Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. has served Troup County for nearly five decades

Published 9:30 am Friday, February 17, 2023

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On Jan. 16, 1920, five women — Arizona Cleaver Stemons, Pearl Anna Neal, Myrtle Tyler Faithful, Viola Tyler Goings and Fannie Pettie Watts — gathered at Howard University to begin what would be known as the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.

For over 100 years, the sorority known for its dedication to academics, service and sisterhood, has opened doors for women to succeed.

In LaGrange, the Zeta’s vision continues through a local graduate chapter called Theta Xi Zeta.

Chapter President Eldra Gillam said the chapter was started on May 26, 1976, by Marjorie Woods.

“She had graduated from Albany State University and wanted to start a chapter here when she came home from school,” Gilliam said. “She contacted her Albany State adviser and Reginal Director Dr. Eunice Thomas, who came up to LaGrange and helped her form the Theta Xi Zeta chapter.”

Gilliam said the chapter began with 10 women — Woods, Lois Baker, Lillie Bonner, Phreddye Broome, Ethel Kight, Voncile Jackson, Willie Mae Jackson, Elizabeth Scott, Allison Williams and Wanda Williams.

In the community the Zetas are a part of many service projects and events, including the MLK Parade, March of Dimes, and has been known to “adopt” local elementary schools, daycares and nursing homes.

“We have focused a great deal on our service in here in Troup County and adopted three schools this year,” Gilliam said. “This year we have adopted Breta Weathersbee Elementary, Ethel Kight Elementary and West Point Elementary. We made baskets filled with school supplies and plan on refilling it up when they become low.”

Gilliam said to be a part of a historic sorority and being able to give back to the community feels rewarding.

“It makes you feel good to be a part of an organization that is focused on scholarship, service, sisterhood — anybody can wear these letters but is not the letters that you wear it’s the service that you do when you represent those letters,” Gilliam said. “It is very rewarding to know that I can help empower someone, not as an individual but as Zeta Phi Beta.”

Sorority Treasurer Samantha Thomaston said when she joined the sorority in 1987, she wanted to do something new and to make a difference. At the time, she was a student at University of West Georgia, and there wasn’t an official chapter on campus.

“My aunt, who was a State Director for Zeta, exposed me to Greek life and taught me what they stood for. While she never pushed it, hearing the stories made me want to join,” Thomaston said.

Chapter member, Yvonne Pittman, who joined in 1992 said she joined because of charter member Phreddye Broome.

“Phreddye was like another mother to me and encouraged me to join. They were always doing good things in the community, and I liked being a part of an organization doing good for the community,” Pittman said.

Gilliam, who joined in 1982, said she was the first Greek in her immediate family.

“When I joined, I was attending Valdosta State University and came in with wrong perspective. I came in expecting to step and go to parties all the time,” Gilliam said. “They told us you can wear your letters, but we’re first and foremost about service. They introduced me to service and taught me how important it was to do service in the community. I learned quickly being a Zeta was more than just the labels, it was about service and what we could do for the community.”

Gilliam and Thomaston said as members of a Divine 9, or historically Black sorority, they see other sororities and fraternities as family.

“We’re nothing without each other,” Gilliam said.

“One of the things I love to say is that even though we each have our own uniqueness, when it comes down to it, we will come together for any cause — like a big family,” Thomaston said.