Founding Fathers

Frederick Southgate Taylor (1847-1896)

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All evidence and testimony of both records and reminiscence indicate that the founding of Pi Kappa Alpha was largely the inspiration of Frederick Southgate Taylor, that he was the instigator and original founder. It was he who gave the Fraternity its name and motto, and he probably wrote the early ritual.

He was born December 16, 1847, the son of the Honorable Tazewell Taylor and Anna Robinson Taylor; his father from 1850 until death was the bursar of William and Mary College. Thus, the early days of Frederick Southgate Taylor were spent in Norfolk, Virginia. Although there is a tradition in the Fraternity that he was a member of the Confederate Army, his family has no record of military service for him.

Founder Taylor received an A.B. degree from William and Mary in 1867-68, according to the general catalogue of that college. He entered the University of Virginia in the autumn of 1867, and lived at 47 West Range. His stay at the University was from 1867-69, where his studies were in the area of pre-law.

In Norfolk, he may have “read law,” as the expression went, meaning to study law in an actual office, but he never practiced law as a profession. Instead, he devoted his energies to the world of commerce and in some measure, to local and state politics. He was quite successful in his real estate business and amassed a small fortune. He was married to Anna Brooke and they had five children, one of whom preserved his father’s name.

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James Benjamin Sclater, Jr. (1847-1882)

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Another V.M.I. cadet was James Benjamin Sclater, Jr. Sclater was born in Orange County, Virginia, on July 19, 1847, the son of James Benjamin and Harriet (Wharton) Sclater. Soon after his birth, his father moved to Richmond, where for many years, he was in the general mercantile brokerage business. The son attended for a time the Cabell School in the Virginia Piedmont. In March 1864, at the age of seventeen, he entered the Virginia Military Institute when that institution had been moved from Lexington to Richmond, where the cadets were in active war service in the defense of Richmond. In April 1865, Sclater was paroled from the Cadet Battalion by order of Union Army officers, after Lee’s army had evacuated Richmond.

Sclater entered the University of Virginia, where he remained for two years. Although he was later known to his friends as “Doc,” he did not receive a degree in medicine at the University and never practiced that profession. He did, however, devote much of his time to his medical studies and is recorded as having done distinguished work. He lived in Room 43, which he shared with another Founder, Robertson Howard. For a time he engaged in the drug business in Charlotte, North Carolina. He then settled in Richmond and the directory of that city lists him as a clerk, presumably in his father’s business, from 1870 until his death in 1882.

Because his father insisted that he further his education, Wood, at eighteen, entered V.M.I. on January 9, 1862, from Hickory Groves, Norfolk County, Virginia.

 

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Julian Edward Wood (1844-1911)

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Of all the Founders, perhaps the most famed in legend is Julian Edward Wood. The son of William Edward and Sophia Marchant (Trotman) Wood, Wood was born May 3, 1844, in Currituck County in eastern North Carolina, not far from the site of the ill-fated Raleigh colony on Roanoke Island. His father, a practicing physician, later lived at Hampton and in Norfolk, Virginia. At Hampton, his home was the site of the present Hampton Institute. Most of the son’s early life was therefore spent around Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Even before he entered V.M.I., Wood was eager for military action. Although only of high school age, he volunteered for service in the Confederate Army – he was among the first of the volunteers. He was assigned to drilling troops from his native eastern North Carolina as early as June 1861, and he spent the rest of that year as a drill master; letters to his family portray an eagerness to see military action.

Because his father insisted that he further his education, Wood, at eighteen, entered V.M.I. on January 9, 1862, from Hickory Groves, Norfolk County, Virginia. His father’s occupation was listed as “farming”. His cadetship extended over a period of two years and ten months at V.M.I., where he was given the nickname Ajax because of his size and prowess.

 

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Littleton Waller Tazewell (1848-1918)


Founder Littleton Waller Tazewell, a cousin of Founder Taylor, was born in Norfolk on July 16, 1848, the son of Edmund and Anne Elizabeth (Tazewell) Bradford. Founder Tazewell’s name was changed from Bradford to Tazewell when the Virginia legislature gave him permission to adopt the name of his distinguished grandfather, Littleton Waller Tazewell, who was governor of Virginia and one of the state’s most revered leaders in nineteenth century politics, but who had no male heir. This change was made after Founder Tazewell’s days at the Virginia Military Institute and at the University of Virginia, where records show him as “T. Bradford” or “L.W.T. Bradford”.

Tazewell was educated first at Norfolk Academy; then he was sent to be a cadet at V.M.I. on February 6, 1865, and he was assigned to the class of 1868. At this time, V.M.I. had been moved from Lexington to Richmond. His cadetship lasted only two months, until April 1865, when the corps was disbanded as Federal troops moved on Richmond and the capture of the Confederate capital was imminent. The cadets were directed to escape the best way possible. Tazewell escaped in a canal boat and took refuge with relatives further up the James River.

Tazewell entered the University of Virginia prior to his five co-founders. He was to share Room 47 with his cousin, Taylor. At the University he studied medicine but for some reason gave up his studies and entered business in Norfolk.

For almost a half a century, Tazewell was active in business and civic life in the city of Norfolk. His 

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Robertson Howard (1847-1899)

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Robertson Howard was born December 11, 1847, the son of Flodoardo R. and Lydia Maria (Robertson) Howard, in Brookeville, Maryland.

His mother was of solid Quaker stock, which has contributed much to American life. His father was a descendant of the family of Howards, who were of royalty, prominent for years in England in romance and in politics. The Maryland branch of the Howard family was very influential in the colonial period and is still prominent. The name has been preserved in one of the best-known counties of the state and Howard Street is an important Baltimore thoroughfare

Young Howard was educated in the old Brookeville Academy, which had been founded in 1808 by his ancestors. About the time the Civil War broke out, Dr. Flodoardo R. Howard, the father of Robertson, moved to Washington, where he purchased the site now occupied by Washington’s largest department store. Here the father had his office during the stirring years of the War and it was just across the street from this office that Lincoln’s assassination took place at Ford’s Theater on the night of April 14, 1865.

Since young Howard was of Quaker stock, he probably took no active part in the Civil War on either side, though he did hospital work among wounded or disabled soldiers during the War.

Since young Howard was of Quaker stock, he probably took no active part in the Civil War on either side, though he did hospital work among wounded or disabled soldiers during the War.

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William Alexander (1848-1937)

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William Alexander was the youngest of the new group of Pi Kappa Alpha Founders. Like Tazewell, he had an unusually distinguished ancestry on both sides of his family. He paternal grandfather was Archibald Alexander, one of America’s most eloquent preachers as well as one of her greatest theologians, president of Hampden-Sydney College and founder of Princeton Seminary. On his mother’s side, William Alexander was related to the Cabells, one of whom was Jefferson’s lieutenant in the founding of the University of Virginia.

Alexander was born in New York on September 5, 1848, the son of the eminent theologian, James Waddell Alexander. His mother was of the Cabell family of Charlotte County, Virginia. Although born in New York, Alexander was registered at the University of Virginia and his preparatory work had been done in a Virginia school. During the Civil War period, he had lived for a time in England with his mother, his father having died in 1859

While attending the University, young Alexander lived in the house of his uncle, Dr. James L. Cabell, who was for years one of Virginia’s most distinguished professors of medicine. His bedroom adjoined that of his uncle, and this close contact, added to that with his medical friends in the Fraternity, might have aroused his interest in the study of medicine. However, after three years of study devoted chiefly to the classics, mathematics and philosophy, Alexander, like Taylor and Tazewell, was attracted to the opportunities offered in the field of business.