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Alpha Rho Brother Charles Vert Willie (Spring 1946) Enters Omega Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha

by BMaynard Scarborough & APCAA Staff

Brother Charles Vert Willie -- educator, sociologist, and Charles William Eliot Professor of Education, Emeritus, at Harvard University -- entered Omega Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. He was 94 years old. News of his passing was shared by fellow Alpha Rho Chapter Alum Brother Richard Oliver Hope (Fall 1958), who was a student, colleague and close friend of Dr. Willie and his family.

Charles Vert Willie was born in Dallas, Texas, on October 8, 1927, the grandson of Louis Willie, a former slave. Willie attended Morehouse College and graduated in 1948. He served as class president in 1948 and also during his 1946 sophomore year. Following graduation, he received a master's degree from Atlanta University and in 1957, he obtained a Ph.D. in sociology at Syracuse University. At Syracuse University, Willie served as chair of the Department of Sociology and Vice President of the University, at a time when African-Americans were not holding such positions. He was then hired by Harvard University in 1974 where he served as the Charles William Eliot Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education.

Pictured above: In 1974, Charles Vert Willie was one of four court-appointed masters who helped develop a plan to desegregate Boston’s public schools, a role he repeated in many other cities. “I still see myself as a sociologist,” he said, “but I steer close to current issues.” (The Harvard Gazette)

Willie was the first African-American professor at Syracuse University, teaching there from 1950 to 1974. He served United States President John F. Kennedy as the Research Director of Washington Action for Youth, a delinquency-prevention planning program in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime from 1962 – 1964. He returned to Syracuse University from 1964 – 1966.

In July 1965 he introduced his Morehouse College classmate and fraternity Brother, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Sigma/Summer 1952) at a speech at Syracuse University. In 1966 – 67, he took leave from Syracuse as a Visiting Lecturer in Sociology at the Harvard Medical School in its Department of Psychiatry as part of the Laboratory of Community Psy