On the occasion of Chi Omega’s 10th anniversary in April of 1905, Dr. Richardson commented, “Chi Omega stands today the peer of any of her rivals, having accomplished, as I believe, more in her short life than any other organization of this character. No one of you, Chi Omegas, is prouder of your Fraternity and her splendid achievements than your ‘One Brother.’ Chi Omega has an assured future. She is in the hands of wise, capable and conservative officers, her membership is loyal and enthusiastic.”
If only Sis Doc could attend our 125th anniversary…
Dr. Charles Richardson was born on January 8, 1864, in Rich Valley, Virginia. Before he became a beloved Founder, he attended Emory and Henry College where he was a Kappa Sigma. Then, he graduated with a dental degree from Vanderbilt University.
After graduation, Dr. Richardson moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he practiced dentistry. As he was settling into his new city, he noticed there were no fraternities at the University of Arkansas. Reflecting on the important role Fraternal life played in his own college days, Dr. Richardson became instrumental in founding a Kappa Sigma chapter on campus. After their founding, he remained highly involved in student affairs, focusing on the advancement of Greek life at the University of Arkansas.
During this time, it was common for men and women to gather in the home of a friend on Sunday afternoons to socialize over snacks and singing. Dr. Richardson frequently visited the Vincenheller boarding house during his Sunday social hours, and it didn’t take long for Ina May Boles and Jean Vincenheller to approach him with the idea of starting a women’s fraternity.
Dr. Richardson was flattered that the women trusted him enough to request his help. His passion for Fraternity life and expertise in creating the structure around the organizations made him highly influential in the Founding of Chi Omega.
Dr. Richardson at the 1924 Convention with delegates Dr. Richardson reading The Owl at the 1920 Convention
He constructed the Ritual and Constitution by rooting everything in Greek mythology. He created the first badge at his office out of dental gold and helped to construct policies and standards that guided the women as they fostered their Sisterhood.
Dr. Richardson was quickly made an honorary member, wearing the badge, taking on the nickname of “Sis Doc,” and attending meetings and Conventions. He regularly wore a watch fob with a Kappa Sigma badge on one side and a miniature Chi Omega badge on the other.
In addition to his notoriety among Chi Omegas, his local popularity only grew when he became the first to own a car in Fayetteville, a 1908 Ford Model N Runabout. He would often take the Psi Sisters for rides around town!
Even more, he was a Mason, served as a National Officer of Kappa Sigma, and editor of the Fayetteville Gazette. He passed on December 22, 1924, having never married or had children, but often recognized his friends in Chi Omega as his Sisters. In honor of the Centennial in 1995, tribute was paid at his gravesite for all that he contributed to the Fraternity.
The Legacy of Sis Doc
When Dr. Charles Richardson was posthumously inducted into Kappa Sigma’s prestigious Hall of Honor during the 2019 Grand Conclave, National Archivist Lyn Harris and S.H. Shelley Potter were invited to attend this momentous occasion. The invitation to this especially momentous 150th-anniversary celebration of Kappa Sigma spurred a frenzy of research surrounding Dr. Richardson, and from that research, a new development of his family tree was uncovered!
A great-nephew, Guy Adamson, living in Richmond, Virginia, was found and contacted. Even more exciting, Guy is a Kappa Sigma from Wofford College and had no idea about his famous uncle! Guy was invited to attend the Grand Conclave and was present for the induction of his great uncle into the Kappa Sigma Hall of Honor.
When speaking of Chi Omega’s Founding, Dr. Richardson often said he “desired to make Chi Omega radically distinctive and not a copy of similar institutions.” With his impressive track record and intentional contributions to the Fraternity, Dr. Richardson helped to establish Chi Omega to be anything but a copy.