Kappa Alpha Order was established on campus (Pi Chapter) in 1880 but was dormant from 1887 to 1893. In 1898 it became one of the first fraternities to be located on the Hill, when it moved into the north end of Reese Hall (where Austin Peay now is). KA was established at Washington and Lee University in 1865. The fraternity colors are crimson and old gold. Its flowers are the magnolia and American beauty rose. Its open motto is Excellence Is Our Aim. Traditions of the institution include the Old South Ball and the Convivium, hosted by Kappa Alpha. Its traditional fraternity yell was Hurrah for the crimson! Hurrah for the gold! / Hurrah for the Kappa Alphas, knight of old! / Rah! Rah! Kappa Al-Pha / Tennessee, Tennessee! Rah! Rah! Rah! In 1932 Kappa Alpha absorbed the members of the local fraternity Phi Tau.
Alumni of the national organization include Bill Envall, General George C. Marshall, Melvin Stewart, and Cooper Manning.
In 1965 eleven pledges were suspended and the fraternity was placed on probation when a cannon stolen from the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park was found on KA property. In 1999 the KA Order was suspended for a year for stealing Christmas decorations in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood, and in February 2002 the national organization again suspended the fraternity after a two-week investigation into allegations that a stripper was brought to the chapter house and that alcohol was brought to the house. The national organization offered two options: a four-year suspension or a four-year receivership in which alumni would take complete control of all chapter functions and leadership. The charter was temporarily inactive from 2002 to 2006, with recolonization begun in 2006. Pi Chapter was rechartered in 2008. As a result of its suspension, the chapter house in Fraternity Park was sold, and Kappa Alpha became the first fraternity to build along “new row” on Terrace Avenue. The new house, complete with battle cannon in front, was completed in summer 2012 at a cost of $2.2 million. Architects for the new house were Ron Nemetz and Associates.
In January 2015 the national office of the fraternity suspended the chapter until the end of the spring semester for “operational concerns.”