Georgia ZBT History Full of Tradition
The Mu (Georgia) chapter of Zeta Beta Tau is full of history and tradition.
History of the organization at UGA can be traced back to1893 where UGA accepted an organization calling itself EDS. Although it is said that EDS stood for Eat, Drink, and Sleep, but in reality, it stood for for EAY DALETH SIGMA. (updated information provided by brother Herschel Saparow, '71)
The founding date for ZBT through its affiliates is set as 1898. Originally founded as a Jewish Fraternity, the UGA chapter evolved and followed those teachings until the late 1960's.
Until the very end of the chapter on campus, many of the original ceremonies and traditions were observed.
The chapter then resided on River Road, just off the UGA campus. At that time, the chapter was operating under the name of Phi Epsilon Pi -- one of about a half-dozen organizations that had merged to form Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity. In the late 1960's, the War in Vietnam, a lack of interest in college organizations in general, and poor financing was the demise of the local chapter.
Dr. Thomas Burton, advisor of the chapter at the time, found it his duty to close the house and dissolve the organization. The once proud UGA Mu Chapter of Phi Epsilon Pi found itself on the streets.
In the spring of 1973, three remaining senior brothers of the now defunct Phi Epsilon Pi chapter decided that the organization deserved another chance. An ad in the Red and Black, the UGA student newspaper, provided the basis for the new brotherhood. Thus was born Mu Chapter of Zeta Beta Tau. As Tom Burton still tells the story today, the first chapter meeting of this newly revised chapter was held in a phone booth at the corner of Milledge Avenue and Lumpkin Street in Athens.
The brothers soon found an interest in the organization on campus and the hard work of reorganizing began. They continued to meet in that same phone booth until the next fall quarter. Enough new members pledged to at least have the chapter recognized as an official university organization.
The refounding brothers decided to sell the organization as A Fraternity of Individuals. At that time in the history of UGA, it worked! They used the example that ... "if you pledge ZBT, you will not have to get up in the morning and check the bulletin board to see what color Izod shirt you have to wear that day!" That thinking remained a mainstay for the fraternity until it was closed about a decade later.
Fall rush that next quarter found the members rushing new members from a motel room at the Downtowner hotel in Athens. The chapter actually had three pledge classes that quarter. It was sweet, quick, and to the point. But there was one major change – the brotherhood became Gentile instead of Jewish. The next year, chapter meetings were held at the University Union.
In the fall of 1974, Dr. Burton arranged for the chapter to begin to renting an old residence on Milledge Avenue and it soon became ZBT Central, Zibit, or just the house. It had no air conditioning, a poor heating system, a kitchen that had not been cleaned in a two decades, very poor wiring, no steps on the back porch, two outdated bathrooms with clawfoot bath tubs, totally inadequate restrooms and showers for a group of guys living together, and no furniture. But it was home. That next college year about 10 members lived in the house and worked to make it a home. Some alumns to this very day say that Mama Dupree who was the last resident of the house and died there, walked the third floor. They say that she was there all of the time. For a ghost, she really got an eye full!
In 1977 the chapter began buying the house from the previous owners. Little change was made to the house with the exception of adding three rooms in the attic and one room in the basement.
The chapter flourished in the coming years. In 1975, the chapter won the Omega Trophy at the national conference for the best chapter publications. Following his graduation, Rick Denman served on the national staff for one year.
Early ties with the UGA ROTC program proved to be interesting! At one point, the chapter house was "bombed" by an unknown assailant. When questioned by a reporter representing the Atlanta Journal and Constitution concerning the bombing, Tom Burton simply replied ... "Anti-Semitic? ... I don’t think so. These boys are fine, upstanding Southern Baptist!" Tom always was a man of few words, but everything he said had to be respected.
The Milledge Avenue house soon became the center point for activities. It saw the streaking of 1974, the famous homecoming (queen) judging (which UGA officials did not see any humor in at all), many football game weekend after-parties, bowl bus trips, and the now infamous Georgia-Alabama game in the late 1970's where the town had to be shutdown because the celebration spilled over (and over and over again) into the streets of Athens.
In the very early 1980's, the chapter began to lose members, just as many other campus organizations did. In 1983, at the time the alumni were celebrating its 10th year reunion, the brothers were about the be moved out of the house and the chapter abolished with the blessings of ZBT national. The plans were to recharter after four years – when all members had graduated.
The operations of house were assumed by a board of trustees which was made up of several very active alumni members. The board managed to hold the house together for the rest of the decade. Acacia Fraternity rented the house from the board and the future of ZBT at UGA continued to be a hopeful.
The final demise of the housing authority came in the late 1980's when an Acacia brother called in the fire inspector for a complete inspection of the facility. That then lead to a structural inspection and as they say, that was that. The building needed emergency lighting, enclosing of all stairwells, complete rewiring, and closing of all rooms on the third floor. It was history.
After a pains-taking year where the board almost had to put its own money into the house, the decision was made to let the house revert to national. An architect’s office now resides on the property.
For a brief time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the hope for a new Mu Chapter at UGA came back to life. National allowed us to have a colony for almost five years. From that group of yong gentlemen came a good group of new alumni. But alas, it was not to be. The colony was closed in 2004.
In March of 2010 the ZBT name once again was worn on campus. National surprised us with a new colony. Several UGA alums attended the initiation at the Georgia Tech chapter house. After almost 3 years as a colony, ZBT will officially be back on the UGA campus as a fraternity in March, 2013. The rechartering ceremony is set for Sunday, March 24, 2013. Brothers Alan Cason and Keith Bailey serve as chapter advisors. Other brothers have helped with the colony.
The Mu Alumni Association continues to be very active. The group meets once annually in March (generally the first Saturday in March). During the year, the president tries to put together other social events. One group of Atlanta alums meets once a month for lunch. A group of grads meet at each home football game and tailgate. Several even attend every away game during the year.
Whether the UGA chapter exists or not, the Alumni chapter is flourishing. The alumns can boast that they have in their ranks high school principals, college administrators, politicians, judges, former astronauts, Air Force brass, Army brass, doctors, dentists, lawyers, computer gurus, real estate tycoons, district attorneys, bankers, educators, and retailers. All are called brothers.
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