As World War II began to come to a close in late 1945, millions of soldiers began the demobilization back to the United States. Many of these young men began to plan for their futures and with the new Services Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI bill, these soldiers now had the tuition funds to attend school. A group of these men began to attend Sam Houston State Teachers College and longed for the brotherhood they felt from the military.
The current social club at Sam Houston, The Esquires, were mostly made up of non-military men and the below comment by a member of the future Ravens, showed their dislike.
“Members of the Esquires considered themselves a cut or two above everybody else. Non-members of their club were considered unwashed peons and unworthy of notice. Now, I don’t know whether this was true or just jealousy bubbling to the surface. In any event, that was the prevailing opinion.”
So a large group of friends decided Sam Houston needed a new club and decided to start their own. In 1948 they approached the Dean of Men to discuss the possibility of starting their own club. They discussed several names, but their new Faculty Adviser suggested the Ravens, in reference to the name the Cherokee Indians had given their adopted son, Sam Houston The Cherokee believed the Raven possessed magical powers including shape shifting.
This new group of men enthusiastically adopted this new name and in 1948 the Corvines (French for Raven) Social Club was born. Their purpose was “To promote friendliness and loyalty among the student body”. In 1949 the name was changed to Ravens as they kept having to explain what Corvine meant. Active on campus, they annually held the Raven Frontier Ball on March 2 to commemorate the birthday of the Raven, General Sam Houston. Read the Speech by one of the founding member of the Raven’s Nat Gibbs.
Each young man attending Sam Houston was required to undergo 2 years in the ROTC program, which at the time was the second largest in the State of Texas, only behind Texas A&M. In 1948, the Selected Services Act was passed which continued the draft when specific volunteer recruitment levels could not be met. The Korean War, or technically a Police Action, as no one involved ever declared war began on June 25, 1950 and ended on July 27, 1953. Approximately 1.5 million men were drafted along with another 1.3 million who volunteered. The end of the Korean War again brought a large contingent of military men to Sam Houston to utilize the GI Bill and membership into Ravens expanded.
The Ravens moved into their first home 1951 at the corner of 15th St. & Avenue K (now University), ironically this first home is only two blocks away from their final home, just built at 15th and Avenue I. Because Walker County was dry, they burnt up the roads between Huntsville and Trinity trying to quench their thirst, and keep Sam Houston wet as best they could.
In 1959, the Social Clubs began to look into affiliating with Greek Counterparts as started by the female social clubs which went Greek in April of 1959. In 59′ the four Men’s social clubs, Caballeros (Sigma Chi), Don’s (Alpha Tau Omega), Esquires (Delta Tau Delta) and Ravens each began a process to identify a Greek counterpart to associate with. Kappa Alpha Order with its military history seemed a natural fit for the Raven’s. In 1959 the Raven’s began the Fall Rush touting themselves as KA, but were officially chartered on March 5, 1960 when 28 men were initiated into Kappa Alpha Order, but reached 54 by the end of 1960. The KA chapter from the University of Texas at Austin loaned their initiation supplies to complete this first initiation performed by members of the National KA Office, and chapters from SMU and UT Austin. Following the tradition of naming each chapter by the ordering of the Greek Alphabet, The Gamma Tau Chapter of Kappa Alpha Order was born. Gamma Tau is the 85th chapter formed by KA since their inception in 1865. See Article1 Article 2 Founding Officers included Ben Franklin, Bobby Holton, Cabby Carnew, Jasper (JE) Tramonte, Ernest Price, David Stover, Bobby Thompson, Hartley Duncan and Ronald Corn.
The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war began in 1964 with 23,400 troops and increased every year to a high of 536,100 in 1968 when troop levels began to decrease with the last U.S. Combat troops departing on August 23, 1972. From a pool of 27 million men in the U.S., approximately 2.2 million were drafted. The draft essentially ended in early 1973. These returning Veterans again expanded the roles of the Gamma Tau chapter. In 1965 the college was renamed as Sam Houston State College and in 1969 changed to it’s now current name Sam Houston State University. In 1974 Walker County became wet and saved a lot of driving time on Hwy 19.
In early Spring 1991, the little sister program, known as the Southern Belles was discontinued due to existing litigation around court cases involving little sisters programs and their rights to be named as members of fraternities.
In early January 1992 the chapter established the Kappa Alpha Land Fund with Gene Smith (Gamma Tau 68′), John Rabon (Gamma Tau 71′) and Jim Tiller (Gamma Lambda, North Texas 62′), by February the fund contained $3,500. In October of 1992 at Homecoming a discussion was had about starting a Housing Corporation and by December of 1992, John Rabon had made it happen to start the Gamma Tau Housing Corp. These three dedicated brothers began a search to find property for the KA house with the one requirement they had was that the property had to be on a hill or command a presence when looking up from the street. They put down a contract on 3 acres on Bearkat Blvd, between the campus and Loop 19 (next to the prison cemetary), but the contract fell through when they couldn’t get water ran to the site. They were then made aware of the property for sale at the site of the defunct fraternity Alpha Tau Omega. On May 6, 1993 the housing corporation signed the papers purchasing the house for $50,000 and formally took possession on May 15. On May 22-23 a group of 129 Alumnus showed up to help renovate the house under the direction of Gene Smith. Several old Oak trees that have become rotten had to be taken down, much to the chagrin of Huntsville’s Preservation committee. The following semester, a group of hardy young men took up residence in the new house. With the renovations not being completed, they even went without heat for the winter. Alumnus John Rabon later commented “Those KA’s that were true to the cause…endured the harsh times. I would like to think it built hidden character resulting in their success today. Those five individuals who moved into the house and payed rent, helped to keep the Housing corporation afloat when money was scarce”. See below for a picture of the state of the house at it’s purchase.
An adjacent lot that included a small building that was nicknamed the “Batcave” was purchased in 1994 for $41,000, and these two land parcels makeup the location where the current house has been built. The original ATO house was torn down in 2001 and left only the Bat Cave until it was also taken down to begin the building of the current house. The note was paid off in the early 2000’s. The chapter suspended operation at Sam Houston on June 4, 2011, was provisionally reinstated on November 20, 2013 and returned to active status on April 23, 2016. It was recognized that a healthy Active chapter requires a strong alumnus organization and thus the Alumni Chapter was formed to help support the active chapter. Thanks to the support of these dedicated alumni, and those who revived life back into the Housing Corporation, the current Mansion was completed in January 2019. Thanks to the following who in many capacities helped make this a reality, Ronny Snow, Jonathon Green, Mateo Zuniga, Alan Hunter, Alan Burns, Chris Jones, Mark Cochran, Mike Hilliard, Willis Braden, Tim Jeske and Travis Lacox.
Raven and KA Houses across Huntsville (10 houses, 68 Years)
(1951 – 1956) 15th St. & Avenue K (Now University Ave.)
This was the first house by the Ravens and ironically is only 2 blocks down from the now final home that was just built in 2019. We have travelled a long way to not get very far.
(1956 – 1960) 14th St. & Avenue N 1/2
They Ravens stayed in this House until they became the Kappa Alpha Order and moved onto Campus along with all new Greek Fraternities
(1960 – 1976) Bernard Mallon House 1319 17th Street
On Sam Houston campus next to Pritchert Field along with 3 other houses used by the 4 new Greek organizations. Currently used as dormitory for incoming Freshman.
(1976 – 1984) 1019 8th St
Across from Mance Park Middle School. This house certainly had the Southern look but after conflict with the community they chose to find a new location
(1985 – 1986) 1803 Avenue Q
At the corner of Ave Q and 18th St. This was a duplex in which we opened the wall between the two houses to make one big one. Being in the middle of a neighborhood there were too many noise complaints.
(1986-1989) 308 North University Avenue
This was a good house as it was somewhat isolated by shrubbery and had a large yard area with not many neighbors.
(1989-1991) 464 FM 247
House on 6 acres outside of Huntsville. Was a good location and facility, but we finally purchased the current property and moved into the existing house there.
(1992-Current) 905 15th Street (Corner of Avenue I)
This property was purchased with an existing house, and the property next to it was bought a year later which had the “Batcave” building. Eventually the house was torn down in approximately 2002 leaving only the Bat Cave. In 2019 construction was completed on the current home.