Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Delta Omicron Sigma Chapter
The History of Delta Omicron Sigma
"Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.”—James Weldon Johnson, composer of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Florida native and brother of Phi Beta Sigma
Whether in civil rights, education, economic development, sports or national defense, the men of the Delta Omicron Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. have lived the fraternity’s motto – “Culture for Service and Service to Humanity” – by helping shape and lift communities across Pinellas County as great places to live, work and play for all.
Affiliated with the Gamma Eta Sigma chapter – which stretched from Tampa to St. Petersburg and Clearwater to Bradenton, Plant City and many other Tampa Bay area communities – before 1963, Sigma Men gave St. Petersburg its first Black lawyer, a chemist who helped develop the strobe light used in photography, the first president of Gibbs Junior College, principals who opened new elementary and junior high schools for Black children, and the first Black fellow of the Florida Historical Society, among many other achievements on behalf of Black residents of Pinellas County.
In the summer of 1963, the national civil rights movement reached a feverish pitch when Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace blocked two Black students from registering at the University of Alabama, until President John F. Kennedy sent the National Guard to the campus; more than 250,000 people marched on Washington and listened to Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial; and a bomb killed four Black girls and injured others at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
In St. Petersburg, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its Youth Council worked to seat Black residents to dine at Webb City, protested to view movies at the Center, State and Florida theaters downtown, and registered 1,041 new Black voters.
By fall 1963, another organization had arrived in St. Petersburg, focused on meeting the needs of Pinellas County communities and supporting the work of individual members already fighting for equity, equality and justice for Black residents of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and other communities; raising the standards in education; and building business acumen.
On Nov. 14, 1963, the general board of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. meeting in Brooklyn, NY, authorized 12 men to establish the Delta Omicron Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma. As former members of the Gamma Eta Sigma chapter based in Tampa, the first officers of Delta Omicron Sigma were installed by Gamma Eta Sigma president George Dennis in March 1964.
The new chapter officers were O’Cain J. Thumbtzen, president, principal of Union Academy in Tarpon Springs and resident of Clearwater; Alvie E. Benton, vice president, assistant principal of Gibbs Senior High School and resident of St. Petersburg; Lawrence Lindsey, secretary, faculty at Gibbs Senior High School and resident of St. Petersburg; Louis D. “L.D.” Brown Sr., treasurer, principal of Wildwood Elementary School and resident of St. Petersburg; and Samuel Kicklighter, historian, employee of Sperry Microwave Electronics Co..
The other charter members were Frederick D. “Fred” Burney, Latas L. Edwards, Charles J. “Charlie” Ford Sr., Joseph A. “Jumping Joe” Johnson Sr., Rudolph “Rudy” Miller, Fred G. Minnis Sr. and Kenneth Valentine. By the March installation, the chapter included eight more members: Alphonso Battle, Albert Brooks, N.L. “Love” Brown, George Grogan Sr., Samuel Hayward, Charles Manning, Dr. John E. Rembert and Sterling Thomas.
The charter members of Delta Omicron Sigma were civil rights attorneys, civic leaders, educators, businessmen, engineers, musicians, athletes and more. These brothers of the wondrous band of Sigma set a high bar for commitment to serving the community that continues to this day through educational scholarships given in their names, outreach programs done in their honor and support of Pinellas County’s youth driven by charter members’ sacrifices.
We invite you to learn a little more about each Delta Omicron Sigma charter member who thought it not robbery to …
March on, march on, ye mighty host,
Nor think the journey done,
Nor of future deeds to boast,
Till we’ve the victory won.
Then, when we hear, from time to time,
“Sigma, what of the day?”
We’ll thunder back along the line:
“Our cause speeds on its way.”
Alvie A. Benton, Former Chapter Vice President & Assistant Principal at Gibbs High School
Louis D. “L.D.” Brown Sr., Former Chapter President & Principal of Wildwood Elementary School
Frederick D. “Fred” Burney, Former Pinellas County School Administrator
Latas L. Edwards, Former Educator & Author
Charles J. “Charlie” Ford Sr., Former Vocational Teacher at 16th Street Middle School & Architect
Joseph A. “Jumping Joe” Johnson Sr., First Black Pinellas County Referee & School Administrator
Samuel Kicklighter, Former Chapter Historian & Pinellas County Educator
Lawrence R. Lindsey, Former Chapter Secretary & Gibbs High School Teacher
Rudolph “Rudy” Miller, Former Educator
Fred G. Minnis Sr., Distinguished Service Chapter Member, Former Attorney & Community Activist
O’Cain J. Thumbtzen, Former Chapter President & Principal of Union Academy
Kenneth Valentine, Former Educator at 16th Street Middle School