Modern day Kappa Sigma was founded one chilly evening in the fall of 1869, as five students attending the University of Virginia in Charlottesville gathered in the room of William Grigsby McCormick, at 46 East Lawn, and planted the seed of brotherhood. For many weeks the bonds of friendship had drawn these five together; now the need became clear for a formal structure to contain their feelings. Thus, not only did the Founders formalize their friendship, but they also created a fraternity steeped in the traditions of the past and dedicated to the pursuit of learning. The new brothers recorded their bond in a Constitution and in an Oath that set forth the ideals and principles to all Kappa Sigmas today.
The Five Friends and Brothers
William Grigsby McCormick occupied the room at 46 East Lawn in the fall of 1869. It was there that he, with four friends, Frank Courtney Nicodemus, Edmund Law Rogers, John Covert Boyd and George Miles Arnold, founded the Kappa Sigma Fraternity on that cold December evening. Founder McCormick was in his second year at the University.
Both in their first year at the University, Founder Arnold lived at East Range and Founder Nicodemus at 9 West Range. Founders Boyd and Rogers lived off the Grounds. Early records of the founding of the first American chapter of Kappa Sigma at the University of Virginia, called Zeta Chapter, leave much of the detailed description of the early meetings untold. However, we know that a constitution was composed by the Founders and was recorded in the handwriting of Founder Arnold.
The original Constitution names the Fraternity “Kappa Sigma,” describes the Badge, and gives significance to the emblems appearing on it. The original Badge was designed by Edmund Law Rogers and during the Christmas holidays of 1869, an order of badges was placed with Sadtler & Sons of Baltimore, Maryland. Upon their return to campus in spring 1870, the Five Friends and Brothers proudly displayed the Star and Crescent of Kappa Sigma for the first time.
William Grigsby McCormick
William Grigsby McCormick came to Virginia from a celebrated family. He enrolled at the University of Virginia in October 1868, returning again in the year of the founding, 1869.
At the 28th Biennial Grand Conclave in Los Angeles in 1929, McCormick, the only surviving founder at the time, was elected to the position of Most Worthy Grand Master – the only Kappa Sigma to hold such title.
He died November 29, 1941, and the era of the Founders came to an end.
George Miles Arnold
George Miles Arnold was born August 27, 1851, in Troy, New York, and was raised in Mobile, Alabama. He entered the University of Virginia in 1869, his chief studies being Latin, French, and mathematics
The first Grand Master of Zeta Chapter, he began a course in medicine at the University in 1870 but withdrew from Virginia in February 1871, to enter the Medical College of New York where he completed his medical education.
George Miles Arnold was very active in the Fraternity during its infancy and throughout his life. One of the other Founders said of Arnold, “He gave nearly his whole time to the society.”
Edmund Law Rogers, Jr.
Edmund Law Rogers was born July 1, 1850, in Baltimore, Maryland to a prominent Maryland family. Rogers studied architecture and also developed an interest in acting. His graphic talent is apparent in the Badge of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, which Rogers designed.
He was quick of wit and possessed enormous charm. Rogers died December 19, 1893; he was buried in Baltimore, Maryland in the Buchanan and Rogers burial ground in Druid Hill.
Frank Courtney Nicodemus
Frank Courtney Nicodemus, a lifelong resident of Baltimore, was born on January 8, 1853. In 1885, Nicodemus became the treasurer of the Baltimore post office, and in 1891, he accepted the general agency for Maryland of the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company which he continued in until his death on May 25, 1919.
John Covert Boyd
John Covert Boyd was born December 24, 1850, near Bradford Springs, Sumter County, South Carolina. Throughout his career, he authored numerous reports on technical subjects. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Boyd to help incorporate the American National Red Cross. Venerated with McCormick in his final years, Boyd died July 7, 1927.
The Golden Hearted Virginian
Stephen Alonzo Jackson (who also attended the University of Virginia) is regarded as possibly the most important man in Kappa Sigma’s history. Through his efforts, a struggling local fraternity became a strong national organization. He was the architect of our Ritual, writer of our Constitution, and was our first Worthy Grand Master. The following is an excerpt from the Bononia Docet, our pledge manual:
Stephen Alonzo Jackson was born on September 22, 1851. He was left motherless in his infancy and was raised by his grandmother. A close associate and brother, Francis Nelson Barksdale, recalled him with these words:
“A perfect bundle of nervous energy. His love of the Fraternity knew no bounds, and his enthusiasm was so contagious that it influenced everybody who came within his reach. His one ambition was to make Kappa Sigma the leading college fraternity of the world, and to that end he thought and worked by day and night, until the end of his busy life.”
During the Fraternity’s second Grand Conclave in 1878 in Richmond, Virginia, Jackson was re-elected as Worthy Grand Master. In his speech, he expressed his ideal and goal of an enduring and expanding brotherhood as he addressed the Order:
“Why not, my Brothers, since we of today live and cherish the principles of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, throw such a halo around those principles that they may be handed down as a precious heirloom to ages yet unborn? Why not put our apples of gold in pictures of silver? May we not rest contentedly until the Star and Crescent is the pride of every college and university in the land!”
Jackson died on March 4, 1892. His legacy to the Fraternity included its Ritual, a revised Constitution, a precedent-setting Grand Conclave, the first southern fraternity to extend a chapter to the north, and above all else, a spirit for expansion.