A Timeless History
The year was 1939. America was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution; the World’s Fair was being held in Chicago; and here in Southeast Virginia, it cost five cents to travel on the ferry from Portsmouth to Norfolk. Having been organized in 1908, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was celebrating thirty-one years of existence.
Eleven lovely Portsmouth ladies – educated, dedicated, and pioneering – took that five-cent ferry ride to Norfolk for over a year to meet with the Iota Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority – the ONLY chapter in the immediate area at the time. But these eleven ladies had a dream – a dream that some day, they would not have to take that ferry ride “to render service to all mankind.” A dream to have a chapter of their own in Portsmouth, Virginia . . .
Thus, on October 6, 1939, the Gamma Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated was born. Audrey Moseley, the South Atlantic Regional Director, conducted the chartering service.
The eleven ladies were the charter members of Gamma Delta Omega Chapter. These ladies served in many positions during their active years. The first president was Carolyn Jackson, followed by Ruth Waters, then Hazel Reid, who was president for two terms. At the Regional Conference in 1948, Ruth Waters was nominated for Regional Director but withdrew her name.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s presence continues to be felt in Portsmouth in all areas of community life. The awarding of scholarships in the early 40’s was the beginning of an activity which is today an integral part of the Chapter’s program. A $100 scholarship was a year’s tuition in the 40’s. Alpha Kappa Alpha ladies took the pledges they made seriously, and their love for mankind motivated them to contribute time, talents, and money to make a better life for men and women - especially by encouraging young people to get a college education.
Alpha Kappa Alpha ladies were shining examples in their chosen professions, especially in the high schools and colleges. Over the years the chapter has maintained its high standards of excellence and grown its membership from 11 to over 100 active chapter members.
Gamma Delta Omega Charter Members
During the 50’s, the chapter presented a baby grand piano to the then new I. C. Norcom High School. It cost $3,000, which was a very large amount when salaries averaged $62 per week, $248 per month, and nearly $3,000 per year. Chapter dues at that time were $25 per year.
“We strive and we do” Alpha Kappa Alpha business. We had beautiful well-planned and executed “Fashionettas” in the 50’s, which provided us with some funds to support community efforts. It became an annual affair that was well received by Portsmouth and was the chapter’s main fundraiser for almost 10 years.
In the 60’s, we sponsored three annual afternoon teas that featured ceramic exhibits. This further entrenched us as a good, positive, innovative organization with a goal of exposing Portsmouth citizens to the best in the arts and all areas. The chapter took the leadership in organizing the first Pan-Hellenic Council in Portsmouth, and Vera S. Wilson was its first president. In the 60’s we hosted the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference. Clarine Roberts was chapter basileus and Barbara B. Watford, anti-basileus; Elizabeth Randolph was Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. It was the first time male guests were invited to the banquet, and many commented that it was like a “mini-boule.” Gamma Delta Omega established the Undergraduate Achievement Award that was named the Mamie S. Vick Regional Undergraduate Award – a plaque awarded annually to the college chapter with the most improved grade point average.
1970's - 1980's
The 70’s and 80’s were the years of Broadway shows and the theater. Thus, Gamma Delta Omega – keeping in step – brought Broadway to Tidewater by jointly sponsoring “Your Arms Too Short To Box With God” with the Portsmouth Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.Ever supportive of the National Program goals, the chapter sponsored young ladies for the Domestic Travel Grant Program in the 70’s. In the 80’s we had ongoing service programs encouraging voter registration, working with senior citizens, supporting battered women, tutoring children, and others. The Debutante Cotillion was also started in the 80’s and to this day continues to highlight this important milestone in the lives of young ladies across the Tidewater area.
In the 90’s, International Program goals were realized in the opening of Ivy AKAdemy under Simonetta Wright and Regional recognition was received. Ladies Edna Atkins and Annette Brown Boyce were 1996 Regional Community Service awardees. We also co-hosted the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in 1998; chapter president was Marie Fuller. Debra Jones was appointed co-chair for a 90’s Regional conference and Ladies Debra Jones and Wendy A. Hunter also served as Regional Cluster Coordinators.
Moving into the 21st century, Gamma Delta Omega continues its commitment to Alpha Kappa Alpha’s International program. Presidents were Sylvia E. Hill, Fannie M. Chamblis, Wendy Hunter, Saundra Copeland, Celestine Twitty, Julia Avery Muse, Eartha Garrett, Karen W. Colden, Dr. Aurelia Taylor Williams, LaEunice Brown, Dee Dee Jones, and Tanya Weaver. The new millennium ushered in the technology age with chapters having websites, Regional and International officers communicating electronically, and members doing the same, using the internet liberally. In fact, on August 20, 2011, with the technical efforts of Dr. Aurelia T. Williams, Gamma Delta Omega was the first chapter to communicate through online streaming video with the International Standards Chairman, Joyce Henderson.
The Sorority’s 100th birthday was celebrated in its birthplace, Washington, D.C., at the 2008 International Conference, with Past International President Barbara A. McKinzie beginning the second term of her reign with the theme “Extraordinary Service Program (ESP) with emphasis on becoming more knowledgeable and understanding of our sorority documents. At the 2010 International Conference, the incoming International President, Carolyn House Stewart, JD, unveiled the new theme “Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Global Leadership Through Timeless Service Initiatives” with 2010-2014 programs requiring Alpha Kappa Alpha to work “SMART.” Each initiative is Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Transferable for enhanced impact. Gamma Delta Omega’s first undertaking at working ”SMART” was to form a charitable arm, Twenty Pearls, Inc., which will enable us to increase funding and render greater service to mankind.
In 2014 in Charlotte, NC, then current International President, Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, LHD, unveiled the 2014-2018 International Program that will focus on Launching New Dimensions of Service℠. Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will have an opportunity to address community needs with programs in five target areas:Educational Enrichment, Health Promotion, Family Strengthening, Environmental Ownership and Global Impact. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will expand its community presence as a result of these initiatives, which include International Community Impact Days and our signature enrichment program, ASCEND Youth Enrichment Program℠.
Gamma Delta Omega had a busy 2016. In April the chapter served as one of the host chapters for the 63rd Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference held in Virginia Beach, VA. During the conference, our chapter won the regional award for our ASCEND program, led by our Vice President, LaEunice Brown. We were recognized as a Platinum supporter of our Educational Advancement Foundation Our President, Dr. Aurelia T. Williams, also won the Graduate Leadership Award. In May, we welcomed 16 new members affectionately referred to as KustomMade and in September 2016, the chapter was recognized at our fall business meeting for having the largest chapter in attendance with 63 members present.
Since 2016 Gamma Delta Omega has grown stronger in its outreach within Portsmouth and surrounding areas . In 2017, 22 new members were welcomed into the chapter. Gamma Delta Omega has members serving on both International and Regional committees. It has received a proclamation from the City of Portsmouth for Heart Health Month for its Pink Goes Red initiative and stands as the first chapter in the Mid-Atlantic Region to host a “Pink Rally” for Breast Cancer that generated local news attention, as well as the first chapter to host a “Pink Hat Luncheon” for Breast Cancer Awareness in the City of Portsmouth. In 2019, the chapter raised more than $10,000 for the HBCU Day of Giving campaign. The chapter continuously brings awareness to Refugees in America and was one of a few chapters who supported refugee students who came to the United States to attend school at Hampton University after being displaced by Hurricane Dorian. In 2018, Dr. Glenda Glover, International President, introduced her theme “Exemplifying Excellence Through Sustainable Service” with serving with Excellence being the key component. Each chapter is charged with 5 targets to implement: HBCU for Life: A Call to Action, Women’s Healthcare and Wellness, Building Your Economic Legacy, The Arts, Global Impact, and the Signature Program #CAP℠. Gamma Delta Omega looks forward to continuously being a viable part of its community. We anticipate additional growth with our community partners and being a resource to those in need of our service, as we strive to Serve with Excellence.
Former Chapter Presidents
1939–1941 Carolyn W. Jackson*
1941–1943 Ruth R. Waters*
1943–1945 A. Eloise Russell*
1945–1947 Grace B. Davis*
1947–1949 Carolyn W. Jackson*
1949–1951 Hazel W. Reid*
1951–1953 Ruth D. Boffman*
1953–1955 Mildred Gilliam*
1955–1957 Lucille J. Cradle*
1957–1959 Margaret B. Davis
1959–1961 Mildred F. Johnson
1961–1963 Vera S. Wilson*
1963–1964 Grace B. Davis*
1965–1966 Edna F. Atkins*
1967–1968 Clarine B. Roberts
1969–1970 Barbara B. Watford
1971–1972 Norma P. Ragland
1973– Willie Mae Beamon
1974–Norma T. Taliaferro
1975–1976 Norma T. Taliaferro
1977–1978 Geraldine Adams*
1979–1980 Bertha L. Manning
1981–1982 Perdethia E. Lowery
1983– Helen Artis
1984– Delores J. Hawkins
1985–1986 Delores J. Hawkins
1987–1988 Annette C. Brown-Boyce
1989–1990 Marilyn Goodman
1991–1992 Beatrice Wilson Riddick
1993–1994 Debra W. Jones
1995–1996 Simonetta Wright
1997–1998 Marie T. Fuller*
1999–2000 Sylvia E. Hill
2001–2002 Fannie Chamblis Bullock
2003–2004 Wendy A. Hunter
2005–2006 Dr. Saundra S. Copeland
2007–2008 Celestine Twitty
2009-2010 Dr. Julia Avery Muse
2011-2012 Eartha D. Smith Garrett
2013-2014 Karen W. Colden
2015-2016 Dr. Aurelia T. Williams
2017-2018 LaEunice O. Brown
2019-2020 Diertra "Dee Dee" Coston
2021-2022 Tanya Weaver
Current Gracie Bowers