Alpha Phi Alpha was the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans. Alpha Phil Alpha was founded at Cornell University in 1906, and over the decades, members and alums have been leaders not only within the Black community but across America. The fraternity’s famous alumni include Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Duke Ellington, Jesse Owens, Paul Robeson, Lionel Hampton, Dick Gregory, Gene Upshaw, Eddie Robinson, Stuart Scott, and Clementa Pinckney.
Today we’re remembering a few not-so-famous Alpha Phi Alpha members who died recently.
Retired Army Major Winfred Bryan Alexander was “a three-time All-American track star at the University of Florida, where he was the first African American to command UF’s Army Corp of Cadets,” according to his obituary in the Tallahassee Democrat. Known to many as “Wimpy,” Alexander “attained two Master’s degrees, taught ROTC at Alcorn University and JROTC at Jefferson County High School.” Given his outstanding achievements and credentials, it’s no surprise that he also was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Dr. Thurman Clemons M.D., was “the second African American doctor to serve the residents of Bulloch and neighboring counties,” according to Georgia’s Statesboro Herald. The list of his achievements and contributions to the medical community and local youth is impressive.
Bishop Richard Allen Chappelle Sr. was “the 108th elected and consecrated Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and an educator in Broward County schools for 14 years,” according to his obituary in the Orlando Sentinel.
Leon A. Woods Jr. was not only “the first African-American chemist hired by the California Dept. of Fish and Game,“ he was also “the first African American to play in the NCAA National Tennis Championships,” according to his Sacramento Bee obituary. The obit also said that Wood “successfully integrated a number of tennis clubs in the Sacramento community.” He retired from the California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control as a Sr. Industrial Hygienist in 1987.
This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She was the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers before she passed away in 2015.