1936 - Present
CHAPTER HOUSE HISTORY
The First House (1936 – 1941)
Phi Delta Theta, as had the other Greeks, had rooms above stores on the Square in Oxford, and none were better than those enjoyed by Mississippi Alpha. In the late twenties and early thirties, the Phis had quarters above a hardware store on the North end of the Square in Oxford. Evon Ford was president and there were no facilities better accommodating the Greeks at Ole Miss. In 1933, however, the fraternity moved to rooms on the west side of the Square in a building owned by Dr. Billy Guyton and of such décor that nothing in Oxford could equal them. Here, the fraternity rushed and lived in 1934-35 and here it was that the fortunes of Phi Delta Theta began to surge. In late 1935, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity built the first house on the Ole Miss campus (squarely on the lot they occupy today) and it changed the outlook, the tempo and aspiration of all Greek Societies at the University.
It was a challenge to Mississippi Alpha and one immediately accepted. Albert R. Russell, (MS Alpha 1936) was President of the chapter and he appointed Charles D. Fair, Chairman of the House Finance Committee and William H. Mounger, as Secretary. The work began and it resulted in the second fraternity house on the Ole Miss campus and (if with a bit of privilege and pride) of Phi Delta Theta having the finest fraternity house on the campus. Bem Price (MS Alpha 1902) contributed the plans, the Fair family of Louisville, W.M. Garrard, Cornell Franklin, W.T. Wynn and many other loyal Phis of the pre-1912 era sparked the finance drive and housing plans. Out of the blue came a letter from J. Murphy Thomas, TN Alpha 1923 from Tupelo, in which Brother Thomas explained that he was a long way from his chapter in Nashville and would like to help Phi Delta Theta. He invited the Ole Miss Phis to Tupelo where he had assembled a group of Phi Delta Thetas. Out of the meeting a pledge of $500 to the house fund was made and Brother Thomas – a partner in Leake & Goodlett Lumber Company, moved forward to help Mississippi Alpha. With limited but generous alumni support, with the D.L. Fair Lumber Company supplying lumber, flooring and materials, Brother Thomas moved forward. Leake & Goodlett took the contract or agreement to build “on the cuff” and things went forward. Even the 1936 Tupelo tornado, which was to overtax all Tupelo builders including Leake & Goodlett, did not stop construction on the Ole Miss house.
In late 1936, the house was finally finished and with the help of the Fair Company of Louisville, the house was furnished and the chapter moved in. W.N. Etheridge, Sr. of Houston had become interested and he assisted in raising money for the furnishings. After the package was wrapped up the fraternity borrowed $2,000 from the Walter B. Palmer Loan Fund and everything was in place and paid for.
It was the spring of 1941 that fire destroyed the house only about four years after it was first completed. Fortunately, Mississippi Alpha Brother W.N. Etheridge had moved to Oxford and was engaged in many varied business enterprises. One was the Mansion, the finest and most popular eating establishment in town. Jeter Eason, a Memphis architect had done the work for his building and he directed the chapter to Eason in Memphis for help. Costs were low in 1941 and a new house built over the foundation and ruins of the old one came into being at a cost of $13,650. There was $4,381,86 of insurance money, member contributions of approximately $4,500 and the old trusted friend of Mississippi Alpha, the Walter B. Palmer Foundation Endowment Fund loaned Mississippi Alpha $5,000 (the previous loan had been paid off).
Again, the Fair family led by Frank L. Fair, Sr. extended the credit and through Peck and Hill of Birmingham, the house was finally filled. It was a replay of the 1936 story when the Fair Company had allowed the use of its credit through Maison Blanche of New Orleans to provided furnishings for the house.
The Second House (1942 – 1959)
As Brother Ben Owen (MS Alpha 1942) writes: the first house burned in 1941, was rebuilt in late 1941, and when war came in December of 1941, the boys started marching off to war at mid-term and the house they left behind was bare. The Fairs solved the furnishing problem, but not before six of the most active chapter members became second Lieutenants out of the Ole Miss Infantry unit. Colonel Candler Wiselogle, U.S. retired of San Antonio, and Harry Hoffman, of Hazelhurst, were especially active in rebuilding the house in 1941 at Ole Miss.
It was remarkable accomplishment to, during the early war years, provide the chapter with a house and only owe a small amount of money to the Palmer Fund. In 1949, a group of interested alumni met with chapter members at the fraternity house and out of the meeting came the Mississippi Alpha Chapter House Corporation, the story of which is told in another chapter of this brochure.
The Corporation took over in 1950 and has since that time managed the finances, upkeep and the construction of the Mississippi Alpha Chapter house. It would be modest to boast that out of that organization and the generosity of the alumni - Phi Delta Theta has enjoyed since that time superior housing on the Ole Miss campus.
Things moved smoothly during the 1950s but there was a growing recognition that the house built in 1941, although it had been enlarged, adapted and remodeled, was not sufficient for the Phi Delt chapter of the 1960s and 1970s. Sigma Chi now took the lead in fraternity housing, the place occupied by Sigma Alpha Epsilon in the late 1930s and with a beautiful new house challenged all fraternities to reassess their situation. Evon A. Ford, (MS Alpha 1932) former chapter president, E. Wilburn Hooker, (MS Alpha 1935) probably the most consistent supporter of the chapter in its history, met with William H. Mounger (MS Alpha 1938) and together they planned the finance drive which resulted in the building of the third Mississippi Alpha house (aka The Big White House).
The same old faithful were still at hand and without the Fair family, nothing could have happened. R.W. Bill Bailey, who helped form the Corporation, had been a chapter advisor, was there to help, E.P. Peacock, Jr. replaced his father, Garrard M. Barrett was the second with his name to be a strong chapter supporter and many sons of the early Phis who had helped in 1935-36 and in 1941-42 came forward to help finance, plan and construct the 1960-61 home for Phi Delta Theta. It was a house with over 16,000 square feet, the only totally private chapter room among Ole Miss fraternities, ample public rooms and housing for forty men with adequate and lovely facilities for Mrs. Rose Driver, our beloved house mother.
The Third House (1961 – 1996)
The story of how the present magnificent structure came to be was written in the lives and interest of the Phis mentioned heretofore, their contemporaries and those Brothers who during the past decade have sought to carry on a great heritage. The men who have devoted themselves in the greatest way to their State, Community, Alma Mater, Church and other worthwhile endeavors have perpetuated Mississippi Alpha’s success. They used, not their interest and commitment to those other worthwhile activities as excuse, but rather as all the more reason to contribute not once but again and again to the chapter welfare. They gave what they could in the early and difficult years and gave more as conditions made it possible.
As we approached the call for help in the late 1950s, two new pivots had been added that strengthened our goal. During the years 1948-50, a group of Jackson, Mississippi Phis, desiring to see the Capital City more strongly represented in Phi Delta Theta, set about to recruit prospective members. Brothers W. Harold Cox (Tulane 1923), also a graduate of Ole Miss Law School; Ralph L. Landrum (MS Alpha 1926), first President of Mississippi Alpha when fraternities were reinstated at the University; Ed S. Lewis, Jr. (Tennessee Alpha 1921), Theta Province President in 1926 and charged with reestablishing Mississippi Alpha; T. Hastings Kendall (Pa. Z 1928); Robert Burns (MS Alpha 1929); Breck Cabell, Sr. (MS Alpha 1930); Bayard Van Hecke (North Carolina Beta 1946); Wm. H. “Billy” Mounger (MS Alpha 1938); and a number of others financed, planned and executed a rushing program for Jackson and its area for a period of several years which resulted in Phi Delta Theta’s present strength in the City today. Brother Cox, the largest contributor in the 1954-55 drive, with Brother Breck Cabell, Sr. led other Jackson Phis in liberal giving to make the city the largest financial contributor to the fraternity’s welfare in the 1960s and 70s.
Finally, in 1959, Evon A. Ford (MS Alpha 1932), became interested in seeing better facilities for the chapter. It was through this interest, enthusiasm, and conviction that the alumni would support the sizable program and that the Corporation was persuaded to sell the old house and build the new one. This judgement has been more than justified and it invoked liberal and sizable contributions to make the Big White House a reality. This drive strengthened our hand and broadened our vision. Wilburn Hooker (MS Alpha 1935), who moved to the Corporation’s presidency upon Evon A. Ford’s untimely death, did yeoman’s work and contributed liberally to the initial launching of the drive. Wilburn’s father, Dr. Otho D. Hooker (Tulane 1911), had supported the chapter in the difficult early years, his son now added to Mississippi Alpha’s accomplishments.
Memphis, under the leadership of one of Phi Delta Theta’s most devoted and loyal members, R.W. “Bill” Bailey (MS Alpha 1913), with the help of Millard Bailey (MS Alpha 1932), Albert R. Russell (MS Alpha 1936), Ben C. Adams (MS Alpha 1939), John H. Pettey (MS Alpha 1939) and Richard G. Taylor (MS Alpha 1944) and others, established a firm beachhead of support that made a major contribution to the effort’s success.
The old pivots stood firm. In Clarksdale, in the place of his loyal father, E. P. Peacock, Jr. (MS Alpha 1933), with the help of W. C. Connell, Jr. (MS Alpha 1950), Province President, marshalled general support for the Chapter. In Cleveland, Abe D. Somerville (Virginia Zeta 1908, MS Alpha 1909), confirmed again the family loyalty which he and Robert N. had always displayed before. Still in Greenville, there was R. Kenneth Haxton, Sr., W.T. McKinney (who died in 1960) and his son Billy Mack, joined by Doyle K. Morrow, past President of the House Corporation, Dr. Ben F. Hand (Georgia Delta 1934), Geo. L. Cottingham, Jr. (MS Alpha 1953), Robert N. Aldridge, Jr. (MS Alpha 1953).
The support in Greenwood had broadened. Garrard M. Barrett, Will M. Garrard, and Percy L. DeLoach, Jr. (MS Alpha 1931), Fred M. Sanifer, Jr. (MS Alpha 1931), H. Yandell Fraiser (MS Alpha 1934), W. Hardy Lott (MS Alpha 1929), George K. Wade (MS Alpha 1935), George Hite McLean (MS Alpha 1937) and a number of others, gave liberally and willingly endorsed notes for the Corporation.
Louisville was the same town. The D. L. Fair Lumber Company gave the flooring, and Brothers Claude, Sr. and Frank, Sr. were joined by John S. Fair (MS Alpha 1931), Davis L., Jr. (MS Alpha 1936) and Charles D. (MS Alpha 1936) to send the largest per capita giving for any town in the state.
There were other strong points, such as Columbus, through Ben Owen (MS Alpha 1942), Wm. J. Threadgill (MS Alpha 1948), and Hunter Gholson (MS Alpha 1954), added materially to the effort. Chester A. McLarty (MS Alpha 1936), who checked construction on the first house, gave generously and did the same supervisor job in 1960-61. Out of state support came in strongly, led perhaps by Toney A. Hardy (MS Alpha 1904), a supporter of the past and Brother to one of Phi Delta Theta’s honored members; the late Lamar Hardy (MS Alpha 1898), U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Fred M. Glass (MS Alpha 1934), Executive Director of the Empire State Building Corporation; and Geo. W. Ray (MS Alpha 1934) of Savannah, GA.
The third house was the fulfillment of many long and continuing efforts and interests. Its dedication should not be to any one or group of people, but rather to the spirit that maintained in these great Phis and their loyalty. That spirit centers not in the Bond or the secret works of the fraternity, but in the simple open motto – “We enjoy help by the life and society of others”. Not that we enjoy life through the help and society of Phi Delts, but that our association together has made it easier and clearer that not fraternity life but life in it completeness radiates around the principal set forth by The Founders.
The Fourth House (1999 – Present)
After the Big White House burned in 1996, new plans began to create Mississippi Alpha's fourth chapter house. Fundraising and construction began, and the house was completed in 1999. Standing at 304 Fraternity Row is the glorious Phi Delta Theta House. The eleven-bedroom mansion is home to twenty-four sophomore age active members each school year. Inside you’ll find spacious rooms with tall ceilings, perfect for social gatherings or late night studying for fast approaching exams. Here brothers can be found hanging out on the porch, shooting pool, playing basketball or watching TV on one of the two big screens. At the house, active members share meals, attend chapter meetings, and host Bible studies among other things. Between classes, many of the guys will come rest on one of the many couches in the Great Room. No matter what you do, “The House” becomes a major part of your everyday life as a Phi Delt at Ole Miss.