As the fall term of 1865 began, three Georgia Pi men entered the University of Georgia. Their former chapter could not have continued since the Georgia Military Institute had been burned to the ground by General Sherman during his march through Georgia in 1864. Sherman called the place a 'hatchery for young rebels.' Their school destroyed, the three young Confederate veterans, Samuel Spencer, George Goetchius, and James McCleskey, determined to bring Sigma Alpha Epsilon to the University at Athens. All of them believed that every chapter in SAE was dead. For that reason they called the new chapter they organized on December 31, 1865, Georgia Alpha; the 'Alpha' to signify 'first.' Soon, however, they discovered that the Virginia chapter had revived a few months earlier, so they changed the name of their chapter to Beta, by which name this outstanding chapter has been known to this day. Georgia Beta further recognized Virginia Omicron as 'acting Grand Chapter' until a general convention could be held.
Adapted from The Phoenix, Ninth Edition, edited by Joseph W. Walt.
The Georgia Beta Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is one of the University of Georgia’s most prestigious institutions. SAE was the first Greek letter society founded on campus in 1865. It is the oldest SAE chapter in continual existence anywhere; Georgia Beta has initiated more SAE’s than any other chapter in the nation.
Georgia Beta produced Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s first Eminent Supreme Archon, Thomas S. Mell of Athens, three Georgia Governors, a Georgia Chief Justice, and United States Senator Richard B. Russell. All were Georgia Beta alumni as are current United States Senator, Johnny Isakson, and Congressman Austin Scott.
Countless State Senators and Representatives have also graced the halls of the Ross Crane House as have numerous varsity athletes and campus leaders. The legacy of the Georgia Beta chapter is strong and its history important to the history of Sigma Alpha Epsilon as a whole. I invite you to read more about our chapter history and national history by using the links to your left.