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Roy Wilkins 


August 30, 1901 – September 8, 1981


Xi chapter’s most notable member, Roy Wilkins was born in Mississippi and spent the first few years of his life in St. Louis, Missouri. It was at 5 years old when he came to St. Paul Minnesota, along with his brother Earl and sister Armeda, to be raised by an aunt and an uncle. The death of his mother from tuberculosis prompted the move northward.


Wilkins matriculated to the University of Minnesota from Mechanical Arts High School. It was at Mechanical Arts High where Wilkins’ literary career began. He was selected editor of the school’s magazine, a distinction that won him a mention in The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP, published in New York and edited by the famed W.E.B. Du Bois. Wilkins graduated class salutatorian in 1919 and enrolled at the University of Minnesota to major in journalism, with the intent on pursuing a career in writing.


Wilkins continued to excel at the University of Minnesota. He was a leader among the black students, often spearheading a series of student-led community forums at the Hallie Q. Brown House. During the spring of his sophomore year he became a charter member of the Xi Chapter of Omega Psi Fraternity, Incorporated in May 1921, where he served as the first chapter Basileus. Roy broke major ground while on the University of Minnesota campus. He was the first black student to become a reporter for he Minnesota Daily, the student-run newspaper. He was the first and only black student to participate in the school’s prestigious annual Pillsbury Oratorical Contest, winning third place. Wilkins also won the coveted Phi Beta Kappa key denoting his prowess as a scholar. After his graduation from the University in 1923, Wilkins would spend just one more year in the Twin Cities, working as a journalist at The Minnesota Daily and serving as editor for the longstanding local black newspaper, The Appeal.


Wilkins briefly worked in Kansas City, Missouri as an editor for the local black newspaper, The Call, before Walter White, whom Wilkins would ultimately succeed as executive secretary of the NAACP, asked him to come work for the organization in New York City in 1931. Three years later, he was named acting editor of The Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP, succeeding W.E.B. Du Bois. In 1955, Wilkins was named executive secretary (the title was later changed to executive director in 1964) of the NAACP. In 1964, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP for his outstanding achievements.


Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s Wilkins was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement. During his tenure, the NAACP led the nation into the Civil Rights movement and Wilkins spearheaded the efforts that organized the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and the March Against Fear in 1966. His diligent leadership and commitment to achieving reform by legislative means led to significant civil rights victories, including Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


In 1977, at the age of 76, Wilkins retired from the NAACP and was succeeded by a fellow Omega Psi Phi brother, Benjamin Hooks. Roy Wilkins died on September 8, 1981 in New York City due to kidney failure and heart issues. On the day Wilkins entered Omega chapter, President Ronald Reagan requested to have all government flags flown at half-staff signifying the impact Wilkins had in shaping the country. 



Roy Wilkins’ legacy can be felt throughout the twin cities and the University of Minnesota. In 1985 the St. Paul Auditorium was renamed The Roy Wilkins Auditorium in his honor. The Roy Wilkins Centre for Human Relations and Human Justice was established in the University of Minnesota's Humphrey 


Institute of Public Affairs in 1992. Roy Wilkins Hall, a four-story co-ed housing hall on the University of Minnesota’s campus was built in 1996. In 2001 the U.S Postal Service honored Wilkins with his own stamp in its Black Heritage Stamp Series.

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