Chi Tau

Chi Tau (ΧΤ) was a small national men's fraternity founded on October 3, 1920 at Trinity College, the predecessor to Duke University.[1] The majority of its 9 chapters were in North Carolina. It disbanded at the start of the Great Depression, with members and chapters dispersing by 1929. At least two chapters lingered as independent organizations for several years.[2]

Chi Tau Fraternity
FoundedOctober 3, 1920 (1920-10-03)
Trinity College, now Duke University
Colors     White,      Crimson and      Gold
PublicationEx Tee
Chapters0 surviving


Chi Tau was founded at North Carolina's Trinity College, now known as Duke University on October 3, 1920.[1][2] The group honored four Founders:

  • Henry Belk
  • Merrimon Teague Hipps
  • Samuel L. Holton, Jr.
  • Numa Francis Wilkerson

The group existed as a local for almost three years, until May 2, 1923 when a joint meeting was called in the city of Durham, North Carolina between Chi Tau and another local society, Lambda Sigma Delta, then existing at North Carolina State College. The two groups established themselves as a new national fraternity under the name Chi Tau, then incorporating under the laws of the state of North Carolina. For several years the fraternity published a quarterly journal called the "Ex Tee".[3] One reference notes another publication called The Hexagon.[4] It used as a motto the same words as the state of North Carolina, Esse Quam Videri.[5][2]

Chi Tau's badge was a hexagon, taller from top to bottom, with the Greek letters Χ and Τ. For symbols it carried a torch, a single triangle, and three stars. The fraternity's colors were white, crimson and gold. Its flowers were white, red and yellow rose buds.[2][3]


Baird's Manual lists an eventual nine chapters[6] without chartering dates, though that reference doesn't rule out that there could have been more. Dates for disbanding are from collegiate yearbooks:


According to Baird's, Chi Tau reported that internal dissension developed, and by 1929 the fraternity disintegrated.[2] But this oblique statement may not have captured the situation fully. In an article published marking the initiation of the former Chi Tau chapter at Wake Forest, the May 1940 Sigma Phi Epsilon journal notes that,

"In 1924, the Alpha chapter disbanded. In quick succession the other chapters followed suit until only two chapters were left--one here at Wake Forest and the other at the University of Illinois. Both lodges [~chapters] decided to go their own way as locals and to drop any idea of a revival of the national organization." [7]

Writing about the period of disintegration after 1925, the authors appear unaware of the decision by apparently healthy Epsilon chapter at Wofford College to similarly seek a move to align with another national fraternity, Beta Kappa in 1930. Additionally, contradicting the statement from Wake Forest, Alpha chapter continued its presence in Duke's yearbook, The Chanticleer, through 1928. In the 1929 edition it was abruptly gone.[19]

Once disbanded, the Iota chapter at the University of Illinois continued as a local chapter for three years. In 1933 it opted to merge into Phi Sigma Kappa's Alpha Deuteron chapter on that campus, expanding on friendships that had developed between the members.[17] Another chapter, Delta at Wake Forest, continued into 1939 when it became a chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon.[13]

Note: Another local fraternity with this name was established at Chico State University in 1939. This was ten years after the demise of the original Chi Tau national. Any name similarity to the North Carolina-established group is mere coincidence.[20]


  1. This founding date comes from Baird's. Some later references, published after the demise of the national mention a founding date as early as 1913, while others suggest 1919 or 1920. Weighing these, the date in Baird's seems most likely.
  2. Anson, Jack L.; Marchenasi, Robert F., eds. (1991) [1879]. Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities (20th ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Baird's Manual Foundation, Inc. p. VIII–6. ISBN 978-0963715906.
  3. Yackety Yack. 1926.
  4. The 1928 PAC-Sac, Presbyterian College's yearbook, lists the Epsilon chapter of the fraternity, its installation date, and magazine name.
  5. In English, "To be, rather than to seem."
  6. Chi Tau referred to these as "lodges" rather than "chapters."
  7. May 1940 Sigma Phi Epsilon Journal, accessed 11 Jun 2019.
  8. 1925 Agromeck p 264, accessed 10 Jun 2019. Note that this is the date of its gaining a charter of Chi Tau, and not the date that it was established as local, Lambda Sigma Delta. We can assume that Chi Tau was the older group, as its name was adopted by these two groups in formation of the national.
  9. At least five Beta chapter members became members of one of the other fraternities on campus after 1928, with no specific successor organization.
  10. Raleigh's city directory, 1928 edition, notes the NC State chapter at 103 Chamberlain St., Raleigh, NC, as does the 1929 edition. but the 1930 directory locates the school's chapter of Delta Sigma Phi at that address, a group dating to 1915. Accessed 12 Jun 2019. Similarly, the Chi Tau building in the 1928 Agromeck yearbook is the same house pictured for Delta Sigma Phi in the 1929 edition of the yearbook, both accessed 15 Jun 2019.
  11. The 1931 edition of Yackety Yack, North Carolina Chapel Hill's yearbook shows two Chi Tau members (Uzzell and Smith) continuing as members of local Sigma Epsilon. However after the 1929 book, Chi Tau and its other members were not listed. Accessed 14 Jun 2019.
  12. Chi Tau at Wake Forest notes in their 1939 yearbook that the National disbanded "one year after its installation," (thus in 1924.) Several dates in this reference are in opposition to Baird's' dates. It seems reasonable to dismiss the earlier founding date here (claimed to be 1913, so thus at the time of publication this would have been at least six years before creation of its former national!). But the yearbook goes on to state that this Wake Forest chapter, after a period of local, self-reliance was positioning itself to merge into "one of the finer fraternal orders in the country for a charter." It is also reasonable to accept the installation date on this campus as factual. Article accessed 10 June 2019.
  13. 1940 Howler Yearbook
  14. 1930 PAC-SAC Yearbook, where virtually all Chi Tau names are now listed as Beta Kappa members. In 1942 this national itself merged into Theta Chi. Accessed 11 Jun 2019.
  15. "University of California" is the exact name as listed in Baird's. It is clear that Baird's was identifying the main Berkeley campus in this short listing, and not Chico State, which would have been listed in any case as a State institution and which had only begun granting four-year degrees in 1924. Baird's practice was to name a state's main university without city, while it was the smaller, satellite or State schools that were clarified with city identifiers. Further, during this period, Chico would have been called out as the "Chico State Teachers College," its name from 1921-1935 had a Chico group been established by that fraternity while Chi Tau national was functioning.
  16. Wofford College Bohemian Yearbook 1927, et al, accessed 11 Jun 2019. Chi Tau has two pages in the 1928 edition, but not the 1929 edition. In years immediately following 1928 seniors who had been members do not list Chi Tau nor any other social fraternity under their senior portraits.
  17. Staff article, no byline (Summer 1994). Thomas E. Recker (ed.). "Medallion of Merit: Lawrence Jensen (noting Chi Tau)". The Signet, A Magazine for Members of Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity. LXXXV (3): 6.
  18. First Illinois yearbook appearance was in the 1929 Illio, accessed 5 Jun 2019, noting nine active chapters. Two years later the 1931 Illio notes one active chapter, Illinois, as does the 1932 and 1933 edition. Chi Tau was not listed in the 1934 book.
  19. Of forty participants, either undergrad, graduate or professorial listed on the 1928 Duke University yearbook's Chi Tau page, by the following year just three or four of these men were still named anywhere in the yearbook, and none with reference to Chi Tau. The change was rather abrupt as the 1928 book listed many pledges. Accessed 13 June 2019.
  20. This unaffiliated local is notorious for a 2005 hazing death on the Chico campus. See Chi Tau (local), accessed 8 Jun 2019.
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