National Founding

The Founding Fathers of SigEp

JenkensCarter Ashton Jenkens was born in Oxford, North Carolina, on April 9, 1882, and received his early education in New Jersey. He graduated from Richmond College in June, 1902, and then taught for two years at Chase City, Virginia, Military Academy and Richmond Preparatory. He received a baccalaureate degree in the ministry at Crozer Seminary, Chester, Pennsylvania, and served for more than 20 years as pastor in churches in Hampon, Norfolk, and Richmond, finally to become an evangelist and conduct revivals throughout the United States. His gift for inspiring oratory was so outstanding that the famed evangelist Billy Sunday is reported on one occasion to have exclaimed, "If only the Almighty has blest me with the voice of Carter Jenkens!" Jenkens' twilight years were spent in Louisville, Kentucky, where he died on July 23, 1952.


GawBenjamin Donald Gaw came to Richmond College, where he worked his way through, acting as pastor of the East End Baptist Church of Richmond, to graduate in 1906. He had come from Stuart's Draft, Virginia, where he was born on August 20, 1870. He married after his obligation, later taking the bachelor of divinity degree at Colgate. For six years, thereafter, he was pastor at the West Washington Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., and in 1917 was called to the First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. He died in Washington, D.C., on January 10, 1919, from pneumonia. He is buried in Montgomery, Maryland.


CarterWilliam Hugh Carter was born near Danville in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, February 2, 1878. The family moved to Salem, where he attended the public schools. For one year, he taught in a public school in Roanoke County, Virginia, and in September, 1897, entered Richmond College to prepare for the Baptist ministry. After being out of college for one year, he received the B.A. degree from Richmond College, June, 1902Founder Carter's campus activities included debate, YMCA, and varsity basketball. He became a teacher in Southside Academy, Chase City, Virginia, in 1902-1903, and was principal of the Chase City Graded School for the next two years. During his three-year period, he served as the editor of the Chase City Progress. In September, 1905, he entered Crozer Theological Seminary, where Jenkens had gone, and received the bachelor of divinity degree in May, 1908. He then became pastor of the First Baptist Church, Winchester, Virginia, for six-and-a-half years. Subsequent pastorates were at Hertford, North Carolina, three-and-a-half years; Crewe, Virginia, ten-and-a-half years; and Marion, Virginia, 18 years.

Retiring from active pastorates, he served as field worker for for the Sunday School Department of the Varina Baptist Board of Missions and Education. Brother Carter died in Salem, Virginia, on January 5, 1971, at the age of 92.


WallaceWilliam Andrew Wallace, the second of the roommates at Ryland Hall, was placed to that group by Gaw, his roommate. He came from Gaw's home town. Stuart's Draft, where he was born on May 7, 1882. He did not graduate but transferred to the Medical College of Virginia for his M.D., on which campus he launched the Beta Chapter (now Virginia Commonwealth University), becoming its first member. By this act, Sigma Phi Epsilon's expansion began.He left Medical College for an internship in the Boston Floating Hospital, which he left shortly for another internship in a hospital in Richmond. Later, in 1908, he located at Spartanburg, South Carolina, continuing the practice to become one of the best-known practitioners in the state, and a devoted Sig Ep until his death in 1929.


WrightThomas Temple Wright was born at Locust Grove, Caroline County, Virginia, May 21, 1883. He was tutored at home, entered Richmond College in 1900, received the B.A. in 1904, and graduated from the Engineering College of Cornell University in 1907.Wright roomed with Jenkens at the "Cottage." His intimate friends knew him as "Those," after the abbreviated form of his name. The fifth initiate of the Fraternity, he was one of the two founders who returned to college in September, 1902, and as treasurer of the group signed the corporate charter secured from the Commonwealth of Virginia October 22, 1902.Wright started his professional career as a United States surveyor with the Mississippi River Commission in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He later became a railroad civil engineer, first with the Canadian Northern Railroad on construction in Ontario, and finally with the Baltimore and Ohio. In 1917, "Those," on leave from the B & O, was construction engineer for the United States Army Camp Taylor at Louisville, Kentucky. The following year, he became head of the Warsaw and Fredericksburg offices of the Henrico Lumber Company, making his home in Warsaw, Virginia. In 1933, he and his brothers formed Wright Brothers, Inc., with offices in Richmond, West Point, Tappahannock, and Philadelphia. He remained active with this firm for many years. He died on February 15, 1958.


PhillipsWilliam Lazell Phillips ("Uncle Billy") devoted virtually all the mature years of his life to Sigma Phi Epsilon, and a study of the leadership pattern of the founding group reveals that he is the one titan after Jenkens. The latter said to his brothers, "This is how we must build our Fraternity." Phillips built it. Born in Normal, Illinois, in 1873, William L. Phillips came to Richmond College in September, 1901, to study law and Bible. He attended one year, dropped out for a year, and then returned, but his pursuit of legal studies gave way to his devotion to Sigma Phi Epsilon and he never graduated.

The first Conclave at Richmond College in December, 1903, authorized the establishment of the Journal and appointed Uncle Billy as its first editor. The first issue, March, 1904, "Published by the Grand Council in the interest of the Fraternity," reveals that Uncle Billy was determined to make the Journal carry news from all chapters and thus add dignity and strength to his young fraternity.

In addition to his work as the first editor, he played some baseball and football (not on the college team), attended the Pilologian Literary Society and classes in law. He was the first secretary of Virginia Alpha in 1901-1902.

A complete record of his professional career tells the story of his work for Sigma Phi Epsilon; Editor of the Journal, 1904-1912, 1919-1921; business manager of the Journal, 1904-1911, 1919-1942; member, Ritual Committee, 1907; editor of membership directories, 1915 and 1921; trustee of the Endowment Fund, 1925-1939, 1944-1949; trustee of the national Headquarters, 1927-1942; trustee of the Student Loan Fund, 1930-1940; Grand Secretary, 1908-1942; Grand Secretary Emeritus, 1942-1956; Grand Vice President, 1943; Grand President, 1944; National Interfraternity Conference, founder, 1909; vice chairman, 1929-1930; member, War Committee, 1942; a founder of College Fraternity Secretaries Association; chairman, 1939-1940.

Uncle Billy passed away at his home on June 20, 1959, and left his personal estate to the fraternity, which founded the Phillips Fund within the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation; that fund provides the scholarships for members of the University of Richmond chapter.

He loved his Fraternity intensely and had attended every one of the 24 Conclaves from the first one at Richmond College, 1903, to Cincinnati, 1955. William L. Phillips must be numbered among the first handful of the truly great builders of the American college fraternity system. No one has achieved a greater record.


CoxLucian Baum Cox was born November 13, 1879, in Princess Anne County, Virginia, attended a one-room public school, and worked for his father's farm and sawmill. In September, 1898, he entered Richmond College, first as an academic student and later as a law student, where he received his bachelor of law degree in June, 1902.As a student, he taught Bible class in Calvary Baptist Church on Sunday mornings and to a group of inmates at the Virginia Penitentiary in the afternoons. In July, 1902, he began the practice of law in Norfolk, Virginia.

Founder Cox wrote the application for the corporate charter for Sigma Phi Epsilon. In 1939, he published his first edition of Titles to Land In Virginia, and a second edition was published in 1947. This book was followed in 1951 by his work on Principles and Procedure in Equity. Brother Cox died in Norfolk, Virginia, on June 10, 1971, at the age of 91.


CoxRichard Spurgeon Owens whose class in Richmond is 1904, himself as a minister, was a minister's son, and was born October 28, 1880, in Hempstead, King George County, Virginia. Like Cox, he belonged to the Philologian, but upon leaving Richmond, spent four years at Colgate Theological Seminary graduating in 1907.His career in the ministry called him to Baptist churches in Washington, D.C., Roanoke, Virginia, and for four years, 1917-1921, as instructor in Fishburn Military Academy in Waynesboro. Before his death on July 6, 1950, he was a trustee of the University of Richmond, Bluefield College, and also of the Baptist Orphanage in Salem, Virginia.


AllenEdgar Lee Allen was born on January 6, 1880. His career: lawyer. Born in Virginia,attending private schools in King and Queen County, he was not a consistent Virginian, moving to Birmingham, Alabama, in October, 1902. After three liberal arts years at Richmond, he completed graduate work in law in 1902. After taking up residence in Birmingham, Founder Allen practiced law in that city steadily, serving as judge in various courts until his death on March 21, 1945.



McFarlandRobert Alfred McFarland was born on a farm near Oxford, North Carolina, on January 31, 1876. He attended Granville County public schools; three years at Bethel Hill Institute, North Carolina; four years at Richmond college--received a B.S. in 1902; received a Th.B. degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville in 1908 and an honorary D.D. from the University of Richmond in 1921.

McFarland made the motion to found Sigma Phi Epsilon; and he was chairman of the Committee on the Constitution.

He held important pastorates in three states. In North Carolina, he was a member of the Baptist State Board, a trustee of the Baptist Orphanage and Wake Forest College, and was vice president of the Baptist State Convention. In Virginia, he served as a member of the Baptist State Board, a trustee of the Baptist Hospital, the Fork Union Military Academy, and the Southern Baptist State Convention.

McFarland was one written up in a London journal as a "representative" minister of the United States. He died on March 14, 1960.


KerfootFrank Webb Kerfoot who died in an accident on August 29, 1918, was another Baptist preacher. A native Virginian, he was born October 2, 1876, in Buckland, Prince William County, and at Richmond was a member of the Class of 1902. At the time of his death, he was a chaplain in the Army. He had been pastor of parishes in Buckingham and Middlesex Counties, and Chatham, Virginia; Nowata, Oklahoma, and Fort Smith, Arkansas.


McCaulThomas Vaden McCaul was born in Charles City County, Virginia, on November 25, 1878. He attended Richmond public schools, graduated from Richmond High School,and entered Richmond College as a pre-law student in February, 1898. In September of that year, "Uncle Tom" returned to Richmond College as a ministerial student, being convinced of a call to preach. He received his B.A. from Richmond College in June, 1902; the Th.M. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1905, and the M.A. from the University of Virginia in 1908. The honorary degrees of D.D. were conferred upon him by the University of Richmond and Stetson University.

While at Richmond College, Uncle Tom was active in debates and oratorical contests. He won the writer's medal offered by his literary society his senior year. He won the orator's medal at the University of Virginia in 1907. Uncle Tom served as the first president of Virginia Alpha in 1901-1902 and wrote the first fraternity song, "Our Fraternity," in 1902. In the fall of 1902, he visited Bethany College, West Virginia; Washington and Jefferson College, Pennsylvania; and West Virginia University and formed a nucleus for chapters in all three. He helped to establish Virginia Eta at Virginia in 1907, and Florida Alpha in 1925. He was appointed National Chaplain in 1947, and served until 1959.

Uncle Tom served as pastor of Baptist churches in Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida. After more than 26 years as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Florida, he retired on January 1, 1949. He remained in Gainesville, frequently looking in on his young

Florida Alpha brothers. He continued to attend Conclaves, his last being the 32nd Grand Chapter at Atlanta in 1971. On November 18, 1972, he died peacefully at Gainesville at the age of 93. He was the Fraternity's last remaining founder.


The above biographies were taken from the SigEp Lifetime Responsibility of Brotherhood handbook.