By Past Grand Sire and Past Grand Historian Archon Rodney Reed
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.
Henry M. Minton
Henry McKee Minton was the leading figure in the discussions about organizing a group for such purposes. Henry Minton was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on Christmas Day in 1871. He went to school at the Academy at Howard University and, eventually, Phillips Exeter Academy, from which he graduated in 1891. Minton studied law for a year and then went to pharmacy school at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, from which he graduated in 1895. Minton then received the M. D. degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1906.
Minton also spent considerable time contemplating the isolation in which accomplished black men lived and worked. He began to talk with other black professionals – Dr. Algernon B. Jackson (b. 21 May 1878) being chief among them – about their shared conditions and about his ideas for forming an organization that would bring them together in fellowship. Minton thought that black learned and professional men should have an organization that "should be a fraternity in the true sense of the word; one whose chief thought should not be to visit the sick and bury the dead, but to bind men of like qualities, tastes and attainments into a close and sacred union that they might know the best of one another." Members would not be "selected on the basis of brains alone – but in addition to congeniality, culture and good fellowship; that they shall have behind them [at initiation] a record of accomplishment, not merely be men of promise and good education." His fraternity would contain the "best of Skull and Bones of Yale and of Phi Beta Kappa."
After months of conversation with Jackson and some discussions with Edwin C. Howard, M.D. (b. 21 October 1846) and Richard J. Warrick, D.D.S. (b. 29 December 1880), both physicians, the four men met together at Howard's home on May 15, 1904. The men agreed that they would meet again in two weeks and recruited two other physicians, Robert J. Abele (b. 2 June 1875) and Eugene T. Hinson (b. 20 November 1873), to join their group.
In the first constitution the group proclaimed that:
Whereas it seems wise and good that men of ambition,
refinement and self-respect should seek the society of each other
Both for the mutual benefit and to be an example of the higher
type of manhood.
Be it Resolved that a society be organized for the
purpose of binding men of like qualities into a close, sacred,
fraternal union, that they may know the best of one another,
and that each in this life may to his full ability aid the other,
and by concerted action bring about those things that seem best
for all that cannot be accomplished by individual effort.