History of Iota Iota Chapter
The Founding of Iota Iota
On October 29, 1876, the Iota Iota Chapter of Sigma Chi was installed at The University of Alabama. This made Sigma Chi the fifth fraternity established on campus behind Delta Kappa Epsilon (1847), Phi Gamma Delta (1855), Sigma Alpha Epsilon (1856), and Sigma Nu (1874). Nationally, it was the 35th chapter to be issued a charter by Sigma Chi Fraternity.
The Kibble J. Harrison Incident
Within one year of the chapter’s founding, a disagreement arose between two members of Sigma Chi and Delta Kappa Epsilon. On February 28, 1877, two students, Kibble J. Harrison (ΣΧ) and William W. Alston (ΔKE), walked to opposite ends of the second story veranda of Woods Hall to settle their dispute. The previous day, Alston had publically questioned the integrity of Harrison’s younger cousin, an act that forced Harrison to defend her honor. Even though dueling had been outlawed by the Alabama legislature in 1819, Harrison challenged Alston to a duel to settle the matter, and Alston accepted the challenge so that he would not gain the reputation of being a coward.
As the two students reached the end of the Woods Hall veranda, Harrison drew his pistol and fired one shot. Alston returned the shot but then slumped over the veranda banister and fell to the ground of the quadrangle below, where he lay dead. Harrison was promptly brought to trial for the murder of Alston, but he was acquitted by a jury of his peers. It is interesting to note that historically, the Harrison-Alston duel may be one of the last publicized duels that actually resulted in a fatality in the post-antebellum South.
The Phi Epsilon Years
As a result of the illegal duel, University officials, already suspicious of Greek organizations, mandated the disbanding and removal of all fraternities on campus. Rather than simply disband the new chapter, the brothers of Iota Iota formed an underground society that came to be known as the Phi Epsilon Literary Society. Members of Phi Epsilon referred to themselves as the druids, which was a reference to the old nickname of Tuscaloosa as The Druid City. In the years that followed, Phi Epsilon maintained an active presence as a secret society at The University of Alabama. Even as fraternities were allowed to return to campus in the late 1800s, the brothers of Phi Epsilon were still banned from rechartering as Sigma Chi, as the Kibble J. Harrison incident was still fresh on the minds of the University faculty that remained from 1877.
Re-charter of Iota Iota
Finally in 1914, members of Phi Epsilon petitioned Sigma Chi to return to campus as the original Iota Iota Chapter. This effort was aided tremendously by University President George Denny, a Sigma Chi from the Psi Chapter at the University of Virginia. Not coincidentally, 1914 was also the same year that the Student Government Association and the Jasons Men’s Honorary were established at the University. Beginning at the start of the century until the 1960’s, Sigma Chi occupied a house on Old Row in front of what was then Denny Stadium (where the Gene Stallings statue is on the Walk of Champions). In 1968, with the old house simply not large enough to meet the needs of the chapter, Iota Iota moved to corner-lot of Jefferson Avenue. Due to the growth of the University and the chapter, Iota Iota moved back onto University Boulevard into a 28,000 square foot home in 2012.
A Sigma Chi Sweetheart is an exemplary woman who embodies and lives Sigma Chi’s core values of Friendship, Justice and Learning. In addition, she makes personal contributions to the Fraternity through time, energy, and dedication to support its philanthropic service. Long after her official term is over, the International Sweetheart always maintains a special place of admiration and respect in the National Fraternity.
Iota Iota is honored to have five Sigma Chi International Sweethearts, more than any other chapter in the history of the National fraternity. This accomplishment was achieved the following women who represented Iota Iota on the international stage: Mary Jo Brazelton (1965-1967), Patti Rawlinson-Holt (1975-1977), Jenna Ward (1979-1981), Lisa Wheeler (1985-1987), and Alexa Stabler (2009-2011).
135 Years and Counting
Since its founding in 1876, the Iota Iota Chapter has won ten Peterson Outstanding Chapter Awards, including its third in a row this past summer (1969, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1985, 1994, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012). With over 1,500 living alumni and more than 130 active members, the future looks bright for Iota Iota at the Capstone. The chapter welcomes all alumni, family, and friends to stop by the house whenever they are in Tuscaloosa, especially on football Saturdays.
Order of Constantine
Robert C. “Bob” Garrison, ’25, received this award in 1961
James Willis Yeldell, III, ’86, received this award in 2019
International Balfour Award
Paul W. Brock, ’47, received this award in 1947