Benjamin Francis Baker was born in Mobile, Alabama, on April 11, 1901; the son of William and Janie Baker. Young Baker was a prize student of Josaphine Allen, graduating from her school Summa Cum Laude. He later graduated from Tuskegee Institute, where he was initiated into the Lambda Epsilon Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, and Atlanta University. A Doctorate of Education Degree was received from Paine College. Bro. Baker joined the Mobile County Public School System at the age of eighteen. His many years of teaching experience include teaching positions in Gulfport, Mississippi and in Mobile serving as principal of the Chastang School and Whistler School.
In 1926, a very young and energetic man by the name of Professor Benjamin F. Baker was appointed principal of Mobile County Training School. Being endowed with a keen sense of perception and forsight, Dr. Baker sought out to make the school one of the most renowned institutions in Mobile and to create an institution which would service the needs of people in the Plateau Community. Under the leadership of Bro. Baker, Mobile County Training School, which was loosely based on Booker T. Washington’s model, was able to provide a stellar education to Black students in the 1930s due to his expertise as a phenomenal educator and through the unwavering support which he received from the Black community. Bro. Dr. Baker believed in
academic excellence and made special efforts to promote quality education.
Among the many achievements accomplished was the accreditation of Mobile County Training School by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (SACS) in 1934, making it one of the first schools in Mobile County to be accredited by SACS. Dr. Baker faithfully served as principal of Mobile County Training School for twenty-two years before being assigned to Dunbar High School.
Over the decades, public education in Mobile benefited from such dedicated individuals as Bro. Baker who put their students ahead of everything else.
During Bro. Baker’s tenure as principal of Dunbar High School, the school relocated in 1947 and was named the new Central Campus of Dunbar. The ‘Central’ stuck and the school was renamed Central High School. Central High School became the cultural center of Black Mobile during Jim Crow segregation of the 1950s and 60s. Musical programs, plays and Mardi Gras Royal Coronations were held at the school’s auditorium. Today, this building is the nursing school for Bishop State Community College.
Bro. Dr. Baker was instrumental in bringing nationally known celebrities to Mobile such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Marion Anderson, Hazel Scott, Thurgood Marshall, and Josaphine Baker. Bro. Baker and his wife, Mayme, were the proud parents of ten (10) children and were members of the State Street A.M.E. Church.
Bro. Dr. Baker entered Omega Chapter on August 8, 1955.
Escous Blackwell Goode (E.B.) was born January 26, 1902, in Mobile, Alabama, to Plesent W. Goode, Sr., and Mobilia Bivens Goode. His father was a timberman and his mother took in washing to earn extra income. As a child, he attended the Gleason School on Congress Street. E.B. graduated from Emerson Normal Industrial Institute. He would do odd jobs during the summer to help himself through school. His decision to become a physician came about at the age of eight (8) when he was injured and surgery was performed on his leg without anesthesia. He made up in his mind at that time that he would some day pursue a career in medicine so that no one else would ever be in that much pain again.
Bro. Dr. Goode was a Charter Member of the Gamma Psi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., while a student at Talladega College and was initiated into the Fraternity as a member of the Charter line in 1924. He graduated from Talledega Collge in 1924 and Meharry Medical College in 1928, later doing his residency at City Hospital #2 in St. Louis, Missouri. As a young physician, he came back to Mobile to serve his community.
Dr. Goode served the Mobile community for 56 years as an Obstetrician-Gynecologist and delivered over 5,000 births, which includes but is not limited to the births of Rho Alpha Brothers General
J. Gary Cooper and Dr. Joaquin Holloway, Jr. Prominent in social, civic, and civil rights projects in the Greater Mobile Community, he was the first Black president of Martin De Porres Hospital. E.B. was president of the Civil Rights Commissioners in the 1950's as well as president of the Utopia Social Club, Grandmaster of the Masonic Lodge and Exalted Ruler of the Elks. Dr. Goode had the privilege of meeting Bro. Founder Dr. Oscar J. Cooper at an assembly of the National Medical Association circa 1950 as both were practicing physicians at that time. He was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd.
Bro. Dr. Goode was the first African American to run for a public office in Alabama since 1870 when he ran for a place on the Board of School Commissioners in 1954.
Bro. Goode entered Omega Chapter 1996.
In 1938, Dr. Wilbourne L. Russell a respected dentist and civic leader founded Rho Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association.
Bro. Hershell R. Wiliams was initiated into the Fraternity in the early 1920s at Eta Psi Chapter on the campus of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Bro. Williams received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Fisk in 1924, after which he returned to his home of Mobile, Alabama, to join his father, the late Dr. H.R. Williams, in the drug business, and to work as a member of the Mobile School System. During his spare time, he contributed articles to one of the ‘colored weeklies’.
Shortly after the start of the defense program, Bro. Williams was hired by the directors of the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company to serve as personnel director for their nearly ten thousand Negro employees. At the close of World War II, Bro. Williams remained at the shipyard, but with the termination of stepped-up production, he was free to turn to his other love – journalism.
He became managing editor of the Mobile Gulf Informer. He was also corresponding secretary and parade director of the Colored Carnival Association, now known as the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA). A devoted husband and father of four, Bro. Williams was a member of State Street AME Zion Church. Brother Williams entered Omega Chapter on January 17, 1949. As reported in the Winter, 1949 edition of the Oracle: “The Brothers of Rho Alpha Chapter turned out 18 strong at the funeral, six serving as pall-bearers and 12 as honorary pall-bearers”.
Bro. Algernon Johnson ‘A.J.’ Cooper, was born in 1908 in Mobile, Alabama, in his family’s home on the corner of Deleware and Warren Streets in what was known as the ‘Down the Bay neighborhood’. He attended State Street AME Zion Church as a youth. He was class treasurer when he graduated in 1926 from Emerson Normal Industrial Institute, a school for Blacks that produced notable graduates while being funded totally with private out-of-state donations through the American Missionary Association.
Upon graduating Emerson (which was the last graduating class before Emerson became a county public school) A.J. set his sights on Hampton Institute. While at Hampton, Bro. Cooper was initiated into the Gamma Epsilon Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, in the late 1920s. It was also at Hampton that he met and married a Lafayette, Louisiana, creole by the name of Gladys Mouton.
Brother Cooper graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and remained at Hampton as a cashier for the school until 1935, when he and his wife returned to his home of Mobile, Alabama, where a job as auditor for the Benevolent Christian Burial Association – his aunt’s expanding business – awaited him. He would eventually rise to the position of secretary-treasurer of Christian Benevolent.
Funeral Home and Burial Association and would serve in that capacity for over 3 decades during which time he marshaled the sales force and sought to optimize profits and investment returns. Skilled in finance, he was successful and highly regarded – an officer of the National Insurance Association as well as a civic leader in the Black community of Mobile.
In an effort to help African Americans in Mobile confront Jim Crow in the 1930s and 40s, Bro. Cooper was a member of the NAACP’s Mobile branch.
A devoted husband and father of six (6), including Rho Alpha’s own Bro. General J. Gary Cooper, Bro. Cooper was an astute businessman eager to share financial knowledge. In the community, he was a leader among Black civic and social groups and helped raise funds for Mobile’s first maternity hospital for Black women, which opened in 1950 and was the only hospital in the city of Mobile to allow African-American physicians to treat their patients and to provide care exclusively for people of color. It was named the Blessed Martin dePorres Maternity Hospital.
An esteemed philanthropic family, the Coopers lent S.D. Bishop his first funds, from the funeral home and insurance company that they ran, to buy a building to start what became Bishop State Community College.
Bro. Cooper was tapped in 1956 to serve on a biracial committee formed by the politically progressive white mayor, Joe Langan, as an arm of the Alabama Council on Human Relations. By now, a prominent Catholic layman, Bro. Cooper became of member of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, a fourth degree knight of Peter Claver, for which he was auditor for many years.
Bro. Cooper served multiple terms as president of Mobile’s prestigious Utopia Club, Incorporated, and was also a member of the Colored Carnival Association now known as the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association (MAMGA) and for many years served as its auditor.
Bro. Cooper was elected as Rho Alpha Chapter’s Omega Man of the Year for 1956, and was conferred the honor during National Achievement Week of that year.
Bro. Cooper entered Omega Chapter on November 7, 1968.
Weaver, Kendal. Ten Stars: The African American Journey of Gary Cooper – Marine General, Diplomat, Businessman and Politician. New South Books. 2017. 1st Edition
Rev. John B. F. Williams
These men created the Chapter’s motto: “Hit the Ground Running” In the spirit of that motto, Rho Alpha was one of the few prestige chapters created during the 1920’s and 30’s.
Over the years Rho Alpha has been comprised of men from distinguished stations and accomplishments all over the city. Rho Alpha continues to set the standard in education, politics, law-enforcement, technology and many, many other fields throughout Mobile , Alabama .
Rho Alpha is well known for celebrating the carnival season of Mardi Gras each and every year. The men of Rho Alpha Chapter will always continue manifest the essence of our Cardinal Principles; Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift.
FRIENDSHIP IS ESSENTIAL TO THE SOUL.