Heritage & Archives of Houston Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
A Day of Delta Celebration “Celebrating Women of Service and Community Leadership for 88 Years”

Sunday, March 29, 2015 – 3:00 PM One Delta Plaza Educational Center 3333 Old Spanish Trail Houston, TX 77021

Continuing to reign as the premier chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in the Houston area, the Houston Alumnae Chapter celebrates women, community leaders and youth who provide service in our dynamic region.

On Sunday, March 29, 2015, the chapter hosted “Celebrating Women of Service and Community Leadership for 88 years” — most appropriately, during Women’s History Month. The keepsake program, keynote speaker and honorees chronicled 88 years of service to the Houston area by highlighting numerous people, activities and historic events that have supported women, men and our youth.

The Houston Alumnae Chapter (HAC), chartered in 1927, made history at its inception by becoming the first Black Greek-letter organization to establish a chapter in the Houston area. Beta Beta was its name until 1946. The chapter was subsequently known as Delta Beta Sigma. Definitively, in 1955, the Houston Alumnae Chapter received its current name.

Attendees to the 2015 Women of Service program included city leaders, media representatives, Delta GEMS, Delta Academy members, E.M.B.O.D.I. participants, Houston Alumnae Chapter members, community supporters, relatives and friends.

The commemorative program book is a testament to the chapter’s impact in Houston. To mark this day, the 25th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Dr. Paulette C. Walker, sent a congratulatory letter. Prominent Texas and Houston leaders who also shared their well wishes by letter included: Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker, U.S. Representative Al Green (Houston) and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who sent a glorious proclamation. A representative from Congressman Green’s office also presented the chapter with a U.S. flag that had been flown over the nation’s capital.

The occasion was expertly arranged by the chapter’s Heritage and Archives Chair Shatonya Marshall. The program began with a rousing introduction by HAC Past President Thelma Gould. Attendees participated in the Pledge of Allegiance and sang all stanzas of the Black American National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

A beautifully designed visual presentation paid tribute to many Houston Alumnae members who have contributed to the chapter’s 88 years of service. Scenes of historic moments that involved chapter members included:

1. “Great Debater” Henrietta Bell Wells, a pioneering orator and member of the 1930 Wiley College Debate Team (which was celebrated in the acclaimed 2007 film “The Great Debaters”), who was Houston Alumnae Chapter President from 1934 to 1936.

2. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson with Dorothy I. Height, 10th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Marie Fonsworth, Houston Alumnae Chapter President from 1946 to 1947 and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. National Secretary from 1963 to 1967.

3. The Honorable Barbara Jordan, a Houston Alumnae Chapter member, taking the oath of office for the 61st Texas State Legislature on January 10, 1967.

A true legend within the Houston community who marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was our distinguished keynote speaker: Rev. William A. Lawson, founding pastor and pastor emeritus of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. He spoke eloquently about the legacy of many phenomenal Delta women whose trailblazing accomplishments always distinguished Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in Houston and beyond.

An expert storyteller, he shared relevant historic commentary about the development of Texas, Houston, Texas Southern University and the Voting Rights Act that involved local members and national leaders of Delta Sigma Theta. He said: “We have accomplished much! Where we have risen, we have also fallen short; so I am thankful to Houston Alumnae Chapter for serving our community and our youth. The difference of Houston Alumnae Chapter and Delta Sigma Theta is that you believe in the power of love and you know that with God on your side, you can continue to serve this community.”

The chapter’s 2015 Heritage and Archives Committee Woman of Service Award recipient was Rhea Brown Lawson, Ph.D., who has served as the Executive Director of the Houston Public Library since 2005. She made history as the first black person appointed to that role. The Houston Public Library is the largest public library in Texas and ranks seventh among public library systems in the United States. Dr. Lawson’s greatest personal and professional accomplishment in Houston is the development of The African American Library at the Gregory School located in the historic Freedman’s Town community, which was settled and developed by former slaves and their descendants. She said: “Service is in my DNA.”

Dr. J. Marie McCleary was recognized as Houston Alumnae Chapter’s longest active soror with 79 years of service in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was initiated in 1936. The commemorative program recognized Dr. McCleary among 86 “Golden Girls” — Houston Alumnae members who have been Deltas for 50 years or more — and highlighted the five Southwest Regional Directors who have been past or present members of Houston Alumnae Chapter.

The Heritage and Archives Committee also took the opportunity to recognize three outstanding young people who participate in our treasured youth outreach programs. Kala Price of the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy, Kaysi Brown of Delta GEMS and Brian Lee with E.M.B.O.D.I. were honored for their dedication to the programs and their service to the community.

Houston City Council member Dwight Boykins sent a salute to the Houston Alumnae Chapter for its members’ continued service in the community — an honor announced by our illustrious HAC president, Christine Criner-Smtih.

In addition, everyone who attended this spectacular event received a commemorative Barbara Jordan stamp preserved in a key chain and elegantly presented in a red organza pouch. This stamp, which appeared in the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage Series, is a remarkable heirloom and reminder of the power of love, the perseverance of one Delta, our sisterhood’s international legacy of involvement and the enduring history of Houston Alumnae Chapter’s 88 years of service.