AKA Chapter in Pensacola, Florida, Celebrates Its Diamond Anniversary
by Mamie Webb Hixon, a Golden AKA Sorority Member with 56 Years of Service
The year was 1946 – thirty-eight years after the founding of the premier sorority for Black women, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® (AKA). The cast of characters – seven colored women who came together and made a revolutionary decision to charter a Pensacola chapter of AKA. They met at the L. A. James School for Colored Children – Miss Lillie’s School – to begin the chartering application process. (Miss Lillie, by the way, was the mother of Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, the First Black Four-Star General). Then they completed all the chartering paperwork to submit to the national office for a Saturday, November 23, 1946, chartering ceremony. Each member held an once, and in the words of the chapter’s first centenarian, Soror Alyce Williams Henderson, “We immediately went to work.”
The charter members, all college-trained women who had been initiated in undergraduate chapters at HBCU’s in the South between 1925 and 1936, were Lillie James Frazier, the sister of General “Chappie” James; Alyce Williams Henderson, the chapter’s first and only Diamond Soror (a member with 75+ years of membership and service); Elsie Johnson Jones; Annie Belle Williams; Edythe Lucky; Hilda Preer; and Lorena Cannon Brown, the chapter’s first president. Georgette Cobb Jones and Theo Hicks, though not listed as charter members, also participated in the organizing of the chapter.
AKA was recognized by the City of Pensacola for their community-wide efforts
The DIO Chapter walked to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s Disease
The setting was the segregated Jim Crow South where these seven colored women couldn’t vote in local or national elections; where they sat on the back of the bus; they couldn’t eat at the downtown lunch counters at Kress’s and Woolworth’s; where they shopped at Bon Marche, Sears, and Lerner’s though they tried on clothes in colored waiting rooms; and where they drank from colored water fountains and had to use colored restrooms and other public facilities. As colored teachers, they encountered wage discrimination, earning an income significantly lower than that of white teachers. As Golden Soror Ida Coleman explained, they lived modestly, most of them in their thirties and just getting started professionally. Their homes were small, with many of the sorors renting at the time until they had saved enough money to buy their own homes. Nonetheless, their internal lives were not affected by these outside segregationist forces.
In the words of AKA Sorority member Mona Lake Jones, from her poem “A Room Full of Sisters”:
"All these [sorors] struggled in the path
Suffered from prejudice, endured the wrath.
But they brushed o! their dresses and pushed on the door
And they came back stronger than they were before."
Since its November 23, 1946 inception, Delta Iota Omega Chapter has become a very active chapter in the Sorority’s South Atlantic Region (SAR), with one of its members, the late Dolores Blount Albury, having served as Cluster IV Coordinator from 1987-1990 and with Charmere Gatson serving as the current SAR Office Assistant since 2019.
Delta Iota Omega Chapter has been fortunate to have been under the strong and dedicated leadership of 25 different presidents in its 75 years of existence. Among the living past presidents are Ida Young Coleman, Mamie Webb Hixon, Nettie Eaton, Millie Steele Benjamin, Canel Jacobs Williams, Corrie Boyd Mumford, Cheryl Reeves, Joycelyn Jordan Fluellen, Angela McCorvey, Ed.D, Gloria Clay, Carla Scott Jones, and Sheree Triplett Roberts. Each has let the chapter a legacy of creative sisterly relations ideas and programs. Other presidents were Lorena Cannon Brown, Lula Mae Hawthorne, Lillie James Frazier, Jorja Wiggins, Evelyn DuBose, Dr. Sarah Wynder Haynes, Evelyn Walker, Dolores Blount Albury, Ida Young Coleman, Dr. Ruby Jackson Gainer, Lois Wagstaff Anderson, Jacqueline Harris, and Sheila Williams Wiggins. The chapter’s current president is Freda Lacey.
And since its 1946 chartering, DIO Chapter has increased its membership from seven charter members to its current 2022 membership of 93 members, with 113 during the anniversary year being the largest membership ever. DIO’s membership contributes to the international membership total of 300,000+ members, with 100,000+ active members. DIO Chapter has initiated 196 college-trained, professional women between 1946 and 2019. Among Delta Iota Omega Chapter’s most well-known and recognized women were Lillie James Frazier, the first Black female faculty member at then-Pensacola Junior College and Dr. Ruby Jackson Gainer, the first Black Female President of the Pensacola Chapter of the National Classroom Teachers Association. DIO Chapter is part of the international sorority’s South Atlantic Region, which is comprised of 166 chapters in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Delta Iota Omega Chapter is part of Cluster IV of the South Atlantic Region.
In its 75-year existence in Pensacola, DIO has sponsored 63 Debutante Balls, presenting over 1,500 African-American high school seniors and college freshmen to society; has sponsored spelling bees, health fairs, after-school tutoring, political forums, music concerts, fundraising fashion shows, and food pantries; has sponsored the Emerging Young Leaders program; has partnered with local organizations and over 25 businesses to sponsor community activities such as the annual “Pink in the City” gala and the Family Tea; has affiliated with the local chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council since 1985; has enjoyed life membership in the NAACP for over seventy years; and has received a number of community awards, including a “Chappie” Award for community service during the annual Fiesta of Five Flags celebration; has been spotlighted in local media platforms for its community service programs; has awarded over $200,000 in scholarships to prospective college students; has partnered with Talladega College (an HBCU – Historically Black College or University), and then-Pensacola Junior College and the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida, to award scholarships to high school students; has donated to EAF (Educational Advancement Foundation) and the international Sorority’s other myriad programs; has sponsored and participated in local political candidate forums and voter registration drives; has donated over $150,000 to focus groups for cancer, heart/health, mental illness, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s awareness; has presented two Cluster IV Awards – the Ruby Jackson Gainer Leadership Award and the Emory O. Jackson Journalism Award; and has received individual and chapter awards at the Cluster, Regional, and Boule levels.
2016 AKA DIO Chapter Members
AKA sisters are proud to continually give back to our community
DIO’s members have walked for personal fitness, heart health, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer awareness, diabetes, and mental illness; have marched for social justice; have mentored and tutored elementary school, to middle school, to high school students; and have been spotlighted in local and national publications for their leadership roles and scholarship endeavors. Among its members are administrators, educators, entrepreneurs, consultants, authors, artists, musicians, legal and health care professionals, Military personnel, social workers, as well as volunteers and retired professionals.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, Delta Iota Omega Chapter (DIO) holds the distinction of being the First Black Greek-lettered organization in the National Pan Hellenic Council (“The Divine 9”) to have been chartered in Pensacola, Florida. DIO also holds the distinction of having organized the first Black undergraduate chapter (Beta Gamma Chapter) at the University of West Florida in 1974. DIO Chapter boasts 3 Pearl Sorors with 65 to 74 years of service, 5 Golden Sorors with 50 to 64 years of service, 47 Silver Star Sorors with 25 to 49 years of service, 30 Life Members, and 4 Nonagenarians (members 90 years old and above).