Brief History of the Tau Chapter
Pi Kappa Alpha at UNC thrives as one of Chapel Hill’s strongest fraternal organizations. Grown from a long tradition of brotherhood and character-building perseverance, the UNC chapter today honors the past by upholding the same ideals as its founding members. Throughout over a century of existence, the brothers of the Tau chapter have been recognized as outstanding leaders of scholarship and civic responsibility at the University of North Carolina and in their communities. This heritage is the foundation for the chapter’s continued success.
In the winter of 1895, five undergraduate men sparked the beginning of Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of North Carolina. They were joined by their common interests in community responsibility, intellectual pursuit and the lasting bond of brotherhood to create an organization that provided the camaraderie and support they desired. These five industrious young men, John Nooe, Joe Wray, John Wilkinson, Paul McFadgin and Claud Winstead, composed a chapter of men representative of the state who were eager to work in expanding the influence of Pi Kappa Alpha. Starting a tradition of PiKA leadership, these men actively pursued colonization of the chapter.
For two years the brothers struggled to keep the Chapter active; however, in 1897 the national fraternity decided to withdraw the chapter because of the small size of the chapter. Tau remained silent until 1899, when Paul R. McFadgin lobbied with the national fraternity to reorganize the chapter. McFadgin recruited seven men: Franklin Wray, Julius Settle, Robert Eskeridge, John Houston, John Paddison, Thomas Kendrick and Claude Miller. This group recolonized the Tau Chapter during January 1899. Subsequently, McFadgin’s efforts convinced the national fraternity to recharter Tau Chapter.
The chapter continued to struggle in these early years. In 1901 the chapter had only six active members, and not one of these was an undergraduate. During this time, fraternity brothers stayed active in the Chapter as long as they remained at the University (including graduate school). Even brothers in the faculty were considered active members in the Chapter. There was still a great need for undergraduates in the Chapter, but they had none in 1901. There were two graduate students on campus, one that was in law school and one that was in medical school. However, the next year seven undergraduates joined the Fraternity, and the Chapter was saved.
The Chapter continued to prosper in the next few years. When America entered World War I, many of the Chapter brothers volunteered and unfortunately one lost his life. Hugh McCrea Smith became the first Tau Chapter brother to receive the Gold Star from the national fraternity for losing his life in the service of his country.
Meanwhile, after WWI the chapter continued to grow, and in 1927 construction started on a house for the Chapter. In 1928 the house was occupied for the first time. The new house helped to establish Pi Kappa Alpha as a major fraternity on campus. In the 1930s the Duke vs. Carolina football game was one of the biggest rivalries in the nation. Duke had one of the top football programs in the country, and this made the game even more intense. In 1933 the brothers decided to hold a parade to build up school spirit for the game. Someone misspelled the name of Duke on a banner, and the Beat Dook Parade began. It is now one of UNC’s oldest traditions and is sponsored each year by the Tau Chapter.
The Chapter was able to survive the Depression and even the war years. Many brothers of the Chapter joined the service again during World War II. The war added five more members of the Chapter to the Gold Star roll: Robert Aird, Paul Browning, William Bullock Jr., James Jones and Charles Sloan Jr.
The Chapter continued to thrive after World War II and was considered one of the strongest fraternities at UNC. Major events for the Chapter each year included the German Dance, Formal, Beach Weekend, Beat Dook Parade, the Christmas Party, and various other functions. The late 60s and early 70s were hard on the Chapter because of a declining interest in fraternities and changing values. The Chapter in the 70s learned to accept a greater diversity of interest and lifestyles to meet the challenge of declining interest in fraternities. As the popularity of fraternities rose again in the late 70s and early 80s, Tau chapter again adopted to the new times as the Chapter rose to maintain its position as the top house on campus.
Upon the founding of Pi Kappa Alpha more than 130 years ago, five responsibilities of membership have been identified as the “Basic Obligations.” These obligations begin with scholarship and end with perhaps the most important – participation. The Brothers of the North Carolina Chapter have never failed in upholding these responsibilities. Included in the ranks of Tau leaders are champion athletes, State Senators and State Representatives and numerous notable educators and businessmen. Members of Tau have also served within the National fraternity as President, Vice President and Chapter Consultants. On campus, PiKAs were varsity athletes, involved in the prestigious drama program, members of several honor societies. Our impressive roster speaks for itself:
- 14 PiKAs are members of the Golden Fleece
- 48 PiKAs are Morehead Scholars
- 40 PiKAs are Phi Beta Kappas
- 9 PiKAs received MBAs from Carolina
- 59 PiKAs received law degrees from Carolina
- 32 PiKAs received medical degrees from Carolina
- 25 PiKAs are members of the Chancellor’s Club
The Tau Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha is a brilliant example of the positive impact a fraternal organization can have on its members and the community at large.
Full Chapter History can be found in PDF form at Full Chapter History (PDF).