Murray State chapter of America’s first historically African-American fraternity plans weekend of celebration festivities

MURRAY, Ky. —  The Murray State University chapter of a storied fraternity will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a full weekend of events next month.

The Zeta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. is a historically African-American fraternity centered on manly deeds, scholarship and love for all mankind. It was chartered in 1969 by a group of 15 students who came together to advance their education and form lifelong bonds with fellow brothers.

Notable Alpha Phi Alpha alumni run the gamut from civil rights leaders to politicians, musicians, athletes, inventors and more. Among their ranks are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., NAACP founder W. E. B. Du Bois, Jesse Owens, Thurgood Marshall and Murray State Regent Don Tharpe.

Melvin Ferguson, ’69, ’71, was the Zeta Omicron chapter’s first president while earning his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. Ferguson and his wife of nearly 50 years, Vanna, ’70 — Alpha Phi Alpha’s first fraternity Sweetheart — will lead the 2019 Murray State University Homecoming Parade as grand marshals in October.

“This is a great honor,” Ferguson said. “To be honest, this is something I never thought I would do, but I’m certainly excited to be here and represent this great organization. I haven’t been back to Murray in some time, but I look forward to returning to my alma mater and celebrating.”

Dr. MarTeze Hammonds, former chapter president and advisor, is the chairman of the anniversary celebration’s logistics committee. He said he’s also excited to return to Murray State and honor the fraternity’s legacy.

“The Zeta Omicron chapter has been a huge part of Murray State’s history for the past 50 years,” Hammonds said. “This fraternity provides young men with an opportunity to see what fraternity life looks and feels like, all while building bonds for life.”

The celebration will begin April 19 at 7:06 p.m. with an official welcoming celebration at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Murray. Representatives from the fraternity, Murray State and local government will deliver remarks. A charter brunch is planned for April 20 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Murray State Hall of Benefactors and Distinguished Alumni on campus, followed by a 50th anniversary Zeta Omicron chapter dedication at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. monument on campus shortly after 1 p.m. Rounding out the evening is a tour of campus just after 2 p.m. and a banquet and ball at 7:06 p.m., held inside the Murray Room of the CFSB Center.

On April 21, the chapter will participate in an Easter Sunday service at St. John Missionary Baptist Church at 11 a.m.

As for Homecoming celebrations, the fraternity will host its annual Miss Black and Gold Scholarship Pageant & Reception Oct. 18 and then participate in the Black Alumni Meet, Greet and Dance event that evening, with details coming at a later date. Oct. 19 marks the Homecoming Parade and Tent City, with an alumni bash starting in the Murray Room of the CFSB Center at 9 p.m.

“We’re honored to recognize Melvin and Vanna Ferguson as Homecoming 2019 grand marshals  while welcoming members of Alpha Phi Alpha back to campus in April for what is truly a milestone reunion,” said Dr. Bob Jackson, Murray State president. “The positive impact and contributions of many individuals over the past 50 years are part of not only Alpha Phi Alpha’s history, but the history of Murray State University as well.”

“Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s 50th anniversary is a significant event for Murray State University,” said Dr. Don Robertson, vice president for student affairs. “The fraternity has been a positive source of leadership and service to the University and community on a consistent basis since its chartering and has positively influenced many of our students over the past 50 years.”

The public is invited to celebrate one of Murray State’s most historic Greek organizations. For more information and tickets, visit the official anniversary website at

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