Kappa Sigma Fraternity

Kappa Sigma Fraternity, founded at the University of Bologna in 1395 and first established in the United States at the University of Virginia in 1869, was established (Lambda Chapter) on campus in 1880 (although there are assertions that it was operating on campus secretly in 1879, and perhaps even earlier).

The Kappa Sigma fraternity was the first fraternity to be mentioned in the minutes of the faculty at UT (March 1882), when the faculty denied a petition from students to attend the secret meeting of the Kappa Sigma Society off the campus of the university. William Isaac Thomas, the first person to earn a PhD from UT, was a member (as was his brother, Price, who served as the first national worthy grand master of ceremonies). The fraternity first met in rooms in a building at the southeast corner of Gay and Church Streets. The fraternity then moved to 10 Maplehurst Park, a house it owned.

In 1938 two persons—one of whom was the housemother, Mrs. Stephie Smith—were injured in a fire that destroyed the chapter house. The fraternity rented 926 Seventeenth Street while building a house on the site of the burned one. The present house at 1730 Melrose Place was completed in 1959, and the fraternity vacated its home of many years, 900 Temple Avenue (now Volunteer Boulevard). UT purchased the house at 900 Temple Avenue from the fraternity for $32,500 and purchased the land upon which the new house would stand for $22,500, the sum the fraternity paid to Mrs. Edward Vestal for the lot.

Lambda Chapter has been host to two grand conclaves, one in 1883 and one in 1983, and has furnished the national fraternity with more brothers to serve as worthy grand master than any other chapter (Williams Gibbs McAdoo, 1883–84; Beverly Winslow Howe, 1923–25; James Leonard Raulston, 1963–65; and Wallace Woodruff Baumann, 1993–95). The nickname of the fraternity is “Kappa Sig,” and its colors are scarlet, white, and emerald. Among the traditions of the institution are the biannual Black and White Dance and the Bush Party Spring Dance. Among notable alumni of the national fraternity are William Gibbs McAdoo, Estes Kefauver, Robert Dole, Robert Redford, Jimmy Buffett, and Ted Turner. Its traditional fraternity yell was A!E!K!D!B! /  Kappa Sigs of Tennessee! / Cossere! Cossera! Lambda Chapter / Kappa Sigma!

In 2002 the fraternity held a mixer at RT’s Warehouse, to which some members went in blackface. The UT administration and the fraternity apologized. The national organization suspended the UT chapter for two years and on May 11, 2008, rechartered the colony—128 years to the day of its initial chartering.

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The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Kappa Sigma Fraternity
  • Author
  • Keywords Kappa Sigma Fraternity
  • Website Name Volopedia
  • Publisher University of Tennessee Libraries
  • URL
  • Access Date April 21, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 10, 2018