Beta Sigma Lambda Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was officially seated in Hartford, Connecticut on March 30, 1940; the 161st House of Alpha. Prior to that time, recorded activity shows involvement by less than a quorum (seven brothers) throughout the 1930’s. The actual chapter founding was spurred on by the imminence of World War II and the threat of dispersing Hartford area brotherhood across the face of the Earth.
Brother Belford V. Lawson, general President at the time, signed the charter authorizing Brother Dr. Joseph Bullock, President; Brother George A. David, Vice President; Brother James W. Hall, Secretary; Brother Clarence B. Shelton, Financial Secretary ; Brother Jarvis H. Arms, Parliamentarian; Brother Dr. Willard Coleman, Chaplain; Brother Rev. James A. Wright, Treasurer: Brother James A. Jackson, Associate Editor to the Sphinx Magazine; Other Charter members included Brother William S. Jones, and Brother Alvin Napper of Hartford and Brother Dr. Alvin Wood of Bridgeport.
Two years later war broke out and many brothers were called to active military duty, thus leaving an inactive chapter. Shortly after the end of the war in 1945, Brother Arms assumed the job as Secretary (a post he held for 12 years) and helped to reactivate the chapter. Brother Frank T. Simpson Sr., who was later to become nationally recognized as a pioneer in the Civil Rights Movement, transferred his membership from Alpha Epsilon Lambda Chapter (Jackson, Mississippi), as did Brother James Lee from Gamma Chapter, Virginia Union University. They were joined by Brother George P. Thomas, a recent graduate of Howard University, who served as Dean of Pledges and helped to initiate Brother Daniel B. Crosby, Brother William Deloach, of Hartford and Brother James Henderson and Brothers Morris and Fred Hatchett of Springfield, Massachusetts.
These men were welcomed into Alpha in April 1949 by then Brother Attorney Edward Brooke, Eastern Regional Vice President. A year later, Brother Alfred Ford was initiated at the Talcott Street Congregational Church. These activities served to solidify the chapter and insured scholarship, educational and political involvement forthwith. During the fifties, Brother Frank T. Simpson Sr. went on to become the first Executive Secretary of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, a post he held until 1965. Symbolic of Alpha spirit, Dr. Simpson utilized his job to assist many underprivileged youth to attend college. He was subsequently honored in 1960 by a testimonial, which established the Frank T. Simpson Scholarship fund. The chapter-sponsored effort has contributed more than $30,000 in scholarships since its inception. Brother Dr. Simpson was posthumously honored in 1972 with the dedication of a grade school in the Northeast section of Hartford in his name.
In 1975, the Chapter, under the leadership of Brother Dr. Elbert Powell, established Kappa Delta Chapter on the campus of the University of Connecticut, Storrs, distinguishing it as the first African-American entity of its type at UCONN. Two years later, Brother George P. Thomas established another noteworthy project. This involved the adoption of a Simpson School youth, who at the time was in sixth grade. The Chapter pledged human and financial resources to this student to guide him through high school and college. He is currently gainfully employed and was married in the summer of 2000.
During the eighties, under the leadership of Brothers Thomas D. Harris IV, Sylvester Johnson, Royce Rosemond, John E. Robinson, Arnold L. Martin Jr., Darryl C. Burke, and Dr. Kenneth D. Taylor, the chapter boosted the Simpson Fund, by selling its coffers, to $20,000 through enterprising fund raising events. It also increased its participation in other community, cultural, and educational activities. They included a book party for late Brother Paul Robeson’s biography, an exhibit of Haitian art, and various career workshops for minority students in local schools. The Chapter has also participated in numerous community efforts including fundraising for the United Negro College Fund, the Urban League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
During the 1990’s, the chapter has continued to involve itself with many worthwhile community-related endeavors. These include our National Programs of: A Voteless People Is A Hopeless People (voter registration); Project Alpha (male teenage pregnancy issues); Go To High School, Go To College (youth counseling/mentoring), WalkAmerica in conjunction with the March of Dimes and the Red Cross’s National Bone Marrow Drives.
The Beta Sigma Lambda Chapter roster now totals over 80 brothers. We continue to fulfill our obligations of “manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind”, not only in the Greater Hartford area but also throughout New England, the United States of America, and the World.