TKE Beta Pi History
1940s - Southern Outpost
In 1948, bread rationing ended in Great Britain but most of Western Europe still lay in ruins. The US Congress passed the Marshall Plan, the modern state of Israel was founded, the Berlin Blockade began. On January 27, 1948, twelve men met with TKE field secretary Herb Brown Chapter at the Georgia Tech YMCA on North Avenue in Atlanta to establish Chi Epsilon Colony of TKE fraternity. Along with most other national fraternities, TKE sought to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the end of the Second World War to establish colonies and reactivate chapters that had, for lack of college-age men, suspended operations during the war. The GI Bill enabled the return of those whose education had been interrupted along with thousands of others who might never have attended college. The colony at Georgia Tech was part of an expansion program that resulted in the founding of thirteen new TKE chapters in 1947, seven in 1948, eleven in 1949, and eight in 1950.
The twelve men were veterans of the War. Several were married. The members agreed to meet every Tuesday night at 8:00 in a place "to be determined" which turned out to be the YMCA until the organization was assigned its own house. Throughout Winter and Spring quarters of 1948, the colony concerned itself primarily with finding a house to rent, making it suitable for habitation, writing by-laws, and with its own pledge education. A barely suitable house was located at 681 Plum Street. Dean Griffin made the house available to the organization until June 1949. The first meeting of the colony in the new house was held on April 13.
On June 6, 1948, twenty-six men were initiated in the YMCA on North Avenue by Grand Prytanis R.C. Williams with the help of fraters from the newly founded chapter at Alabama Polytechnic in Auburn, AL. The new chapter was designated Beta Pi and became the twenty-fifth fraternity at Georgia Tech--one of only four that had been chartered there since 1929. Scroll numbers of the new fraters were designated by the Prytanis. The initiation event included a banquet and speeches. Louis Drane received the charter from Grand Prytanis Williams. An open house followed at the House.
The first regular meeting of Beta Pi Chapter was opened in the house on Plum Street on June 7, 1948 at 6:20 p.m. by Prytanis Pettit. TKE field secretary Herb Brown explained further procedures for recognition and voting at meetings. The new organization faced many challenges, the most immediate of which was housing.
The house had room for only four people. From the beginning, it was seen as temporary. Chapter minutes from September 28, 1948 refer to the Dean's plans to rent the chapter another house by January 1, 1949, if not earlier. On December 8, 1948, house manager Warren Bolton reported that the Institute would require that the chapter move out by December 13th. A new house had been found but would not be available until after Christmas. Tech allowed the Tekes to occupy dorm rooms and store material at Tech during the last week of Fall Quarter.
In January 1949, the chapter moved into a fourteen-man house on Williams Street. This arrangement was also considered temporary from the beginning. This house, and several others, had actually been moved from their former locations in order to make way for the contruction of the "Atlanta Expressway", later known as "The Downtown Connector", which cuts through the middle of Atlanta to this day. Several TKE architecture students and alumni inspected the house and determined that it was not suited for any major repairs or improvements that would enable it to hold more men. Negotations with Dean Griffin and Dean Narmore ended with an agreement in late April that the rent would be $135/month retroactive to January 1st. Soon after, the chapter sought to secure a rent contract at, at most, the same rate for the house for at least another year.
Beta Pi was accepted as a full member of the Georgia Tech IFC on May 3, 1949. On May 11, 1949, the chapter approved a mandatory meal plan for all single members living on campus. On September 28, 1949, the word file was created when frater Phillips asked that all members bring old quizzes to the house in order that "a file might be started." This soon became extremely important to the upperclassmen in the technical majors.
During Fall 1949, the first group of mostly non-veterans pledged and a large class was initiated in January 1950. The chapter grew to forty members. Unfortunately, there was little in common between the Chapter's founders, veterans who were older and had seen the War, and the new men, who entered mostly directly from high school. As well, during the early 1950s, there were two groups of fraternities at Georgia Tech - the older chapters, which had enough housing for their members, and the newer chapters, whose houses could only hold a few members. Since housing was so scare on campus, many members of fraternities in the latter group lived off-campus. Their houses were used only as meeting places. TKE fell into this group. The housing situation, along with divisions in the Chapter made Rush difficult for several years.