Making the Decision: 1958-59
"A Chevrolet or a Cadillac?"
On October 17, Stinson received a letter from Milton Jackson, President of the Sigma Chi Houston Alumni Association. Two Sigma Chi alumni, David Whightsel and Sam Listi had visited the Caballeros the previous weekend and were "most impressed with Sam Houston State and your group." Whightsel "indicates to me [Jackson] that the recommendation he will make to our Alumni Chapter will be to continue at the earliest possible time further and more serious investigation of your group and Sam Houston State." Sam Houston had been proposed for Sigma Chi's "preferred list," which was the first important step in affiliating. "As you by now must know from conversations with our representatives, Sigma Chi is not an easy Fraternity to affiliate with. This is of course by both choice and necessity. We are proud of our history and progress, and do not take lightly the responsibilities of inviting just any group to petition for membership," Jackson wrote.
Stinson had written directly to Sigma Chi Headquarters but had gotten no information at this point, so Tom Burke was going to meet with Milton Jackson to see if he could help with communicating with the national fraternity.
The other fraternity the Caballeros was considering was Sigma Nu. Stinson had talked with Dick Vaughn, Division Commander of Sigma Nu, who had sent the Caballeros a copy of the Sigma Nu rush brochure from the University of Texas. Tom Burke received a letter from Vaughn, in which he stated that Sigma Nu was anxious to have the Caballeros. Art Smith, an alumnus of Sigma Nu, had visited with the Caballeros and "was impressed with what he saw and heard." The procedure outlined in the letter included a visit on the part of a Caballero delegation to Austin to meet with officials and to visit the chapter there. If approval was given, Vaughn would ask "the Executive Secretary and other High Councilmen for permission to designate Caballero as a Sigma Nu chapter-to-be. Each collegiate member would pay Sigma Nu $15 and receive a pledge pin and pledge manual." These steps could be completed "perhaps by Thanksgiving or no later than Christmas." Then there would be a six-week "training period" to "give you a thorough understanding of our ideals and goals and a clear picture of Sigma Nu as a great National fraternity." Then Mr. Vaughn stated other precepts of Sigma Nu:
Sigma Nu is great because of these ideals, and firm in following them. As an example, we uphold our right to be exclusive judges of our membership qualifications. This is most important these days, when a number of northern colleges are trying to force all Nationals to accept Negroes. Only six really National fraternities have stood firm against college ultimatums to remove what they call discriminatory clauses or leave the campus---is the leader in the group. I have just returned from Atlanta, where our National convention by an overwhelming vote, Northern chapters included, answered the question asked by some colleges of when we will accept Negroes with "Never."
Vaughn went on to discuss the financial responsibility of each member. A $75 initiation fee, which entitles the man to life membership, is the only national charge; this covers a badge, a life certificate, and a subscription to the quarterly magazine, the Delta. For alumni, an initiation fee of $50 is required, since they cannot "enjoy all the benefits of collegiate members." He closed by saying "We know how to build great chapters---that is why we have a great fraternity."
The November 1st deadline was rapidly approaching and the Caballeros had to make a decision. While some liked the idea of the rapidity of affiliation with Sigma Nu, some still held out for Sigma Chi. At a special meeting called by Bill Stinson, it came down to debate and discussion and the making of a decision. While some argued that Sigma Nu had been so cooperative and desired the Caballeros so much, others noted the superiority of Sigma Chi and its unequaled supremacy in the Greek world. Finally, at what seemed a frustrating point in the meeting, President Stinson took the floor. Roy Hazelwood recalls:
The membership, at that time, had seventy-five active members and we were very close. When we were attempting to go national, Sigma Nu was "rushing" us and Sigma Chi as much as told us that they were not interested. I recall going into the meeting to decide which fraternity we wanted to affiliate with and only one person felt we should continue our attempt to go Sigma Chi---Bill Stinson. We were all primed to make [Sigma Nu] official when Bill asked to address the group. He spoke for about 45 minutes and during that speech, he said that the choice was similar to deciding whether to buy a Cadillac or a Chevrolet. After he finished, we voted. If Iím not mistaken (the minutes could be checked), the vote was 100% for Sigma Chi. Thank God for Bill Stinson.
Even with this renewed enthusiasm Sigma Nu was just around the corner and Sigma Chi seemed a million miles away. But---the decision had been made.
The Fall, 1958, pledge class had ten men: Johnny Driskell, Roy Hazelwood, Don Johnston, Ken Jordan, John McManners, Johnny Mudd, Sam Park, James Thomas, Ray Votaw, and Billy Williams.
At Homecoming new Alumni Officers were elected: Tom Burke, President; George Buckow; 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Bobby Ellis; Secretary, Bob Dalehite; Treasurer, Bill Dietz; and Public Relations, Johnny Bob Mooney.
Tommy Burke pledged Caballero in the Spring semester, 1953, along with Ronnie Reeder and Bob Dalehite. One of his primary interests was the newly-established ROTC program Dr. Harmon Lowman had brought to campus the previous semester. In fact, when ROTC ended its first year on campus and presented award, Tom Burke was named the best company commander; his "C" Company also was selected the best company: "It was chosen on the basis of appearance, number of demerits, and best marching in reviews" (SHA, June 53, 10). Lt. Col. Burke continued his leadership in ROTC the next year when he was battalion commander of the 1st battalion and at the end of the semester he was awarded a scholarship ribbon. Tom received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1954. His involvement in Caballeros and particularly in ROTC established a noteworthy lifetime of leadership, prestige, and endurance.
Tom was instrumental in establishing the Caballero alumni association in the Fall of 1955 under the guidance of the first officers, Bill Johnston and Dan Rather. The next year, Tom was elected 1st vice president of the Cab alumni and helped set up a $100 scholarship to benefit an active member. The money would pay the registration fees for two semesters: registration fee was $25, student activity fee was $15, building use fee and ROTC or lab fee was $10, bringing the total to $50 each semester. Also at that Homecoming meeting of Cab alumni was the decision to investigate affiliation with a national fraternity as well as encouraging other men's and women's groups on campus to organize alumni associations "for the Nationals demand an active and organized Alumni." Other important decisions included making a club history and handbook; keep accurate alumni files; set up a library in the Club House; publish an alumni directory; and keep in touch with the many Caballeros in the service. Tom's work in the procuring of Sigma Chi for the Caballeros is an important contribution to the Epsilon Psi Chapter.
Tom was elected 1st vice-president in the fall of 1957 along with president Dan Rather. After the annual Christmas party in Houston, Tom Burke and George Buckow began investigating various national fraternities; initially they met with representatives from Tau Kappa Epsilon, Theta Xi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Sigma Chi. Their particular concern was costs, for the Caballeros had heard that there was a great variance among the national groups. As soon as these preliminary investigations were made, the Caballeros shaved the list to two: Sigma Nu and Sigma Chi; Tom Burke had personally contacted the Alumni in both groups, who expressed a preference for the Caballeros over the other groups on campus "mainly on the basis of our Alumni Association."
On August 23, 1958, Tom Burke, George Buckow, and Bill Dietz, along with several actives, met with Sigma Nu's Texas Alumni President, but the meeting was mainly for compiling more data. Sigma Chi seemed to be the favorite pick of the active chapter, but some liked Sigma Nu also. Both were very large and prominent among the Greek letters. The Esquires (Delts) had contacted Sigma Chi, but little was known as to what the Dons (ATO's) and the Ravens (KA's) are planning. When the school year began, Caballero President Bill Stinson had written to Sigma Chi Headquarters but had gotten no information, so Tom Burke met with Milton Jackson, Houston Sigma Chi Alumni President, to see if he could help with communicating with the national fraternity.
Tom was relentless in his pursuit of Sigma Chi but also considered the possibility of affiliating with Sigma Nu, which seemed much more anxious than Sigma Chi to have the Caballeros. However, Tom's choice, as well as most of the other alumni and actives, was for Sigma Chi. At Homecoming in the Fall of 1958, Tom Burke was elected president of the Caballero Alumni.
The Beginning of the Quest
The officers for the Spring were
President: Herb McElveen
1st Vice-President: Bedford Mitchell
2nd Vice-President: Jerry Woods
Secretary: Dan Womack
Treasurer: Larry Green
Historian: Gene Poldrack
IFC Delegates: Dave Fullerton, Larry Green, Madison Powell
On January 19, a letter was received by Rev. Charles W. Roberts, the Assistant Dean of Men at Sam Houston, from Robert E. Joseph, an Assistant Executive Secretary for Sigma Chi. Joseph had received an inquiry from Dean Creager indicating that the Caballeros decided to affiliate with Sigma Chi. He made several suggestions for the Caballero's pursuit. First was to have Sam Houston placed on the preferred list. Next was to have approval from alumni groups and active chapters in the area, then a meeting with Grand Praetor Don Walker should be scheduled. Upon his approval, an investigating officer would be sent to meet with the interested group. After his recommendation, the group must prepare a brochure "with information concerning itself and its institution to be distributed to all active and alumni chapters, Grand Officers, and the Headquarters Office." A ballot would be circulated to the undergraduate chapters, alumni chapters, and members of the Grand Council for their approval. If favorable, then the Executive Committee will appoint installing officers and set a date for the installation (Letter from Joseph to Roberts, 1/19/59).
Joseph also wrote a letter to Joseph H. Peck, Jr., at the Alpha Nu chapter at the University of Texas in Austin. Peck had expressed favorable comments about the Caballeros and was willing to help them acquire affiliation with Sigma Chi. In his letter, Joseph mentioned the fact that "Sam Houston State Teachers College is not at this time, on our list, preferred for affiliation," and that the Executive Committee was currently studying this. Joseph emphasized the importance of alumni support because "it is almost impossible for a small campus to gain recommendations which may be sent to the standing committee for consideration" (Letter from Joseph to Peck, 1/29/59).
Herb McElveen, Caballero President, wrote to Grand Praetor Don Walker on February 11, 1959 detailing information about the Caballeros and Sam Houston.
Last summer the Board of Regents of Sam Houston State College approved national fraternities and sororities for our campus. Immediately the four men's local fraternities began making preparation to petition national fraternities. Much work, investigation, and study has been done. All of these locals have turned into the office of the Dean of Men a letter of intent which means they have chosen a fraternity then would like to petition.
Our Caballero local fraternity, after investigating fraternities in general and several specifically, elected to make application to petition Sigma Chi. A number of Sigma Chi alumni have given us much encouragement. Here in the town of Huntsville are four outstanding Sigma Chi alumni: Mr. J. Robert King, King's Pharmacy, Huntsville, Texas, has been outstanding in his efforts to assist us. He is at present on a South American cruise and will return the latter part of this month. Mr. Richard Jones, Assistant Manager of the Texas Dept. of Corrections (The Texas Prison System), has insisted that we make every effort to bring Sigma Chi to our campus. Dr. Douglas Harper, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, is, I understand, a very active alumnus of Sigma Chi. Also, one of our faculty members [John Burton], who is an alumnus of the L.S.U. chapter in Baton Rouge, has worked with us.
Sam Houston State College is a liberal arts college. It is the oldest state college in Texas. For the last several years our enrollment increase percentagewise, has been the largest among the eighteen state colleges in Texas. Certainly we can credit a portion of this increase to the seven million dollars spent on the campus during the last five years for classrooms, laboratories and housing. Here at Sam Houston we feel that the future of our college is indeed bright. Our present enrollment is approximately 3,500.
I assure you that Sam Houston State wants nothing among fraternities but the best. Our college housing program is providing $100,000 houses for each fraternity. These houses accommodate thirty-six men, have adequate kitchen and dining facilities within each house to serve the house members. Also a nice apartment is provided within the house for a house mother.
We will appreciate every consideration Sigma Chi officials, fraternities and alumni can give us. We would be happy for you and other Sigma Chi[s] to visit us.
Besides focusing on Sigma Chi pursuits this semester, there were also classes to go to, functions to be sponsored, and pledges to be rushed. During rush the Cab's "arch rival (starts with a capital E) started spreading rumors to the effect that it was useless to pledge Caballero as Sigma Chi was not going to come on the campus anytime soon. Their efforts, however, did not hurt the club in the least, which stands as a tribute to the reputation of the club on campus, a record earned the hard way over the past decade" (Recall, Spring, 1959, 3). There were 19 men pledged. James Boley, Curtis Cooper, John Eriksson, Larry Farmer, Freddy Garner, Gordon Goettee, James Hanscom, Roy Long, Joseph McCown, Perry Orand, James Orr, Dan Seale, Robert Simmons, Paul Spiller, Richard Stauffacher, David Trotti, Glen Wahrmund, Irwin Walters, and Howard Webb.
The Caballeros were also getting the endorsement of W. T. Creager, Dean of Men at Sam Houston. Dean Creager wrote to Richard Clower, President of the Alpha Nu Chapter at Texas (whom Herb McElveen had visited the previous weekend) and expessed his confidence in and respect for the Cabs. "I am quite proud of this group of your men. For the last several years they have been outstanding in their leadership on the campus, and have been instrumental in the success of several campus-wide undertakings. They have a very active alumni that has remained loyal to them and to the college." Creager went on to tell Clower about the new housing facilities which the Caballeros would inhabit and discussed the growth of Sam Houston. He concluded by stating that "we feel a definite need for fraternities and sororities on our campus. Five outstanding sororities--Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Delta Pi, Delta Zeta, Kappa Delta, Zeta Tau Alpha--have accepted our campus. We are seeking to petition four outstanding fraternities and are well advanced in our progress. We want you to know that we are quite interested in Sigma Chi coming to our campus, because we know that Sigma Chi stands at the top of the list in the fraternity world."At some point during the semester Perry "Albino" Orand had to leave school and left a message to his Caballero brothers:
The silence, however, was brought about thru necessity, and we can assure you that your officers have been anything but inactive. It all boils down to the fact that our attempt to affiliate with a national fraternity forced us to adopt a policy of patient watchfulness that prevented us from reporting to you anything but unauthorized rumors and sheer guesswork. Even now, not much can definitely be said as to the end result of our nationalization, but at least the active chapter has expressed their preference for a specific fraternity and has inaugurated a program of mutual exploration with that fine fraternity to determine once and for all whether the Caballeros and Sam Houston State are worthy of admission."
Dalehite indicated that the other three clubs had made their choices: the Esquires chose Delta Tau Delta; the Dons, Alpha Tau Omega; and the Ravens, Kappa Alpha. He stated that the Houston Alumni Association had voted in favor of the Cabs. However, the Cabs were most anxious to hear if they were approved by the national headquarters and the powers that be. They were to be voted upon at the Grand Chapter in Kansas City this summer.
Dalehite perhaps best expressed the hope and frustration of the active and alumni Caballeros in their quest for Sigma Chi in an "Editorial."
These have been the facts, pure and simple. They look encouraging right now, but in order to try and interpret their meaning in relation to results, we must face the reality that Sigma Chi can afford to be extremely choosy and that it is a very difficult fraternity for an independent to affiliate with.
Therefore, let is consider some things behind the facts. Remember that the following observations are based on mostly rumor, personal opinion and chance conversation, so, needless to say, do not let this paper fall under the scrutinization of any person outside the Caballero organization, especially members of any national fraternity.
First, let's consider the bright side. The national headquarters said we would need the support of interested Sigma Chi's and alumni in order to even be placed on the preferred list. We have, so far, some of the most powerful Sigma Chi's in the East Texas area completely on our side. Mr. J. Robert King of Huntsville has been a prime benefactor to the Cabs, pushing the club among the Houston Alums and all over the state. Mr. Lewis Bonner, 1959 President of the Houston Alumni Chapter of Sigma Chi has stated that he, along with last year's President Milton Jackson, is convinced that we are right for Sigma Chi. Also, the active chapter at the University of Houston has lent their help and encouragement to our boys whenever called upon. From what we hear, most of the Sigma Chi Chapters are pleased with the Caballero organization and leadership. They also, of course, realize that our new $100,000 house will make a splendid addition to any fraternity row, that we have the only organized Alumni Assn. among the SH Clubs, and that our record of fine sponsorships, such as Fight Night, Moulin Rouge, Homecoming floats and dances, Roundup Shows, etc., have left little to be desired.
On the darker side, Sigma Chi's Alpha Nu Chapter of the University of Texas invariably looms over the horizon like an oncoming tornado. Alpha Nu seems to be the "Big Daddy" of the Texas Sigma Chi group. In other words, what they say goes. As to what they will say when the time comes, the current, but pessimistic, outlook is unfavorable. They apparently approve the Caballeros to a certain extent, saying that we are the only frat at Sam Houston even worth considering, but seem to be doubtful of Sam Houston herself. Whether or not the old lady of Texas Education can sway them to our side will depend a lot on whether they give her a fair chance to do so. The Texas U. people did not attend out Huntsville, party, where they could have gotten a good look at the campus, and even though a handful of them did make it down to the Galveston party, they arrived at the party too late to mingle with our group very long. Texas seems to base their main critique on the fact that we are strictly a teacher's college and nothing else. This writer doesn't exactly understand what's so bad about a teacher's college, but regardless of this, the tremendous growth of Sam Houston's academic departments of Business, Industrial Arts, Science, etc., has just about placed the once powerful Education Department into a minor role.
Anyway, we have gambled on Sigma Chi, even when other old line nationals indicated more interest and cooperation, and we can only sit back and wait for the word, good or bad. If we win, we'll find ourselves among the ranks of probably the finest fraternity in the United states, and will have a fine drawing power at SH for the best pledges. If we lose, frankly, it may well mean the destruction of the Caballeros. Perhaps another old line fraternity that has not already chosen a SH group, or a younger fraternity, will be agreeable to accepting us, knowing that they are our second choice, but that remains to be seen.
Regardless of the gamble and the rather high stakes, we should all feel proud of the active chapter and its leaders for deciding to set a course toward obtaining nothing but the best affiliation. This took courage, for Sigma Chi has already turned thumbs down on such schools as Lamar Tech and West Texas State, and are so large and powerful that they do not actually need new chapters. So, if we do go down to oblivion, at least we can be comforted somewhat by the fact that we went down fighting, with no regrets or reservations, and still damn proud to be what we are: Caballeros.
The confidence, dispatch and care you used in carrying out all the business and other affairs of the Club shall go down as a goal worthy of the best efforts of those who succeed you. Along with these sincere and well-deserved compliments go out very best wishes for your success and happiness.
Bill Stinson pledged Caballero in the Fall of 1956 and undoubtedly understood the potential of the club. The following year he was Fight Night Chairman and was elected Corresponding Secretary in the Spring of 1958. At the end of the semester he was elected President for the Fall, 1958, semester. We all know that a person does not become President without having shown his worth. The untold hours he spent meeting with fraternity representatives during the summer of 1958 led him to the conclusion that the only fraternity worth fighting for was Sigma Chi. On that important November night, when the seventy-five Cabs met at a special meeting, it was Bill Stinson who convinced them that they should go for the "Cadillac."
Bill Stinson is the first name on the Epsilon Psi Charter.