The Founders of Kappa Alpha Psi
Elder Watson Diggs (circa 1883-1947), born in Christian County, Kentucky, was a graduate of Indiana State Normal (now Indiana State Teachers College) and Indiana University, the birthplace of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He served as Grand Polemarch for the first six consecutive years of the Fraternity’s existence. For this and other outstanding contributions to the Fraternity, he was awarded the Fraternity’s first Laurel Wreath in December, 1924.
An educator by profession, he taught in the public schools of Indianapolis, Indiana, where he was elevated to a principalship. After his death on November 8, 1947, the name of the school where he taught was changed to the Elder Diggs School in his memory. Upon America’s entrance into World War I, Diggs resigned his principalship to enter the Nation’s first Officer’s Training Camp at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and was commissioned a lieutenant. After European service with the 368th Infantry, he became a captain in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Diggs was instrumental in having the Indiana Constitution amended to permit Negro enlistment in the Indiana National Guard.
Byron Kenneth Armstrong (1892-1980), born in Westfield, Indiana, entered Indiana University where he studied philosophy, mathematics, and sociology. After finishing Indiana University, he earned his Master’s degree at Columbia University in 1913, and subsequently the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Michigan. He held teaching positions in Florida, Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma. During World War I, he served as an investigator for the Department of Labor. He was awarded the Laurel Wreath in 1935.
Ezra Dee Alexander (1891-1971), was born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1892, the site of Indiana University. He was graduated from Bloomington High School in 1910. He matriculated at Indiana University in the fall of 1910 and was graduated from Indiana University in 1917 with the A.B. degree. He received his M.D. degree from the Medical School of Indiana University in 1919. He practiced medicine in Indianapolis. In 1920, he married Mary Hunter, a teacher in the Indianapolis Public School system. Alexander served several terms as a member of the Grand Board of Directors.
Henry Tourner Asher (1890-1963), born in Woodburn, Kentucky in 1890, was graduated from the Bloomington High School in 1910. He received the degree of Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University in 1914 and the next year was an instructor at Lincoln Institute at Jefferson City, Missouri. He was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in 1917. He received the degree of LL.B. at the Detroit College of Law in 1928.
Marcus Peter Blakemore (1889-1959), born in Franklin, Indiana in 1889, attended common and high schools in Anderson, Indiana. He was graduated from High School in 1909 and entered Indiana University the following year. After leaving the University, he organized the Electric Engineering Company, which he operated until he enlisted in World War I. He later entered the Dental School of the University of Pittsburgh, from which he was graduated in 1923. At the time of his death in October 1959, he was residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he maintained his practice of dentistry.
Paul Waymond Caine (1891-1931), was born in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1890 and attended grade school and high school in Greencastle, Indiana. He enrolled at Indiana University in 1909 and helped the other Founders in organizing Kappa Alpha Nu (original name of the fraternity). Because of a disastrous fire in the Fraternity house in which he was employed, he never finished his sophomore year.
Caine went into the catering business in his hometown, later attended Columbia University; set up catering businesses in Gary, Indiana, Peoria, Chicago and Evanston, Illinois and published a book on catering, which was copyrighted in 1919 by the Hurst Publishing Company. He was instrumental in setting up the Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Zeta chapters of the fraternity. He later went into business in Rockford, Illinois and was burned during an explosion of gaseous materials in his dry cleaning business in 1931. He died April 15, 1931 at St. Anthony’s Hospital, Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois, due to pneumonia and shock following 1st and 2nd degree burns.
George Wesley Edmonds (1890-1962), was born in Vanderburgh County, Knight Township, Indiana on August 13, 1890. He entered Carver Elementary School and Clark High School in Evansville, graduating in 1910. In the fall of 1910, George entered Indiana University at Bloomington. He joined nine other students in founding Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.
After George returned home for the summer of 1911, his father became ill with pneumonia and died. His father had worked in the coal mines of Vanderburgh County for many years. George, being the eldest son, became head of the family, thus preventing his return to school. With the new responsibility of supporting the family, George took a job with the area coal mines and worked with the coal mines and the railroad until he died of pneumonia on June 13, 1962. George married the former Willa Mae Forte and settled in Stevenson, Indiana. They became the parents of one son, Noel.
Guy Levis Grant (1891-1973), born in New Albany, Indiana, attended public schools in that city, was graduated from Scribner High School in 1909, and later entered Indiana University. While there, he majored in chemistry, graduating with the A.B. degree in 1915. In 1920, he received the D.D.S. degree from Indiana Dental School, then a part of the University of Indiana; he practiced dentistry in Indianapolis. In 1929, he married Laura Hammons.
He served as a member of the Grand Board of Directors and was the Fraternity’s Historian. In addition to his activities with Kappa Alpha Psi, Brother Grant held memberships in several civic, professional, and business organizations. He was a member of the Second Baptist Church in Indianapolis.
Edward Giles Irvin (1893-1982), born in Spencer, Indiana, on August 13, 1893, was graduated from Kokomo, Indiana High School in 1910 and entered the Indiana University the same year. After leaving school, he pursued a Journalistic career in various cities throughout the country until World War I.
Aside from his success as a Journalist, Brother Irvin was a pioneer in promoting basketball and track athletics in the small town schools of Indiana. He was an active member of the Methodist Church of Chicago and a member of the Masonic and Odd Fellows Lodges. He organized and operated the Afro-American Manufacturing Company in Chicago, which produced novelties, candies, and specialties.
John Milton Lee (1890-1958), born in Danville, Indiana, was graduated from the Danville High School in 1910 and entered Indiana University and there completed three years of pre-medical work. He later became a student at Temple University (1915) but was compelled to leave school because of a death in the family. He enlisted in the 349th Field Artillery in March of 1918 and served overseas as a First Class Sergeant and Gunner. His battery enjoys the unique distinction of having been the first battery of Negro Artillerymen ever to open fire upon an enemy. John Milton Lee fired the first shot.
He helped organize, and for several years was president of, the Fairview Gold Club, the first Negro Golf Club in Pennsylvania. In 1931 he married Mary Walker Robinson. Vocationally, he was engaged in several enterprises. For eight years, he conducted a successful catering business in Philadelphia; he organized and served as Vice President and Secretary of the Mutual Emergency Union, a mutual aid company in Philadelphia. He was also a member of the Board of Managers of the Columbia Community Branch of the YMCA.