In this edition it was noted that one of our Founders, Bro. Frank Coleman, was President of the Howard University Board of Athletic Control (Athletic Director) beginning in 1930 and continuing for many years. The question was asked what other prestigious well know organization was Bro. Coleman elected President?
Well, the answer to that mystery is the CIAA. Bro. Coleman was elected as President of the CIAA in 1934 and served in that capacity for several years.
You remember Doc Skyes? He’s the Bruh who had a stellar record as an HU Pitcher on the Baseball team from 1912-17, was a Dentist and played in the Negro Leagues once pitching a no hitter. But Bro. Skyes made a contribution to the advancement of civil rights that is far more profound.
Ever heard of the Scottsboro Boys? If not, invoke the second Cardinal and Google it. In pre-trial motions before the start of the second trial in 1934, lawyers for the defense made a motion to dismiss the indictment since blacks were systematically excluded from serving on juries (remember, this is 1930s Alabama where most Blacks couldn’t even vote). In defense of the motion, lawyers for the Boys called local black professionals to the stand as witnesses to show they were qualified to serve on the jury. One of the black professionals called was The Mother Pearl’s own, Frank “Doc” Skyes who was born in Decatur, AL (where the trial occurred) and returned there after he finished playing in the Negro Leagues to establish his dental practice. Below is a picture of him on the stand testifying to his profession and qualifications to serve on a jury:
As an aside, how many of us can go into a courtroom and testify like Bro. Sykes did in what can be characterized as the ultimate hostile environment (remember, lynching was very active at that time). So cool was Bro. Skyes, he’s seen relaxed with his leg cross in the mist of this environment.
The judge denied the defense counsel’s motion, no Blacks served on the jury and the Boys were all convicted again. The defense appealed the convictions all the way to the US Supreme Court on the grounds that Blacks were excluded from the jury pool (Norris v. Alabama). As part of their argument, they presented evidence of qualified Blacks that could have served on the jury including Bro. Sykes. The highest court in the land agreed with the defense and overturned all convictions in 1935 sending it back to the lower court for retrial.
That’s how Bro. Sykes worked his way into the lexicon of the civil rights movement.
But the story doesn’t end there. As a result of his testimony, Bro. Skyes was ridiculed and threatened by the Ku Klux Klan. One incident involved a high speed chase. After a cross-burning on Bro. Skyes’ front yard, he decided to leave his birthplace of Decatur, AL, move back to Baltimore and re-establish his dental practice where he lived until his death in 1986.
It was mentioned in this edition that if Omega had an MVP of the Century, Bro. Nelson would be a top candidate. Bro. Nelson career included stints as Dean of the School of Religion at Howard and President of Shaw and Dillard Universities. He was also the Frat’s 2nd Editor-in-Chief of The Oracle in 1920 (the position was then known as Director of Publicity).
At beginning in 1946, Bro. Nelson made several trips to India where he met, studied and marched with Gandhi in an effort to reconcile the Hindu and Muslim communities. He wrote a manifesto on Gandhi’s teachings of non-violent protest in the mid-50s entitled “Satyagraha: Gandhian Principles of Non-Violent Non-Cooperation.” Sometime during the mid-50s, Bro. Nelson met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. either through correspondence or Bro. Benjamin E. Mays (Bro. Nelson was good friends with Bro. Mays through HU School of Religion as Mays recommended him for the position when he left to serve as President of Morehouse). Dr. King followed the writings of Bro. Nelson and developed a close, personal friendship with him as they both shared the vision for the approach to solve the challenges of African Americans in the 50s & 60s through non-violent protest. King wrote about Bro. Nelson’s manifesto that it was “one of the best and most balanced analyses of the Gandhian principles of nonviolence, noncooperation that I have read” (King, August 18, 1958). Thus, Alpha Chapter’s own, Bro. William Stuart Nelson, contributed to the framing and approach for the achievement of civil rights for African Americans during this historic period.
Below is a picture of Bro. Nelson (second from the right) with MLK during his visit to Howard in 1957.