History of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity




"Alpha Tau Omega holds before the young men of the country an ideal and something greater than a mere intellectual ideal. Alpha Tau Omega stands for heart as well as head. It has given men a true ideal of life."

-Otis Allan Glazebrook


Alpha Tau Omega began as an idea in the mind of a young Civil War veteran who wanted peace and reconciliation. His name was Otis Allan Glazebrook. His people were defeated, many of their cities burned, much of their countryside ravaged. But Glazebrook, who had helped bury the dead of both sides, believed in a better future. He saw the bitterness and hatred that followed the silencing of the guns and knew that a true peace would come not from force of law, but rather from with the hearts of men who were willing to work to rekindle a spirit of brotherly love.

    Glazebrook, deeply religious at age 19, believed that younger men like himself might be more willing to accept, forgive, and reunite with the Northern counterparts if motivated by Christian, brotherly love. But he needed an organization, a means of gathering and organizing like-minded people.

    In Richmond, Glazebrook consulted with University of Virginia alumni who furnished further information concerning fraternities. He discovered that they were not Greek in name only, but Greek throughout. Their mottoes, besides being written in Greek, reflected Greek ideals. Greek philosophy, sometimes tinged with the medieval mysteries and Masonic lore, waste the cultural ideal of the fraternities.

    The name came spontaneously. He remembered the ancient insignia of the Church, the Tau Cross subjoined by Alpha and Omega. "Alpha" and "Omega" signify to the Christian absolute plenitude or perfection. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." Joined with the Cross the whole signifies that Christ is all in all, the beginning and end of salvation.

    Having projected a Christian fraternity and appropriated a distinctively Christian symbol for its name, the Cross naturally was its logical emblem. In the center he inscribed a crescent, three stars, the Tau Cross and clasped hands. Upon the upper and lower vertical arms he placed the Greek letters for Alpha and Omega and upon the horizontal arms, the Omega and Alpha letters respectively.

    On September 11, 1865, Glazebrook invited two close friends, Alfred Marshall and Erskine Mayo Ross, to his home at 114 East Clay Street in Richmond, Virginia. There, in the rear parlor, he read them the Constitution he had written and invited them to sign. As they did, Alpha Tau Omega was born. It was the first fraternity founded after the Civil War, and the first sign of Greek life in the old Confederacy.


Glazebrook had chosen his co-founders well. Alfred Marshall, a friend of Glazebrook's from boyhood, was first captain of the VMI Cadet Corps and a popular individual. He was the spirited man of the trio, the man of action, the one most likely to attract new members. Erskine Mayo Ross, who ultimately became a federal judge, gave a sense of order to the meeting. He could curb the sometimes reckless energies of Marshall without dampening the charge of Glazebrook's ideas. The three formed a well-balanced group.



Courtesy of the ATΩ National Website