Kappa Alpha Order (known as Kappa Alpha, KA, or The Order) is a social fraternity and a fraternal order founded in 1865 at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. As of December 2015, the Kappa Alpha Order lists 133 active chapters, five provisional chapters, and 52 suspended chapters. Along with Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Nu, the order represents a third of the Lexington Triad. Since its establishment in 1865, The Order has initiated more than 150,000 members.
Kappa Alpha Order was founded as Phi Kappa Chi on December 21, 1865, at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. James Ward Wood, William Archibald Walsh, and brothers William Nelson Scott and Stanhope McClelland Scott are the founders of the fraternity. Soon after the founding, the local Virginia Beta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi protested the name "Phi Kappa Chi", due to the similarity of the names, leading Wood to change the name of the fraternity to K.A. by April 1866. Within one year, the order's ritual would be expanded upon by Samuel Zenas Ammen, who was dubbed the "practical founder". In the years that followed, the fraternity spread throughout the Southern United States, as well as other states such as California, Arizona and New Mexico.
KA is one-third of the Lexington Triad, along with Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Nu. The founders listed Robert E. Lee's chivalry and gentlemanly conduct as an inspiration. At the 1923 Convention, Lee was designated as the "Spiritual Founder" of the Order by John Temple Graves.
The Kappa Alpha Order National Administrative Office is located at Mulberry Hill, in Lexington, Virginia. It is documented that Mulberry Hill is where Robert E. Lee spent his first night in Lexington, after arriving to take over as president of Washington College. Mulberry Hill is a Virginia Historic Landmark, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The offices for the Kappa Alpha Order Educational Foundation are also housed there.
The Number I's Leadership Institute (Number 1 is the title of the chapter president) is an intensive informational and educational retreat for chapter presidents. The retreat is held at a Christian conference center.
Established in 1982, the Kappa Alpha Order Educational Foundation (KAOEF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The Foundation provides grants for educational programs of the fraternity, such as the National Leadership Institute and Province Councils, and provides scholarships to graduate and undergraduate students. KAOEF funds these programs with donations contributed by KA alumni.
The Kappa Alpha Journal (or KA Journal) is the fraternity's magazine. It has been published since 1879. Members of the Kappa Alpha Order are entitled to a free subscription to The KA Journal if initiated within the last ten years, or are a member of The Loyal Order. Members initiated between 1936 and 1951 are given a lifetime subscription to the publication.
The Loyal Order is an alumni program for the Kappa Alpha Order. The national office uses the money from Loyal Order memberships to help defray the cost of distributing the KA Journal, as well as other alumni resources.
The colors of The Order are traditionally Crimson and Old Gold. The colors represent the blood sacrificed (crimson red) and the money spent (old gold) in defense of the country. The flowers of the Order are the crimson rose and the magnolia blossom. The crimson rose represents masculine might and the white magnolia blossom represents purity.
The flowers of the order and a ribbon featuring the order's motto adorn the bottom of the crest. The crest itself is representative of several things; the hand holding the axe represents the continuing power of the Knight Commander and of the order. The Helmet was, at one time, a symbol used by the Knight Commander of the Order. The badge is featured at the center of the crest, and the lions on either side represent different things each. The lion on the left, looking away, symbolizes "rampant", meaning magnanimous. The lion on the right, looking towards you, symbolizes "regardent", which means cautious or circumspect.
The fraternity has been criticized for identification with the Confederacy and other forms of racism. In November 2002, the Zeta Psi and Kappa Alpha Order chapters at the University of Virginia were suspended and subsequently cleared after the fraternities held a Halloween party where a few guests were photographed wearing blackface and dressed up as Uncle Sam and Venus and Serena Williams.
In 2009, Kappa Alpha Order at the University of Alabama was criticized for wearing Confederate uniforms for an "Old South" parade that passed by an African-American sorority house celebrating its 35th anniversary. The organization apologized for any offense that might have been caused. Kappa Alpha Order on other campuses, including Auburn, Centenary College, Mississippi State University, and the University of Georgia had already ceased to wear Confederate uniforms in public following complaints from students. The national organization banned the wearing of Confederate uniforms to its "Old South" parades in 2010, although video from 2012 showed the uniforms still being worn.
In April 2016, the fraternity's Tulane chapter in New Orleans, Louisiana, constructed a sand-bag wall around its house that contained spray-painted slogans in reference to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall between the US and Mexico. The chapter said that the wall had been built for an annual "capture the flag" game and that the pro-Trump slogans were satirical and not in support of the candidate or his message. Some students protested that the wall was offensive and anti-immigrant or anti-Latino. The wall was later forcefully dismantled, allegedly in part by members of the Tulane football team.
In 1997, a former pledge at Texas A&M University had to have a testicle surgically removed due to a fraternity member giving him a "super wedgie." This same year a pet goat was shot and killed with a gun in front of pledges at the fraternity's chapter house. One fraternity member was indicted for the incident.
In 2011, the chapter at Georgetown College was suspended by the national office of the fraternity after several members shouted racial slurs at a minority student on campus. The national office also issued a public apology on behalf of the chapter.
In 2011, an investigation was started after a frat member fired a shotgun inside the University of Texas at Austin's chapterhouse. Following claims by the fraternity that the chapter had hazed pledges, hired adult performers for multiple live sex shows, and broken other fraternity rules, the fraternity suspended the chapter for one year. The chapter refuted the hazing allegation as minor and unsupported by evidence, and broke-ties with the national organization, forming a new fraternity, Texas Omicron. Kappa Alpha Order then sued Texas Omicron, unsuccessfully, for dues and other monies, as well as furnishings from the chapter house.
In 2015, Jonathan Ford, the son of Alabama State Representative Craig Ford and a former football recruit at Birmingham-Southern College, sued the fraternity for hazing and injuries he says he sustained while pledging which resulted in his football career ending prematurely.
In 2015 the fraternity chapter at Virginia Wesleyan College was suspended for at least four years by the national organization. An investigation by the school determined that hazing had occurred in violation of school policy, but that it was not criminal.
In 2016, the chapter at the University of Missouri was placed on suspension and investigation after a freshman pledging was hospitalized due to a hazing incident that involved drinking excessive amounts of alcohol to validate his manhood.
In 2016, the fraternity chapter at the College of Charleston was closed after the chapter president and other members were arrested for being involved in a major off-campus drug ring. The fraternity was also accused of drugging and taking sexual advantage of several young women who attended their parties.
In 2017, the fraternity chapter at Southern Methodist University was suspended for four years (until 2021) and members living in the chapter house were forced to evacuate the premises for hazing pledges in the spring. The hazing found, according to the university: “paddling; servitude required of new members; forcing new members to consume alcohol; forcing new members to participate in calisthenics; forcing new members to consume food items such as jalapeños, habaneros, red onions, and milk until vomiting was induced; forcing new members to wear clothing soiled with vomit; sleep deprivation; ‘underground membership.'”