Alpha Phi Zeta History

Our national organization has a page on General Fraternity History.

The Creed
We believe in Lambda Chi Alpha, and its traditions, principles, and ideals. The crescent is our symbol – pure, high, ever growing; and the cross it our guide – denoting service, sacrifice, and even suffering and humiliation before the world, bravely endured if need be, in following that ideal.

The Beginning

The Alpha Phi Zeta began its tenure at the Capstone under the name of “The Iris Club”.  This organization was merely a gentleman’s club made up of eleven men, nine of whom later became our founding fathers.


The Eleven members of the Iris Club

Orville Menees Coston AF 1 from Birmingham, AL,
Ralph Austin Smith AF 2 from Mobile, AL,
Julian Berringer Foster AF 3 from Tuscaloosa, AL,
Garret Hagan AF 4 Birmingham, AL,
Graves William Styles AF 5 from Gurley, AL,
Willis C Royal AF 6 Montgomery, AL,
Sydney William Smyer AF 7 from Birmingham, AL,
Robert Arnold Hamrick AF 8 from Birmingham, AL,
William Henry Beatty AF 9 from Birmingham, AL,
William Vance Weir from Gadsden, AL, and Dudley Fitts from Birmingham, AL

(The later two were not part of the Founding Fathers).

The Iris Club Petition

On March 10, 1917 the Iris Club of the University of Alabama petitioned for a Chapter as a Zeta of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.

Iris Club Petition

Alpha Phi Zeta is Chartered

We received our charter on April 19, 1917. We were installed as Alpha Phi Zeta on May 4, 1917, by the Omega Zeta at Auburn University, and we became the 33rd chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha since 1909. Unlike many Zetas across the country, the Alpha Phi Zeta has weathered wars, economical depressions, and low membership, but we have never shut our doors or been re-colonized in our 99 year history at The Capstone.

Download the Iris Club Petition (PDF).

Alpha Phi Zeta 1918 Composite

Alpha Phi Zeta 1918 Composite

Founding Member Goes to War

Shortly after been installed as the Alpha-Phi Zeta of Lambda Chi Alpha, founder Orville Menees Coston was sent off to World War I.

Orville Menees Coston 

Orville Menees CostonOrville was a Lieutenant in the United States Army on the front lines in France. Just 18 months after seeing the Iris Club’s dream become a reality, AF 1gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

On October 10, 1918, Lt. Orville Menees Coston died in the famous Battle of Argonne Forest in the Argonne Forest, France.  He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, as were over 70 others who fought for our freedom in that battle.  Orville will forever be remembered for laying the foundation for what we have become today.




Our First House

Alpha Phi Zeta's First HouseIn 1919, we moved into our first house.  The house was donated to the Alpha Phi Zeta by Willis C Royal’s mother, and was located on Queen City Boulevard, at the sight of the old Union Building.  This house belonged to a family before it was ours.  It was a modest two-level house with three bedrooms, one kitchen, and a sitting room.

Alpha Phi Zeta's First House - 1921

Our First House – 1921

Alpha Phi Zeta's First House - 1922

Our First House – 1922


Cross and Crescent Article – May, 1947


Our Second House

Alpha Phi Zeta Luau - 1947In 1930, we moved into our second house, which is often referred to as “The Mansion”.  It was a four level brick structure which was located at 729 10th Avenue where the parking lot is located behind the Delta Kappa Epsilon house.

The cost of the house was $20,000.  In 1954, we made additions to this house. We added six more bedrooms and a larger, more efficient kitchen.  These were added to the back of the house.  It is rumored that “Yea Alabama” was first played on the piano in this house.

It was during the years we were living in this house that we began our most loved tradition: Luau.  In 1947, the Alpha Phi Zeta had its first Luau.  Brother Samuel B. Abston Alpha Phi 291and others who served in the South Pacific during World War II are responsible for bring the Luau tradition home to the Alpha Phi Zeta.


Alpha Phi Zeta Moves to New Row

Alpha Phi Zeta's Current House

Alpha Phi Zeta’s Current House

In 1970, we moved into our third and present house. The house was purchase for $140,000 from Pi Epsilon Phi fraternity when they merged with the ZBT fraternity. Pi Epsilon Phi was a Jewish fraternity, and therefore, the house had a temple when we moved in.

In 1974, the house was remodeled at the cost of $10,000. The temple was removed and the foyer and dinning room were remodeled. In 1982, by the efforts of the current house corporation president, James Louis Rosenfeld, AF 853the third deck was remodeled at the cost of $10,000. The remodeled consisted of a new study room, High Zeta room, and Room 17.

The High Zeta room was dedicated in the recognition of Dr. Richard Alfred Krause EO 602for his loyal and unselfish devotion to the Alpha-Phi Zeta. Doctor Krause served as High PI and Faculty advisor from 1981 until 1993. The last major renovation of the house was in 1984, when the “Tube Room” was severely burned in a fire.  The renovation cost $15,000 which included new furniture, walnut refinished walls, and a built-in trophy case.

Alpha Phi Zeta’s Prisoner of War

In the 1970’s the brothers of Alpha-Phi Zeta suffered personal loss and great joy from a brother that found his way home.

On April 24, 1973, the brothers of the Alpha-Phi Zeta celebrated the home coming of Richard Henry McDow AF 705.  Brother McDow was a POW during the Vietnam War and the May 1973, Cross and Crescent article tells about this magnificent home coming.

Cross and Crescent Article

Cross and Crescent Article

Larry Glen Elrod

In May of 1978, the current High Alpha Larry Glen Elrod AF 908, was killed in an automobile accident five months into his term. To honor Brother Elrod the Alpha Phi Zeta dedicated “The Larry Glen Elrod President’s Plaque” which holds his presidential gavel. The plaque keeps a running list of High Alpha since this tragedy and is inscribed with the words “When He Walked With Us, He Led Us With His Wisdom. Where He Walks Now, He Leads Us With His Spirit.”

Ralph Austin Smith 

Ralph Austin Smith

Ralph Austin Smith

In 1988, the Alpha Phi Zeta lost its last living Founding Father.

On December 15, 1988, Brother Ralph Austin Smith, AF 2, of Sanford, Florida, died at the age of 91. Not only did Brother Smith help to establish the Alpha Phi Zeta at the University of Alabama, he also went on to server as Grand High Tau of the National Fraternity. The following is a copy of Brother Smith’s obituary.









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