‘What I’m most proud of’: Kappa Alpha Psi sponsor comes home after 53 years

This story originally appeared in the Herald’s homecoming news magazine edition, published on Oct. 24.

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Allie Schallert

Professor emeritus Craig Taylor poses for a portrait on WKU’s campus in Bowling Green on Oct. 7, 2022. Taylor was approached by a student, Howard Bailey, in 1967 to be the advisor for the Kappa Q Club, which in helped form the first two black fraternities at WKU, Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi. “I’ve done a lot of things in my time here,” Taylor said. “But this is the thing I’m most proud of.”

La'Quan Richardson, News reporter

The year is 1967. Craig Taylor, a 28-year-old member of staff in WKU’s criminology and sociology department, is about to take a chance that will lay the groundwork for Black Greek Letter Organizations on campus for years to come.

A few things were taking place behind the scenes in an effort to bring more “Divine Nine” fraternities and sororities – Greek organizations that came to fruition at Historically Black Colleges and Universities – to campus.

At that point, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated was the only Divine Nine organization that had been established on the Hill. In the spring of 1967, a group of students came together to form the “Kappa Q Club” that represented the interests of Divine Nine organizations Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi.

The students were told they had to have a probationary club for one year before they could charter a fraternity on campus.

In order to do that, they needed a sponsor; enter Taylor, a white professor on a predominantly white teaching staff.

“In the late 1960s, the band was still playing ‘Dixie’ at ballgames and there were still a lot of Confederate flags around. It was a different world,” Taylor said.

When Howard Bailey attended WKU in the mid 1960s, he went through “rush” with a few fraternities on campus. “It was pretty obvious that the present Greek organizations weren’t interested in having Black brothers in their chapter,” Bailey said. “So we decided we’d start our own.” (Allie Schallert)

Howard Bailey was a member of the Kappa Q Club. When the students got to the part of the fraternity application that required a faculty advisor, Taylor immediately came to mind.

“I said, ‘Well, there’s Dr. Taylor in sociology’, and we already noticed that the faculty in the sociology department were much more receptive and conscious of race, which you would expect,” Bailey said. “So we decided, ‘let’s see, Dr. Taylor – I’ll ask him.”

Bailey had previously been a student of both Taylor and his wife, Pat, and had already built somewhat of a relationship with them through pure coincidence.

After Bailey brought the idea to Taylor’s attention, he asked Pat what she thought. Pat, a faculty member in WKU’s English department, was very supportive of the notion.

“She could have said ‘no’ for a lot of reasons, but she said it’s the right thing to do,” Taylor said.

With Pat’s endorsement, Taylor signed off as the sponsor of the club, paving the way for the two fraternities to join campus in 1969. Bailey was on the First line of Kappa Alpha Psi, also known as the “Nasty 19”, and Taylor served as an advisor for the chapter for a while.

“If Craig Taylor hadn’t said ‘yes’, I don’t know where history would have taken us,” Bailey said. “After we got chartered, we went to Murray State and helped them get a chapter; we went to Morehead, we went to five or six schools […] if Craig Taylor hadn’t made that decision, all of that may not have happened.”

Craig Taylor and Howard Bailey shown together after Taylor officially joined Kappa Alpha Psi in the spring of 2022, 53 years after the chapter was established on the Hill. (Provided by Howard Bailey)

Taylor grew close with many members of the fraternity and would even have thoughts of joining the organization himself, but had to sideline the idea due to other circumstances in his life.

Bailey said there were multiple times Taylor told him he thought he would join, but the birth of a child, the strenuous tenure process and Pat’s passing prevented him from achieving the dream.

“He had those kinds of setbacks going on, but was always interested in becoming a member of Kappa Alpha Psi,” Bailey said.

Finally, in the spring of 2022 at the age of 81, Taylor officially pledged Kappa Alpha Psi and became a member just 53 years after the chapter was founded.

“I’ve told Howard [Bailey] and everybody else that’ll listen, that of all the things that I’ve accomplished in my fifty-some years here, this is what I’m most proud of,” Taylor said. “[…] I’m glad that Howard asked me and I was glad I was able to help. I’ve really enjoyed watching the organization, watching it grow.”

News reporter La’Quan Richardson can be reached at [email protected]