the Charter Application would be reviewed by the General Organization’s Board of Directors which met during the convention. Unfortunately, the Charter Application was not put onto the agenda.

Board Approval is Granted

The Ithaca 1906 Group received notification of the approval of a provisional charter on May 19, 2019. The Board of Directors had met the previous night and voted to accept the Charter Application and to establish a new chapter. The chapter was given the name Sigma Mu Lambda and Key Number 958.

The initial roster of Sigma Mu Lambda consisted of the following the Charter Brothers and Founding Brothers:
  1. Richard Austin
  2. Gerald Baron
  3. Derek Bell
  4. Craig Browne
  5. Fred Carey
  6. Gregory Davis
  7. Louis DeVaughn
  8. Elmer Evans
  9. Kewin Gales
  10. Tom Garrett
  11. James Hamilton
  12. Cedric Jones, Jr.
  13. Crandall Jones
  14. Kelly Jones
  15. Tyrone LeCato, Sr
  16. Darone Littleton
  17. Tony Melton
  18. Claude Mickle
  19. Ed Purnell
  20. Ric Ramsey
  21. Vernon Ross
  22. Leonard Sloan
  23. Eric Smith
  24. Napoleon Stephenson
  25. Robert Stewart, III
  26. Henry L. Williams, III
  27. Provisional Charter Approved by General Body
At the 95th General Convention (113th Anniversary Convention), the General Body voted to grant Sigma Mu Lambda a provisional charter. The Charter Application Process was now completed.

The 958th House of Alpha was now officially established in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania!