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Richmond VA Radiant Light Newspaper

Nation of Secrets
The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life
Written by Ted Gup
Social Science | Doubleday | Hardcover | May 2007 | $24.95 | 978-0-385-51475-0 (0-385-51475-1)

About this Book

In The Book of Honor, Ted Gup uncovered some of the CIA's closest-held secrets: the names and stories of the seventy-one undercover operatives who were killed in the line of duty. Now he turns his attention to a broader range of American institutions, exposing how and why they keep secrets from the very people they are supposed to serve. Drawing on original reporting and startling analysis, Gup argues that a preoccupation with secrets has undermined the very values—security, patriotism, privacy, the national interest—in whose name secrecy is so often invoked.

Gup shows how the expanding thicket of classified information leads to the devaluation of the secrets we most need to keep, and that journalists have become pawns in the government’s internal conflicts over access to information. He explores the blatant exploitation of privacy and confidentiality in academia, business, and the courts, and concludes that in case after case, these principles have been twisted to allow the emergence of a shadow system of justice, unaccountable to the public.

Drawing on Gup's decades of work as an investigative reporter, NATION OF SECRETS will shake our faith in some of our most trusted institutions, piercing the veil of secrecy to reveal an alarming new threat to democracy in America. Gup presents a vision radical in its clarity, conservative in its roots, of a country teetering on the brink of losing its identity.

About the Author

TED GUP is an investigative reporter who has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and a correspondent at Time magazine. He is the author of The Book of Honor and the recipient of a George Polk Award and a Worth Bingham Prize. A professor of journalism at Case Western Reserve University, he lives in Pepper Pike, Ohio.



Please note that the members of the boule (Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity) will not tell you that they are a secret society and that they think that they are better than other Negroes.  This history was written by their members and, of course, their purpose is to show themselves in the best light.  The truth is that they are no better than an Imus.  Check out the info after this history and note that a boule's wife is in fact in charge of all CNBC and should have had enough power to stop his foul mouth, but chose not to do so.  Pamela-Thomas Graham evidently did not think much of the Rutger University women either.  Check out boule history and notice that they are light, bright and darn near white like Strom Thurman's daughter.  Know the truth and the truth will make you free.



Archon Robert Thweatt II

Archon Dwight W. Jones

Archon Elwood Boone Ill

Archon Richard A. Jackson


Dwight Jones?  Who are they kidding?  Are they talking about the same Dwight Jones that I know.  The one whose wife left him for all his fooling around; the one whose son is a dope addict and a bank robber, the same one who just happened to be involved in the misplacement of records of the First Baptist Church of South Richmond when ordered to produce financial records by the courts?  That Dwight Jones.  Is the Alpha Beta Boule dull of hearing and seeing?  See the following statement by the Boule.  Do they know how to recruit for their uppity organization?  Dwight Jones is low on moral turpitude.  The boule is a joke.  It is just an organization which tries to make its black members look important at the expense of other black people.  How any black person can have respect for Bill Cosby or Jesse Jackson is a miracle to me.  They are both hypocrites with a capital "h".  These no goods have the other nations fooled, too.  Whenever other racial groups want to inquire to help black people, this boule group and/or its members are the first they ask.  These black bums have never thought well of the black masses or thought that they should be free.  Prior to 1964, the boule literally took advantage of other blacks.  These so called professionals who look up or noses and other parts of our bodies, check our teeth, handle our legal problems or operated the corner grocery store actually think they are better than other blacks.  Many of them are very light skinned as well as having places in society of prominence.  That is only because the very well-to-do whites (who were probably related to them) decided to allow it.  These ignoramuses fools are probably more enslaved today than other Negroes.  Just think now--would Bill Cosby be successful if a rich white man had not decided so.  Do you think black people would have supported him to the point that he would earn more than $40 million per year.  Did he get in because he was married to a partially white woman, Camille, whose male forefathers were members of the boule?  Would L. Douglas Wilder have been so successful if he had not catered to many well-to-do white men who took a liking to him for some reason?  What was the reason and why would Jack Kent Cooke help him?  The answer to that is probably much more interesting than  Wilder becoming the governor?  Becoming the first black anything does not count for anything unless that person believes that he/she is less than human or perhaps 3/5 man?  Now that would be a feat if you think you are an animal and full humans would think that you have the intelligence to be governor.  If Lassie could talk and speak intelligently on many subjects and much better than humans--that would be a feat and worthy to be written down in history books.  But one human doing what humans can do would not be historical in content at all.  So why is it amazing that a black man has the ability to be governor?  What did this black person do as governor?  No one can really say, but they know he was the first governor and that was a feat?  Did he help the majority of other Negroes?  No, he did not.  Did he implement an idea that help Virginia?  No, he did not.  Did he help children in any way?  No, he did not.  Did he help to uplift women in any way?  No, he did not.  Then what did he do?  Did he use the office to make himself look good?  You answer that for yourself and remember that a selfish person seldom does anything for anybody but himself.  Are members of the boule selfish users or great men?  Let us not use our accolades on those who do not deserve them.               

Whereas•it•seems•wise•and•good•that men•of ambition•refinement•and self-respect•should•seek•the•societyof•one•another,both•for•their•mutual•benefit•andto•be•an•example•of•thehigher•type•of•manhood.


 Alpha Beta Boulé of Richmond, Virginia, recently inducted four new Archons, two of whom are second-generation Archons.

Archon Dwight W. Jones, senior minister of First Baptist Church of South Richmond and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of the General Assembly of Virginia, was inducted on January 6. Archon Jones holds a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. in divinity from Virginia Union University.

Archon Richard A. Jackson, an internist practicing in the city of Richmond, was inducted on December 18. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Howard University. Archon Jackson and his Archousa, Eucharia, have five children.

Archon Robert Thweatt II, the son of Archon Albert Thweatt, was inducted on November 11. He received his law degree from the University of Florida and is a practicing attorney in the city of Richmond. He also has an MBA from the University of Richmond and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia. Archon Thweatt and his Archousa, Lisa, have two children.

Archon Elwood Boone Ill, son of Archon Elwood Boone, Jr., M.D., was also inducted on November 11. He serves as CEO of the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell, Virginia. Archon Boone received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and a master’s degree in health services administration from the University of Michigan. His Archousa, Dee Dee French-Boone, is a physician, and they have three children.

Just a thought--Do you know that L. Douglas Wilder, a boule member, touts that he was the grandson of slaves (most black people were grandchildren of slaves so that should not be worth saying, but he was also the grandchild of some white people, too and perhaps not a grandchild)?  He likes to say that he worked for a restaurant as a young person in Richmond, VA.  In Richmond, VA, back in his day, certain facilities like hotels would not allow a black person to work unless he/she were light skinned.  



1904-2004: the Boule at 100: Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity holds centennial celebration

100 years after six Philadelphia professional men founded Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the organization returned to Philadelphia with a cloud of blue-ribbon witnesses, living and dead, a record of 10 decades of achievement, and an expanding vision of an international band of brothers committed to service, brotherhood and excellence.

More than 3,000 archons (members) and archousai (wives) attended the Grand Boule Centennial Celebration, the largest gathering in the history of the fraternity, which is oftentimes called the Boule, meaning, in fraternity parlance, "a council of noblemen."

The delegates and attendees, meeting in style in the salons and the grand ballroom of the Marriott Hotel, presented to themselves and to others a telling contrast with the restricted and largely segregated world of 1904 Philadelphia, where on May 15, 1904, a pharmacist, a dentist and two physicians--Henry McKee Minton, Dr. Algernon B. Jackson, Dr. Edwin C. Howard and Dr. Richard J. Warrick--met and announced to themselves, and to others, that a new world was coming. Within two weeks, two more doctors--Robert J. Abele and Eugene T. Hinson--joined, increasing the membership by 50 percent.

The new world the Six dreamed in 1904 materialized and renewed itself in 2004 in a week of celebration and re-bonding, enlivened by a Boule-patented round of social events, including three black-tie affairs, symposia on Black health and Black male incarceration, and major addresses from, among others, Grand Sire Archon (national president) Calvin O. Pressley, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode and Vernon Jordan Jr.


Almost all major speakers stressed what Pressley called "the connectivity" of the celebration, which blended, he said, Symbol and Substance, and almost all called for a new level of personal and fraternity involvement in the living problems and challenges of the 21st century.

In the keynote address, Archon Vernon Jordan Jr. presented a 12-point program for personal and collective renewal, saying, among other things, that "we must create a new sense of community among our own ... bridge the growing economic gap within the Black community [and] re-Brown Brown to counter the long slide back into de facto segregation." We must also, he said, "constantly remind the new entrants into the Talented Tenth that their exciting jobs in corporate America and investment banking and in law firms are not the result of their grades and their ability and their school all by themselves. They did not get there by themselves ... and they have to know it."

The delegates and attendees who applauded these and other remarks represented 112 member boules (chapters), including a chapter in the Bahamas, and more than 5,000 members. They also represented the virtual Who's Who of Black America who were and are members of the group. W.E.B. DuBois, James Weldon Johnson, Carter G. Woodson, John Hope Franklin, Charles Drew, Hale Woodruff, William Hastie, Walter White, Martin Luther King Jr., John H. Johnson, Earl Graves, Paul Williams, Arthur Ashe, Benjamin Mays, Maynard Jackson, Kenneth Chenault--call the roll--they were and are members of a bond that is primarily Black but includes some non-Black members. One of the best-known White members was Jack Greenberg, who was deeply involved in the Brown v. Board of Education struggle, and who succeeded Thurgood Marshall as executive director of the NAACP Legal and Defense Fund.

Originally conceived as an organization that would contain the "best of Skull and Bones of Yale and of Phi Beta Kappa," the fraternity stresses, as its founders stressed, family and the need for a social, spiritual and communal gathering space for Black professionals. The need, paradoxically, Calvin Pressley and others argue, is greater in 2004 than it was in 1904. Some of the members are second- and third-generation archons, but an increasing number, like the new leader, Charles Teamer, come from the ranks of high achievers with no previous family connections.

What makes the Boule's success all the more interesting is that it was founded as a secret or quasi-secret organization and did not seek public notice until the 1960s and 1970s. Since that time, it has mounted a number of outreach programs, including a mentoring program, a public policy committee and a $200,000 scholarship program.

Called by some observers a super-fraternity because its membership includes the members of all major Black fraternities, Sigma Pi Phi, unlike other fraternities, does not have college chapters and only accepts members with a college degree and "a record of demonstrated excellence" in a chosen field. Members say they have followed the mandate of founder Henry Minton, the pharmacist who later earned a medical degree, who said that new members should not be "selected on the basis of brains alone, but in addition to congeniality, culture, and good fellowship, they should have behind them [at initiation] a record of accomplishments, not merely be men of promise and good education." Minton, who was the first grand sire archon, helped organize the second boule (chapter), Beta Boule, in Chicago in 1907. The third boule was organized in Baltimore in 1908. It is worth noting, at least for perspective, that some of the founders of the first chapters, notably Charles E. Bentley and F. L. McGhee of Beta Boule, were also co-founders of the landmark Niagara Movement, which opposed the policies of Booker T. Washington and created the foundations for the NAACP.

History of the Boulé

At the dawn of the twentieth century black men of distinction had long functioned in various leadership posts, especially in the churches and benevolent association movement. Some, notably Frederick Douglass among them, had even served in high government posts. But by and large they lived lives separate from those of the black masses and the white professionals. In 1904 a small group in Philadelphia set out to create an organization that would provide a vehicle for men of standing and like tastes to come together to know the best of one another.

The fraternity secured a "Charter of The Grand Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity" on August 11, 1911, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the same year the Boulé established The Boulé Journal, which began publication as its official organ in 1912. The Grand Boulé in 1911 elected William C. McCard Grand Sire Archon. McCard would serve as Grand Sire Archon until 1919, thus making him the longest serving Grand Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. McCard served so long mainly because during World War I and World War II the Boulé did not meet.

Though a quiet organization, as early as 1915 the Grand Boulé established a Committee on Public Welfare to keep the fraternity informed of and alert to major issues and established an annual budget of $10.00 to pay for the activities of the committee. That session also resolved a "sense of the Grand Boulé" resolution that any Archon who offered his resignation in a subordinate boulé should be expelled and affirmed that "an offer to resign should be considered sufficient grounds for expulsion."

The Grand Boulé in 1919, the first meeting after the hiatus for World War I, witnessed a singular occurrence: Archon Harry H. Pace of Delta Boulé became Grand Sire Archon after Archon Alexander L. Turner of Iota Boulé drew the lot but declined to serve.

Between 1919 and 1926 the Grand Boulé set apart eleven additional member boulés for a total of twenty-one, more than doubling the number of the earlier year when there were ten. It was the period of the most extensive expansion, in terms of new boulés in relation to existing groups, in the fraternity's history, except that during the 1980s the Grand Boulé grew faster in terms of the actual number of newly chartered boulés. But that expansion rate before 1926 did not continue; between 1926 and 1938 no new boulé was established and few boules took in new members.

It was with joy that the Grand Thesauristes reported at the Grand Boulé in 1921 that the organization had completed the biennium without a deficit, the first time ever. It would remain solvent from that point forward. The Grand Boulé made its first effort to provide some compensation for two of its officers in 1925 when it voted to pay a five hundred dollar annual honorarium to the Grand Grammateus and the Grand Grapter.

The founders adopted the Sphinx, the symbol of wisdom and of the power of silence, as its insignia. The insignia would carry the words Sigma Pi Phi: Sigma – Sophia, meaning wisdom, the kind obtained by long study and earnest searching after truth; Pi – Pistis, meaning faith; and Phi – Philea, meaning brotherhood, the very reason for which the fraternity was founded. What resulted was the establishment of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the first Greek-letter fraternity founded among African Americans. The principal officers were the Sire Archon (president), the Grammateus (secretary), the Thesauristes (treasurer), the Grapter (journal editor), the Rhetoricos (lecturing Archon) and the Agogos (leading Archon). Significantly, unlike the other African American Greek-letter organizations, Sigma Pi Phi is a fraternity of men whose members are already college graduates at the time of induction.

Algernon B. Jackson

From the beginning, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity was a learned society, a social fraternity and an advancement organization, albeit a quiet one. As well, the fraternity believed absolutely in the equality of standing of its members and insisted that anyone who was eligible for membership was eligible and qualified for leadership. The founders were so certain of this fact that the fraternity selected its officers by lot, a custom that continued for the most senior officer until 1970.

The founders' devotion to equality and mutual respect stemmed in large measure from the devotion to democratic traditions that they traced to ancient Greece and to the traditions of leadership that existed there among free men. Central to this idea was the Boulé: the Council of Chiefs, or the leading noblemen of the society. Individual members of the Boulé were known as Archons. Thus Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity became the Boulé and individual members were designated as Archons. As the fraternity evolved and the spouses of members became an integral part of the organization as a family group, it adopted the Greek term Archousa (pl. Archousai) to distinguish Archons' wives.

Shortly after the establishment of Alpha Boulé, the founders looked to other cities in which to expand the fraternity and thus establish a national organization. Indeed, in the original constitution of Alpha Boulé the framers pointed out that "when the boulés shall number three, each boulé shall send at such time and to a place designated by Alpha Boulé two delegates who shall meet and form the Grand Boulé."

Upon inquiry, Minton found extraordinary enthusiasm for the fraternity idea in Chicago and in 1907 he, along with Algernon B. Jackson, led in the setting apart of Beta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. Just as Minton and Jackson had initiated a new Boulé in Chicago, they and others soon set out to do the same thing in Baltimore. In that city on May 8, 1908, representatives of Alpha Boulé came to Baltimore and set apart Gamma Boulé, the third member boulé. In recognition of that fact, and in keeping with the constitution, Sire Archon Minton of Alpha Boulé called the first meeting of the Grand Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity to convene in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 31, 1908. During a four-day meeting they established the Grand Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. In September 1908 Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity became a national organization.

When the leaders next set apart a member boulé, Delta in Memphis, Tennessee, some members complained about the method of the chartering. Their complaint centered on an issue that lies at the heart of the tradition of expanding membership in Sigma Pi Phi. Indeed, such arguments trace back to the very first expansion of the Boulé. Archons Henry Minton and Algernon Jackson's involvement in the setting apart of Beta Boulé is of major importance because it set the pattern for the establishment of member boulés and the election of new Archons throughout the history of the fraternity. The fraternity is based on the idea that it will elect only men of superior qualifications and that all new members of the fraternity will be equal to all others. No one could apply for membership, and only individuals whom all members of the fraternity had an opportunity to approve could be considered.

The process of setting apart new boulés or of the election of new Archons is meant to ensure that any member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity who, for whatever reason, has to move from his home boulé to the region of the jurisdiction of another member boulé can be assured that he will join with a group of Archons who are the intellectual and social equals of the members of the boulé from which he had departed. From the beginning the Boulé practiced high-class quality control of its membership, and the Archons jealously guard that right.

History of the Boulé

Edwin C. Howard

The fraternity secured a "Charter of The Grand Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity" on August 11, 1911, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the same year the Boulé established The Boulé Journal, which began publication as its official organ in 1912. The Grand Boulé in 1911 elected William C. McCard Grand Sire Archon. McCard would serve as Grand Sire Archon until 1919, thus making him the longest serving Grand Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. McCard served so long mainly because during World War I and World War II the Boulé did not meet.

Though a quiet organization, as early as 1915 the Grand Boulé established a Committee on Public Welfare to keep the fraternity informed of and alert to major issues and established an annual budget of $10.00 to pay for the activities of the committee. That session also resolved a "sense of the Grand Boulé" resolution that any Archon who offered his resignation in a subordinate boulé should be expelled and affirmed that "an offer to resign should be considered sufficient grounds for expulsion."

The Grand Boulé in 1919, the first meeting after the hiatus for World War I, witnessed a singular occurrence: Archon Harry H. Pace of Delta Boulé became Grand Sire Archon after Archon Alexander L. Turner of Iota Boulé drew the lot but declined to serve.

Between 1919 and 1926 the Grand Boulé set apart eleven additional member boulés for a total of twenty-one, more than doubling the number of the earlier year when there were ten. It was the period of the most extensive expansion, in terms of new boulés in relation to existing groups, in the fraternity's history, except that during the 1980s the Grand Boulé grew faster in terms of the actual number of newly chartered boulés. But that expansion rate before 1926 did not continue; between 1926 and 1938 no new boulé was established and few boules took in new members.

It was with joy that the Grand Thesauristes reported at the Grand Boulé in 1921 that the organization had completed the biennium without a deficit, the first time ever. It would remain solvent from that point forward. The Grand Boulé made its first effort to provide some compensation for two of its officers in 1925 when it voted to pay a five hundred dollar annual honorarium to the Grand Grammateus and the Grand Grapter.

In 1929, after a significantly trying meeting, the delegates at the Grand Boulé turned their attention to ensure that all members understood and appreciated the meaning and importance of brotherhood. Writing in The Boulé Journal, Grand Grapter Davis summarized what had happened at the meeting:

Now the striking truth in connection with this forceful and memorable utterance is that it came in the most effective way; it grew out of a life situation. It was not a studied abstraction, emanating from the minds of Boulé philosophers; it was no finely spun theory, beautiful for contemplation, but impracticable when applied to the vexing problems that arise out of our relationship toward each other; it was not the result of an attempt of any kind away and apart from a real situation, to define a merely idealistic principle. The utterance of the Grand Boulé has all of the simplicity of a fundamental principle. It is earnest, straightforward, unequivocal. In so many words it says this: first of all every archon is a gentleman, or he has no business in the Boulé. He will, therefore, at all times and in all situations conduct himself as a gentleman; he cannot do less. He will realize, or at least assume, that every other archon along with himself is a gentleman; and therefore in all his social, business, political and religious relationships, subscribes to and practices the same high principles to which he is committed. This assumption will therefore make it impossible for one archon unjustly and viciously to attack another one even when he is in possession of facts sufficient to justify the attack. As brothers in the same circle, it would be his business to present his findings to the Boulé and let them deal with the apostasy from the spirit of the fraternity. Archons may, and should differ; they will, and should be subject to criticism in their public life, by any other archon who disagrees with the program or procedures involved. But this has nothing to do with vicious personal attack that questions the honor and high standing of a fellow archon. This is outside of the pale of the fundamental elements of "brotherhood.'

That the Archons further demonstrated endorsement of and commitment to the ideals in the statement on brotherhood was manifest in the quarter century commemoration. In celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary, Alpha Boulé organized a party at the end of December and invited all Archons to attend. On December 27, 1929, Archons from six member boulés, including Alpha, gathered with their wives, daughters and female friends for a sumptuous banquet and two days of delightful celebration. Indeed, the celebration was so successful that it established the tradition of annual Christmas parties by the member boulés and marked the beginning of the Boulé's affirmation that "Christmas is for the Archousai."

Just five years earlier, at the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Sigma Pi Phi in May 1924, Alpha Boulé had "resolved that the May meeting of each year [should] be set apart as a memoriam to the deceased Archons, that the head be bowed in reverence and that some form of tribute ... be paid to their memory." That action led to an annual observance for all member boulés.

History of the Boulé

Richard J. Warrick

The meeting of the Grand Boulé in 1935 on the campus of Le Moyne College in Memphis also marked the first time that the Grand Boulé convened on a college campus. It would do so on numerous future occasions. At that meeting in 1935 the Boulé restated its participation policy such that "attendance at social functions officially under the supervision of the Grand Boulé or any local boulé shall be restricted to Archons, their wives, their unmarried sons and daughters living within their household, other female relatives, or female friends, provided that no married female be invited whose husband is not an Archon. Unmarried widows of deceased Archons are eligible to be present at all social functions." That Grand Boulé also elected Henry Minton Grand Sire Archon Emeritus. Further, at that meeting in 1935, the Grand Boulé passed a constitutional amendment that limited candidacy for the office of Grand Sire Archon to Archons who had attended at least two Grand Boulés before the one at which they were elected.

Though it did not meet during World War II, the Grand Boulé reconvened meetings in 1946. The decision to meet in 1946 had one permanent impact on the Grand Boulé: It would continue to meet biannually, but in the future it would meet in even-numbered years instead of in odd- numbered years as in the past.

Archon Percy L. Julian, in a speech in 1964 entitled "Faultless Prophets," used the usually somber memorial service to join the sagacious critics and to issue one of the clearest challenges to the old order that members of the Boulé had heard. The most far-reaching step that came as a result of Julian's speech was an amendment of the constitution, which established the office of Grand Sire Archon-Elect and ended the selection of the Grand Sire Archon by lot.

The schedule of meetings of the fraternity called for the Grand Boulé to convene at the end of July 1968 as the guests of Rho Boulé in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Members of Rho went about the business of preparing for the meeting, and it appeared that all was in place for the convocation. Then on April 21, just over two months before the sessions were to begin, representatives of Rho, over some bitter opposition within the local boulé, informed Grand Grammateus George Redd that it would be inadvisable for the Grand Boulé to meet in Pittsburgh as planned and suggested that the meeting be cancelled. Rather than cancel the meeting, the Executive Committee looked for another site. It found appropriate hotel space in Philadelphia; it also found Alpha Boulé again willing to serve as host on such short notice. In one striking event in 1968 the Archons registered their final disgust with the system of selecting the Grand Sire Archon by lot. Members from the floor, under the leadership of Archons Percy Julian and A. Leon Higginbotham, amended the constitution to remove any reference to a Grand Sire Archon-Elect, which had been approved just two years earlier.

The most significant action was that it reestablished the office of Grand Sire Archon-Elect, but it pointedly determined that that officer would be elected by ballot, thus ending for all time the selection of major officers by lot. To complete the work the Grand Boulé in Miami elected both a Grand Sire Archon, Herbert T. Miller, and a Grand Sire Archon-Elect, J. Ernest Wilkins. Further, the meeting in Miami created the office of Grand Grammateus/Executive Secretary as its chief operating officer and established a central office for the Boulé in New York City. The Archons also took the first formal action on the regional system, a matter that was finally resolved in the constitution in 1972.

History of the Boulé

Robert J. Abele

The delegates in Miami in 1970 also revised the constitution and guaranteed the right to universal transfer of Archons from one member boulé to another and, even more significantly, it removed the restrictive blackball, which some had used for years to keep nominees out of the fraternity. Many Archons had grown weary of having the fraternity held hostage to a limited few. Thus, in 1970 they revised the constitution and established the one third rule for rejecting a nominee for membership into Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. And the rule was clear: rejection required a negative vote of one third of the active membership of the entire subordinate boulé, not just one third of those present and voting.

Grand Sire Archon Theodore A. Jones, 1980-82, set a fine record by initiating five boulés, but Robert V. Franklin, 1984-86, far surpassed that record, setting apart sixteen new boulés during his term as Grand Sire. He also led in the establishment of six more as chairman of the Growth and Expansion Committee. As Grand Sire Archon during the next biennium, 1986-88, Richard I. McKinney established seven more.

Some have argued that the Boulé selects only sons of old line families to membership. But such is no where near the truth. One can look at the membership of member boulés and find numerous Archons who are first generation college graduates. In choosing such men as Archons the Boulé has in no way lowered its quality because it has maintained its insistence on strict standards of excellence and congeniality. And such was not new to the Boulé. In his Memorial Service Address to the Grand Boulé in Miami in 1970, Archon Raymond Pace Alexander spoke to the point. He said in part:

Sigma Pi Phi should chart new methods of communications between the poor and the affluent blacks, for many among us, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am one, come from families much, much poorer and with much less education than 80% of the black boys and girls in American colleges today. How many in this room, and I am not ashamed to admit it, started his life as a bootblack or a Pullman porter and equally low employment.

It is true that there are sons, and grandsons in a few cases, of older Archons who are members of the Boulé. But they take their place in the fraternity side by side with the well educated, highly achieving first-generation college graduates, thus expanding the reach of those who get to "know the best of one another."

The regions idea gained constitutional sanction in San Francisco in 1972 when the Grand Boulé amended the constitution to include the regional concept. But in so doing it pointedly insisted that "The Program of the Regional Convention shall be primarily social [and] would promote interest in activities of the Boulé as set forth in the preamble of the Constitution." The action recognized five regions of the fraternity: Northeast, Southeast, Central or Middle West, Western and Pacific.

Meeting in odd years, while the Grand Boulé meets in even years, the regionals provide additional opportunities for Archons and Archousai to congregate and to maintain the Boulé spirit among a group larger than the individual boulés. The regional system has become part and parcel of the social and political structure of the Grand Boulé.

At the meeting of the Grand Boulé in San Francisco in 1972 the delegates passed a social action tax by a wide majority vote and authorized the establishment of a Social Action Committee. Further it expressed its expectation that the Executive Committee would take appropriate action to get the initiative going during that biennium.

Officially established in 1980, largely as an effort to fund permanently the social action programs, under the chairmanship of Archon Harvey Russell and led in later years by Archon Robert V. Franklin who succeeded Russell as chairman, the Sigma Pi Phi Foundation, later renamed the Boulé Foundation, became one of the most successful and influential thrusts in the history of the Boulé. Indeed, the commitment of the Archons to the Boulé Foundation and to maintaining it and its good work in perpetuity is manifested by the fact that, by their votes, the members have agreed to pay an annual sum directly to the foundation as a condition of membership in Sigma Pi Phi. Even more importantly, many Archons together have given the foundation millions of dollars more from their personal wealth. The multi-million dollar Boulé Foundation has an ongoing program of giving to worthy concerns, including a national scholarship program for outstanding youngsters.

In 1995 voters in California outlawed affirmative action policies, especially for colleges and universities, and as a result the delegates at the Grand Boulé in Houston, Texas, in 1996 voted to boycott any meetings in California and thus not meet in San Diego in 1998 as scheduled. Following the signal of the delegates, the Executive Committee, which has authority to fix the date and place of meetings of the Grand Boule, unanimously agreed to stay out of California. Alpha Omicron Boulé in Seattle, Washington, invited the Grand Boulé to come to that city instead, and in 1998 Alpha Omicron hosted a superb session there. The decision to stand on principle and boycott California had not come easily, nor was it cheap. Indeed, that vote was a major manifestation of the Boulé's social and political action.

In the late 1990s and the beginnings of the new century the Boulé undertook two other initiatives that would underpin the fraternity's successful move into its second century. During the terms of Grand Sire Archons Anthony Hall, Eddie Williams and Thomas Shropshire, the Grand Boulé established a Public Policy Committee and initiated a study that resulted in a fraternity-wide strategic plan. At one hundred years of age, the Grand Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity is poised and well prepared for another century of service.

The original draft of this history was prepared by former Grand Historian William H. Harris.


Lawrence Otis Graham is one of the nation’s leading authors and experts on race, politics and class in America.  A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School,  he is the author of 14 books and numerous articles in such publications as The New York Times, Essence, Reader’s Digest, Glamour and U.S. News & World Report.  His book, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class (HarperCollins) was a New York Times, L.A. Times and Blackboard bestseller.

Graham’s newest book, The Senator and The Socialite: the true Story of America’s First Black Dynasty (HarperCollins) is an important biography of U.S. Senator Blanche Bruce, the first black to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate.  Graham is also the author of such books as The Best Companies for Minorities, Proversity –two Important guides on diversity in the workplace—as well as the very popular Member of the Club , which focused on his now-famous experience of leaving his New York law firm and going undercover as a busboy to expose racism, sexism and anti-Semitism at an all-white country club in Greenwich, Connecticut.  That was originally a cover story on New York Magazine.

Graham has appeared on more than one hundred TV shows including Oprah, Today Show, The View, Good Morning America, and has been profiled in USA Today, Time, Ebony, People Magazine and many other publications.  He is a popular speaker at colleges, corporations and other institutions where he has addressed the issues of diversity and culture.  His audiences have included Duke, UCLA, Howard, Yale, Kraft Foods, Corning, Xerox, Disney, American Library Association and many other organizations around the U.S. and Japan.  His research and advice have appeared in The Wall Street Journal.  He is leading a campaign to get the U.S. Post Office to honor Senator Blanche Bruce on a stamp since the nation has never placed a black elected official on a stamp. Graham is married to the corporate executive, Pamela Thomas-Graham, who is the author of novels including Blue Blood and Orange Crushed . They live in Manhattan and Westchester County, New York.



March 4, 1999 

David Gergen engages Lawrence Otis Graham, an attorney and contributing editor at US News and World Report. He is the author of Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class.

DAVID GERGEN: Lawrence, in the way you describe it in your new book, the black upper class in America has created a social world that is very unfamiliar to me, and I imagine to a great many others. For example, you've been a member of the black upper class all your life and you went to Princeton, you went to the Harvard Law school. You went to Wall Street to practice law. You married a woman with three degrees from Harvard. But you also were a member of Jack and Jill as a young boy. Your mother was a member of the Links and now as a man, you're a member of Boule. What are those social organizations? They seem to have defined your life as much as Princeton and Harvard Law did.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM, Author, Our Kind of People: That's a good point, David, because it's very interesting how almost schizophrenic the existence of members of the black upper class really live, where a part of their life, for instance, myself, growing up in an all-white neighborhood in an affluent community in Westchester County outside of New York, where my weeks, Monday to Friday, were spent with the white children in my neighborhood, but on the weekends, my activities were with Jack and Jill, which is an old -- a very, very old organization founded in the 1930's, for black upper class children, to really network with each other and meet each other through different chapters around the country, and was founded by seven black women. Six were married to physicians, one was married to a banker. And their goal was really to create a black children's play group because they were dealing with the segregation that existed. But these were well-to-do blacks that knew that they needed to bring together kids that might have felt like outsiders when they were with other black children who might have been less privileged.

DAVID GERGEN: And there are chapters of Jack and Jill all over the country.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: Right. There's 220 chapters of Jack and Jill around the country. And many of the most prominent blacks in America have their children enrolled in this group because it teaches them about their black identity. They perform a lot of public service on the weekends.

DAVID GERGEN: Now, that social networking includes fraternities and sororities, a very powerful part.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: It includes sororities like AKA's and the Deltas that were founded at Harvard -- at Howard University, as well as the fraternities, Alphas, the Kappas and the Omegas. But even more than that, there are things like the debutante cotillions and the men's and women's social groups. Many people don't realize that the black experience, even though there's a public image, this sense that people are activists, but many people within the black upper class are very quiet about where they come from, what their background is. It's a group that really is obsessed with family background, as well as wealth, and to some extent, what we call the "Brown Paper Bag and Ruler Test."

DAVID GERGEN: Yes. Tell us about that test.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: Well, that's something that goes back to slavery -- when blacks were divided into the dark skinned slaves that worked in the fields and then the light skinned slaves that worked in the house at the "prestige" jobs -- the butlers, the cooks, the family servants. And the rule was the Brown Paper Bag and Ruler Test was nothing more than you had to be lighter than a brown paper bag and your hair had to be as straight as a ruler. So it's an ugly and unfortunate way of looking at skin color and hair texture, but that was what the attitude of the black upper class has been and certainly had been.

DAVID GERGEN: And it is a dividing point there between the black upper class and other blacks. You said that the black upper class lives on the boundaries of two worlds: One, the black community and another the white community. It must be a complex relationship for the black community.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: It's an awkward situation because the black upper class is not accepted by either group. Whites look at them and they say, "Well, you don't look like us. You don't have the same heritage as we do, so you're not a part of the group, even if you are well educated and have the money," because this is a group -- the questions they ask in the black upper classes, "Where did your grandfather go to medical school" or "What debutante cotillion presented your great grandmother?" It's a group that presumes that you have wealth, but they care about so many other things. But it's also outside of the black mainstream in that it's a group that sends their kids to special camps like Camp Atwater, an exclusive black camp that was founded in 1923. They make sure that their daughters are presented to society through specific cotillions like the Links or the AKA's or the Delta Cotillions. It's a group that embraced certain black boarding schools that were founded at the turn of the century, schools like Palmer Boarding School, Mather Academy in South Carolina. So even though they've also embraced other boarding schools like Exeter and Andover to an extent, for the most part, the group is very separate from the black mainstream.

DAVID GERGEN: And talking about black colleges, you said there were three that seemed to be in an upper tier, which were Howard and Spellman and Morehouse and there were others like the Meharry and Fisk -


DAVID GERGEN: -- that were regarded as first- rate. But there was a difficult choice to be made by members of the black upper class about whether to go to a predominantly black -- historically black college or whether to go to a white university. You chose to go to a mostly white university like Princeton.


DAVID GERGEN: Tell me about that choice.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: Well, and that choice was difficult for me because most of family friends and family members had all gone to black colleges. And certainly during my parents' generation, they grew up in the segregated South in Memphis, there really wasn't even a choice, even an issue. But when I was doing my research, and I spent six years on this book, I found that there were many, many blacks that were attending schools like Mount Holyoke and Wellesley and Harvard, going back to the turn of the century that were part of this black upper class. But there were only specific white schools they would go to, except when you get to the issue of passing, which I also address in the book, because the issue of racial passing was also performed and taken advantage of by some members of the black upper class because there were even people that graduated from Howard Medical School. I had interviewed the family of Hugh Price, who's the president of the National Urban League. And one of his uncles had graduated from Howard Medical School. But he decided on the day he graduated that he would rather live as a white man than live as a graduate of Howard Medical School.

DAVID GERGEN: When I was growing up in North Carolina in the 1960's in the Civil Rights period, there were many blacks who were active in that time on behalf of Civil Rights who felt that the black upper class wasn't there for them, didn't give them the kind of financial support, didn't give their energies. Was that an accurate portrayal? You said that there's been a complicated question about that.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: It's been an awkward experience that I think when people look back at the Civil Rights Movement, because many people do say that the black upper class was very late to supporting it, the Civil Rights Movement. And I had this conversation with Julian Bond's mother when I was in Atlanta.

DAVID GERGEN: He was a member of the black community -- he has been a member.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: A very, very prominent family, because the families I'm talking about are people that were millionaires at the turn of the century or who traced their lineage to the very first black US Senators from the 1870's or US members of the US House of Representatives, 1880's. And we were talking about the fact that blacks -- the black upper class financed a lot of the Civil Rights Movement. They were willing to write the checks to the NAACP -- people like Madam C. J. Walker, who was the very first woman millionaire in this country.

DAVID GERGEN: Very first.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: Very first woman millionaire who happened to be black, though. And she built a magnificent mansion near the Rockefellers in Westchester County in New York, 20,000-square-foot mansion. But she gave thousands of dollars to the NAACP in 1910 to help them with their anti-lynching campaign. So very quietly the black upper class has always supported Civil Rights issues. But unfortunately they were not the ones that were out front getting their hands "dirty" or being chased by dogs or blown away by fire hoses. But at the same time, they served as the strategizers and people that helped motivate and mobilize the various groups. But once again, as today, many of them told me in my research, they do not want to socialize with working-class blacks. Interestingly enough, they don't even belong to the Baptist faith. Most blacks in this country are members of the Baptist Church, but this group historically has been members of the Episcopal or Congregational Church, and that's true certainly in all the 12 cities that I profile.

DAVID GERGEN: Fascinating story. Lawrence Otis Graham. Thank you.

LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM: Great to be here, David.


Famous members from web dictionary

Members of Sigma Pi Phi include co-founder of the NAACP [7] W. E. B. Du Bois , Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume , former United Nations Ambassador Ralph Bunche , former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young , former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder , American Express President Kenneth Chenault , Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr. , Bobby Scott , Ken Blackwell , Ron Brown , Vernon Jordan , Arthur Ashe , Mel Watt ,[2] and Hank Aaron .[3] Numerous other American leaders are among the men who have adopted the fraternity’s purpose of "creating a forum wherein they could pursue social and intellectual activities in the company of peers." [8] Sigma founder Henry McKee Minton and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were both members of Alpha Phi Alpha , while Arthur Ashe was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi . Vernon Jordan is a member of Omega Psi Phi . Sigma Pi Phi is also open to members of all races, as can be demonstrated by its well known Jewish member Jack Greenberg who served as a mentor to Thurgood Marshall . [9]