On September 12, 1941, Zeta Iota chapter in Portsmouth, Virginia was chartered. Among the Chapter's 13 charter members were two particularly enterprising and industrious souls: Brother Talmadge Johnson and Brother Wilbur O. Watts.
Johnson operated the Talmadge Johnson Fuel Company and owned a grocery store, car wash and service center. Wilbur Watts, a prominent Portsmouth attorney and entrepreneur, owned several businesses, including but not limited to the Inter-City Bus Line Corporation and the Safeway Cab Service. Wilbur and is brother, Dr. Irvin Watts (dentist), another enterprising member of Zeta Iota, also owned the Watts Brothers Real Estate Loan and Investment Association.
Several years later, Johnson and the Watts brothers joined Brother William E. Waters and 17 other local Black businessmen to form the Seaview Hotel and Beach Corporation (SHBC). Brother Waters was a well known civic leader and principal of I.C. Norcom High School (in 1966, a middle school was named after him). In 1945, the SHBC opened the Seaview Beach and Amusement Park, which would go on to become a vital part of Virginia history.
The legacy of the Zeta Iota chapter and its members is an important one. It is a legacy of leadership, enterprise, and industriousness that is manifestly responsive to what Founder Edgar A. Love described as two of the three expectations of graduate members. In December 1935, Founder Love penned the following:
1) "He was expected to exemplify the virtues attendant upon the ideals of the Fraternity."
2) "He was expected to make some tangible contribution individually, and, through his organization to the social, cultural, ethical, economic, political, and spiritual advance of the Racial group in particular and the whole national group in general."
Omega's involvement in the history that was the Seaview Beach and Amusement Park is well described the publication "Seaview Beach and Amusement Park: An African-American Gem on Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay" by Sheri DiBari. In it, DiBair writes:
"Organizations that were at the forefront of African-American society used the facilities at Seaview to construct a parallel recreational experience compared to the local white amusement parks and resorts. It was common to have cotillions and fraternity formals in the grand ballroom, as well as business and financial advisory groups at the facility. This fellowship of educated and affluent African Americans was instrumental in the success of a race that had been marginalized for centuries.
Seaview Beach and Amusement Park played a vital role in the development and prosperity of African Americans in Virginia."
Please make time to read DiBari's full paper, attached. Also check out the attached article on Brother Wilbur O. Watts that appeared in the May 1954 Oracle upon his entering Omega chapter.
Make it a great week Brothers. Be Noble!
3rd District History and Archives Committee
The Monday Pearl is provided by the Third District History and Archives Committee and is a weekly sharing of fraternity content, commentary, and research of historical value we hope Brothers will enjoy and from which Brothers will draw inspiration. Previous "Pearls" can be found at http://3rddistrictques.org/about-us/overview/monday-pearl/. The Committee encourages your feedback. Should you have reactions, comments, information, anecdotes, documents, and the like, related to any of the content we share, we'd very much like to hear from you. Please send all communication to email@example.com.