In 1921, the seed for the establishment of a black student scientific fellowship association took root in the minds of undergraduates in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania.

The BKX Motto


The letters BKX which appear on the key, symbolize election to membership in the society.

In 1923, Beta Kappa Chi was founded by a biologist, a chemist and a mathematician at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, who believed in this motto and who emphasized quality of training and performance in their efforts to interpret the place of science in a liberal education

  • From 1926 - 1941, BKX chapters were rapidly appearing on black campuses.
  • In 1943, the first national News Letter was published.
  • In 1960, BKX qualified for membership in the Association of College Honor Societies and became known as Beta Kappa Chi National Honor Society.
  • In 1965, nearly all historically black colleges and universities had campus chapters
  • Today, BKX is composed of over 67 chapters with over 60,000 members. The BKX Bulletin is published once a year.


By Leroy D. Johnson - Lincoln University, Pennsylvania

Sixty-one years in the life of scientific organizations is a short period of time, but milestones such as these serve to foster growth as change permits one to view events in retrospect and to focus upon present and future horizons.

The letters B.K.X., which appear on the key, symbolizing election to membership in the Society, mean "Science holds the golden key to the Royal Palace of Knowledge"

This society was founded by men who believed in this slogan and who emphasized quality of training and performance in their efforts to interpret the place of science in a liberal education. This legacy has been passed on "to encourage and advance scientific education through original investigation, the dissemination of scientific knowledge, and the stimulation of high scholarship in pure and applied science."

The history of any organization begins with its birth, followed by the evolutionary processes of Germination and Maturation. The future and its challenge serve as. the fourth and final phase in this unfolding of significant events in the life-span of Beta Kappa Chi. Along the pathway, the heartbeats are noted and the transfusions are recorded that have helped to keep alive this sixty-one-year-old organization.


Sometime in 1921 or 1922, the seed for the establishment of Beta Kappa Chi took root in the minds of two or three undergraduate students. Nurtured in a soil well-watered by devoted, inspirational teachers such as Dr. Harold F. Grim, biology; Dr. Arthur E. James, chemistry; land Dr. Walter L. Wright in mathematics, this seed flowered in 1923 on the campus of Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. During this year the following persons made up the chapter: Horace M. Bond, Lawrence N. Brown, Walter C. Coles (President), Edward D. Dukes, Emmanuel R. Ferguson, Adolphus N. Gordon, James W. Grimes, Irving S. Hamer, William B. Hamer, Henry A. Haskell, Robert S. Jason, Carson C. Johnson, Paul H. Logan, Fletcher A. Moncur, Clifford B. Nixon, Hildrus A. Poindexter, Henry C. Redmond, Lewis E. Redmond, Harvey J. Reynolds, Anderson T. Scott, Maceo A. Simmons, Fred I. Stiger, Samuel T. Washington, and I. J. K. Wells. Not one of this group claims credit for the science club which led to the birth of a recognized national body, but one is reminded of these words, "The most powerful thing in the world is an idea when its time has come" During this first year these neophytes were encouraged and inspired by bringing to the campus of Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) the energetic, fast-becoming renowned cytologist, Dr. Ernest Just of Howard University who, in turn, responded by giving a simple but profound address. Officers of this little club, forerunner of Alpha Chapter of Beta Kappa Chi, undertook to write other colleges regarding the increased interest in science on their respective campuses and the harnessing of this potential in a common cause. This correspondence struck-responsive notes, for in 1926, Beta Chapter was established at West Virginia State College with fourteen members under the sponsorship of Dr. Elbert Cox. Among the 14 charter members of Beta the name Angie Turner is listed. Members of the Society know her as Dr. Angie T. King, untiring sponsor and former Editor of the Bulletin. Gamma Chapter at Howard University was founded in 1929 with Dr. Percy Julian as sponsor. It is significant, too, that in this chapter were Professors John A. Hughley and Victor Tulane, the latter becoming National President of Beta Kappa Chi. These small chapters of Beta Kappa Chi were heartened and strengthened when in May 1929 they learned that through the petition of members of Alpha Chapter, the Society was incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania. National meetings were not held until later, but among the colleges which predominantly enrolled Negroes, new science groups grew and developed.

By 1936, Delta Chapter at Johnson C. Smith, under the leadership of Dr. Cyril Atkins, Epsilon at Lincoln University Missouri, Zeta at Virginia Union, Eta at Mbrgan, and Theta at Virginia State became firmly established chapters of this new, nationally recognized organization. It is significant that one of the charter members of Theta was Dr. Herman, Branson, who later served as National President, and Dr. J. M. Hunter, also a charter member of Theta, helped to re-write the national constitution of Beta Kappa Chi.

During the period 1936-41, a doldrum season set in and some of the newly-formed chapters became inactive. Whenever a crisis appears in worthwhile and firmly-rooted organizations, a leader comes forth to awaken those inactive and set in motion a forward movement of expansion. Such a leader might be expected to rise from native soil where the first seed was planted. Such was the case. Dr. Joseph L. Williams, elected to Beta Kappa Chi in 1939, by his dynamic leadership, as the sponsor of Alpha Chapter and his never-say-die attitude, revived a number of the flagging chapters through personal visitations to campuses and by correspondence, and set in motion the wheels for the entrance of new chapters. Alpha Chapter, too, was given an injection which reactivated it by electing to honorary membership such stalwarts as Doctors Edward E. Holloway, George I. King, Frederick D. Stubbs, C. C. Wooding, physicians of Philadelphia, Professor Harold F. Grim, Head of Biology Department, Lincoln University; and Dr. Thomas Turner, Head of Biology Department, Hampton Institute.


Under Dr. Williams' leadership as National President, the first national Beta Kappa Chi publication, entitled the News Letter, appeared in May 1943. Announcement ofthe establishment of Iota Chapter at Storer College and news from four of the first eight chapters, along with a message from the National President, appeared in this issue. According to correspondence from Prairie View College, an attempt to establish a chapter in January 1942 was made, but this must have been abortive because the name, Alpha Gamma, given to the chapter established, indicates that the chapter was not recognized in 1942, but the seed had been planted.

At Hampton University, Kappa Chapter under the sponsorship of Dr. T. W. Turner, began its embryonic development in 1943. Taking their names from the Greek alphabet in the order of their founding, chapters were rapidly located during the period 1943-1945 as follows: Lambda, Wilberforce; Mu at Lane College; NO at Southern University; Xi at Tennessee A., and I. State College with Dr. Louis D. Green as sponsor; Omicron at Louisville Municipal College; Pi at North Carolina College; Rho at Philander Smith College; Sigma at Tuskegee Institute; and Tau at Miner Teachers College; Upsilon at Livingston College; Phi at Fort Valley State College; Chi at LeMoyne College; Psi at Fisk University; and Omega at Kentucky State College. Having used all the letters in the Greek alphabet, new chapters were designated as follows during the growing years from 1946-1950:

Alpha Alpha - North Carolina A. and T. College
Alpha Beta - Atlanta University (Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, Clark College)
Alpha Gamma - Prairie View College
Alpha Delta - Bluefield State College
Alpha Epsilon - Alabama State College
Alpha Zeta - Bennett College
Alpha Eta - South Carolina State College
Alpha Theta - Benedict College
Alpha Iota - Central State College
Alpha Kappa - Duquesne University

At the national meeting in 1950 held at Central State College, the use of Greek designation for chapters was abolished and the chapters were to be designated by the name of the institution in which they were located.

During the years 1950-1953, chapters were established at Bethune-Cookman College, Shaw University, Texas Southern University, Arkansas State College, Bishop College, Texas College, Savannah State College, and Florida A. & M. College; and during the period 1953 - 1958, the induction of Dillard University, Telladega College, Grambling College, Knoxville College, and Tougaloo College took place.

In 1962 chapters were established at Huston-Tillotson College, and at the Norfolk Division of Virginia State College (now Norfolk State). Chapters were established at Fayetteville State Teachers, at Delaware State College, and at Alcorn A. & M. during 1963; and Alabama A. & M. College in 1964. A chapter was established at Langston University in 1967. In April 1968, Barber Scotia College was chartered and, in 1969, a chapter was established at Jackson State College. The University of Maryland, Eastern Shore at Princess Ann, was admitted to membership in 1970.

In the midst of this phenomenal growth, there were pains because chapters sometimes were without qualified students, but loyal sponsors and faculty members continued these chapters. Frequently, students were called to serve their country during national emergencies - a call to service in which Beta Kappa Chi members can take pride.

No history would be complete without mentioning the courageous leadership of those who guided the affairs as National Presidents over these years, namely:

Dr. H. Townes, 1940-1943
Dr. Joseph L. Williams, 1943-1946
Dr. Victor J. Tulane, 1946-1948
Dr. H. L. VanDyke, 1948-1950
Dr. E. E. O'Banion, 1950-1954
Dr. Herman V. Branson, 1954-1956
Dr. S. P. Massie, 1956-1959
Dr. C. T. Mason, 1959-1962
Dr. Carl M. Hill, 1962-1963
Dr. E. O. Woolfolk, 1963-1964
Dr. R. J. Rrry, 1964-1967
Dr. D. T. Ray, 1967-1969
Dr. William H. McArthur, 1969-1972
Dr. Harold E. Finley, 1972-1973
Dr. L. C. Collins, 1973-1975
Dr. Gertrude C. Ridgel, 1975-1977
Dr. Jesse Jones, 1977-1979
Dr. Roy Hunter, 1979-1982
Mrs. Norma S. Gaillard, 1982-

Working closely and cooperatively with these national presidents have been the following:

Dr. Charles Bonner, Secretary-Treasurer, 1940-1943
Dr. Charles Monroe, Secretary-Treasurer, 1943-1946
Dr. Joseph L. Williams, Secretary-Treasurer, 1946-1950
Miss Annetta B. Baugh, Secretary, 1950-1954
Dr. H. L. VanDyke, Treasurer, 1950-1954
Dr. R. J. Pitts, Treasurer, 1954-1957
Dr. E. O. Woolfolk, Executive Secretary, 1954-1963
Dr. T. A. Love, Treasurer, 1957-1971
Dr. Lewis A. Gist, Executive Secretary, 1963-1964
Dr. Exalton A. Delco, Jr., Executive Secretary, 1964-1968
Dr. Robert D. Bonner, Executive Secretary, 1968-1978
Dr. Henry A. Moses, Treasurer, 1971-present
Dr. Hazel J. Garrison, Executive Secretary, 1978-

The Society was started by students and is encouraging to note that during its germination period, students maintained their interest in the Society though it was manned nationally by faculty members of the various institutions. Chapter editors, usuallystudents, have over the years furnished material for the national publications. Reports of undergraduate research under faculty guidance appear in the Bulletin and some chapters seemed to have been very influential in maintaining student participation and activity. Particularly should the chapter at Miner Teachers College, under the late Professor DeBardeleben and Dr. Bate, be cited because for three consecutive years, 1954-1956, student representatives of this chapter presented papers for discussion at the Eastern College Science Conference.

The Beta Kappa Chi Bulletin, previously mentioned, was the successor to the Beta Kappa Chi News Letter and has been published annually from May 1943 to the present. In it are the responses to the Editors for news. These interesting accounts appear in bound volumes in the Editor's office and provide fascinating reading for all interested in trends in science and in history. The Society is indebted especially to Mr. Richard G. Thylor, Editor, Kennett News and Advertiser, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, who graciously donated his services in the establishment of the News Letter and the Bulletin, and to those over the years who have compiled these valuable mementoes and preserved these records of the past. High praise goes to the Editors, their assistants and staffs. These names, in chronological order of service, deserve mention here:

Dr. Joseph L. Williams, 1943-1946
Dr. Madison S. Briscoe and Dr. L. N. Ferguson, 1947-1949
Dr. and Mrs. Carl M. Hill, 1949-1962
Dr. Angie T. King, 1962-1971
Dr. Nathaniel Boggs, Jr., 1971-1974
Dr. James B. Abram, 1974-1978
Dr. Vernon Clark, 1978-1980
Dr. Maxwell A. Bempong, 1980-1982
Dr. Vernon Clark, 1982-

A detailed account of the changes in the constitution, the structural organizational changes with provisions for regional vice-presidents, changes in requirements for admission, the many experiences and problems in financing and keeping the organization solvent are vividly told in the Bulletins and these accounts only serve as testimonials to the high quality, the integrity and dedicated leadership with which Beta Kappa Chi has been blessed. As one pores through these glowing accounts of activity, one cannot help but be impressed with the roster of distinguished scholars who, as members of Beta Kappa Chi, have made valuable contributions nationally and internationally in their respective fields. A few besides those already mentioned throughout the history, whose contributions to Beta Kappa Chi and mankind have merited commendation, include Atkins, Barnes, Bond, Drew, Ferguson, Hall, Quinland, Nabrit, Poindexter, Sinkler and Stubbs.

In an attempt to increase membership, graduate chapters were chartered. The first successful chapter, Alpha Chi, was in Chicago. The Beta Kappa Chi Bulletin, Vol. 4, pp. 17-18, in 1946 gives an account of this chapter and lists its distinguished members as: Dr. Lloyd A. Hall, Dr. Spencer C. Dickerson, Dr. Howard B. Shepherd, Dr. Homer V. Wilburn, Dr. Spurgeon Morris, Dr. James M. Allison, Mr. David Christhwaite, Dr. Edward Bryant, Dr. W. G. Dailey, Dr. Timothy Smith, Dr. Taft Raines, Dr. Lloyd Cooke, Dr. Julian Lewis, Dr. Leonidas Berry, Dr. Albert Beckham and Dr. Carl G. Roberts. Although gradua chapters have ceased to function, this attempted innovation for the sake of Beta Kappa Chi history should be mentioned.

Among the many highlights of the growing years, the 1950 National Convention stands out because it has given impetus to the work since that time. At this convention the inspirational words of Dr. Percy W. Julian still challenge us, for he stated that scientists who are aware of what science is, as well as what science does, are in tune with the eternal verities and 'know that truth and goodness and God are inseparable.'

The Society was not unmindful, too, during these years of growth of the one responsible for the upsurge of interest and publicity gave recognition at the 1952 convention to the late Dr. Joseph L. Williams, whose multifaceted service as National President, Secretary-Treasurer, promoter and Editor of the News Letter and the Bulletin, extend over half the life span of this organization. A plaque and a certificate signifying life membership in the Society were presented to him on this occasion.


Today, the Society is justly proud of its fifty-five chapters, over 11,000 initiates, its Bulletin which is published three times a year, with the increased student participation in national conventions during the last four years, and with its more than 500 active members. With this record of service and maintenance of high standards for admission, it is encouraging to note that at the meeting of the Society in Houston, Thxas in 1960, Beta Kappa Chi took steps which qualified the Society for membership, in the Association of College Honor Societies so that it would render a still greater service to the life of peoples everywhere. No chapter of history would close, however, without expressing appreciation to those persons who have not been members of the Society, but who have given counsel, time, inspiration and support along the way. This list of the benefactors is too lengthy for this historical condensation, but the Society must give an expression of gratitude to those institutions and their presidents who have invited national conventions to meet, for mountain-top experiences, on their campuses: Howard University, 1946; Alabama State College, 1948; Central State College, 1950; Prairie View College, 1952; Arkansas State College, 1953; Dillard University, 1954; Morgan State College, 1955; A. and T. College, 1956; Howard University, 1957; Alabama State College, 1958; Knoxville College, 1959; Thxas Southern University, 1960; North Carolina College, 1961; West Virginia State College, 1962; Hampton Institute, 1963; Prairie View A. and M. College, 1964; Atlanta University, 1965; Kentucky State College, 1966; Knoxville College, 1967; Central State University, 1968; Saint Augustine's College, 1969; Morris Brown College, 1970; Virginia State College, 1971; Hampton Institute, 1972; Lincoln University, Pa., 1973; Dillard University, New Orleans, LA, 1974; Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA, 1975; Bishop College, Dallas, TX, 1976; Fisk University, Nashville, TN,1977; Atlanta University Center, Atlanta, CA, 1978; Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, AL 1979; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, 1980; Houston, lëxas, 1981; Howard Univer sity, Washington, DC, 1982; Cincinnati, OH, 1983; Spelman College, Atlanta, GA, 1984

Beginning in 1963, the Society recognizing the part students play in helping organizations to grow, elected Wilma Barnes of Clark College the first Student Assistant to th Executive Secretary. This post was ably filled in subsequent years as follows:

Georgia Dunston, Norfolk State College, 1964-1965
Perry Price, Norfolk State College, 1965-1966
Lillian Harden, Clark College, 1966-1967
Conley Johnson, Johnson C. Smith University, 1967-1968
Shirley Walton, Clark College, 1968-1969
Peggy Mason, Morgan State College, 1969-1970
Andrew Sanderson, Norfolk State College, 1970-1971
Robert Redd, Morgan State College, 1971-1972
Delores Moore, Morgan State College, 1972-1973
Sandra Harris, Dillard University, 1973-1974
George W. Childs, Hampton Institute, 1974-1975
Harold Chungley, Morgan State College, 1975-1976
Jacqueline Goings, Central State University, 1976-1977
Deborah Martin, Hampton Institute, 1977-1978
Muriel Vanessa Walker, Bishop College, 1978-1981
Brian E. Walker, Hampton Institute, 1981-1982
Shelly R. McDonald, Howard University, 1982-1983
Malverse A. Nicholson, Hampton Institute, 1983-1984

The importance of student input and the need for greater participation by students in the affairs of the Society was again recognized in 1967 by the creation of the position, Student Assistant to the Editor of the Bulletin. The names of those students who have made valuable contributions to this position are as follows:

Verna Joyner, Hampton Institute, 1968-1969
Glenn Peoples, Knoxville College, 1969-1970
Linda Clayton, North Carolina Central University, 1970-1971
Richard Smith, Morgan State College, 1971-1972
Cheri Jackson, Fisk University, 1972-1973
Audrey Pointer, North Carolina Central University, 1973-1974
Regina M. Milteer, Hampton Institute, 1974-1975 and 1975-1976
Ricardo Parker, Shaw University, 1976-1977
Valencia Pressley, Johnson C. Smith University, 1977-1978
Donald Davis, Alcorn State University, 1978-1979
Ronald Adams, Fort Valley State College, 1979-1980
Tanya Perry, St. Augustine's College, 1980-1981
Bernice E. Gales, Talladega College, 1981-1982
Racquel M. Mason, Hampton Institute, 1982-1983
Alicia M. O'Reilly, Hampton Institute, 1983-1984


As one viewed the scene in 1973, on the eve of Beta Kappa Chi's 50th. Anniversary, one noted the growth from one organization with two or three officers to one with a President, five Vice-Presidents, an Executive-Secretary, a Treasurer, an Editor and an Assistant Editor, Archivist and Historian, Student Assistant to the Executive Secretary, and Student Assistant to the Editor of the Bulletin.

Trends toward an even more useful organization with a larger membership are indicated in a constitutional revision in 1965 which provides for election of members-atlarge.

As a full-fledged member of the Association of College Honor Societies, and with inevitable social changes taking place nationally and internationally, especially in the regions where most of the chapters of Beta Kappa Chi are located, the challenge comes, Beta Kappa Chi, Quo Vadis? One cannot predict the future of any organization with certainty but one can say with certainty that the spirit of Beta Kappa Chi will not die for "the blood, sweat and tears" of its struggles and its accomplishments have been inscribed upon the hearts and minds of countless students for five decades of adventurous pioneering. To these young, alert, budding minds we pass the torch and in the words of the late Langston Hughes can you not hear them reply —?

We have tomorrow
   Bright before us
     Like a flame

   A night-gone thing
     A sun-down name

And dawn today
   Broad arch above the road
     We came

     We march.

Thus ends the account of the story of Beta Kappa Chi. "The moving finger writes and having writ moves on."