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Records of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, 1968

Founded in 1902, Phi Alpha Delta is the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the United States with over 300,000 initiated members to date, approximately one in every six attorneys in the U.S. It was the first law fraternity to admit members of all races, creeds, colors, religions and national origins, as well as the first fraternity to admit women, which took place in September of 1970 with the admission of Anna Carolyn Fox Hinds of McReynolds Chapter.

Phi Alpha Delta was founded due to the Supreme Court’s November 4, 1897 decision to adopt a rule for admission to the Illinois Bar which seriously affected students who were then preparing for admission. To protect their rights, the students formed the “Law Student League” to secure the passage of an act by the Illinois Legislature exempting the students then studying for the bar from certain requirements of the rule. The Illinois Supreme Court refused to recognize the exemptions, and a test case was brought directly to the Supreme Court of Illinois (in re Application of Henry M. Day, et al, 181 ILL. 73). The League then formed the Lambda Epsilon Fraternity in 1898. Two chapters were formed at its inception, the Kent Chapter which was established in October 1898 at Kent College of Law, and the Blackstone Chapter which was established in February 1899 at the Chicago College of Law. The two chapters merged in early 1899 when Kent College of Law was consolidated with Chicago College of Law, becoming the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The singular chapter was henceforth known as the Blackstone Chapter.

Chicago-Kent students involved in the formation of Phi Alpha Delta were Thomas P. Octigan (1903), Shelley B. Neltnor (1898), Arthur C. Ford (Chicago College of Law class of 1897), Henry J. Frercks (1899), Noel B. Palmer (1899), Frederick Mercer (1901). Ford initially began meeting with Asahel W. Gage, another law student and fellow member of the Phi Gamma Delta social fraternity, and the two began inviting other law students to their informal meetings. Upon the adoption of Rule 39 and subsequent formation of the Law Student League and Lambda Epsilon, the first convention was held on Monday, December 4, 1899 at Sherman House in Chicago, Illinois. Delegates in attendance were Neltnor, Frercks, Palmer, and Mercer. Neltnor also attended the second convention of Lambda Epsilon at Brown Lake, Lake County, Illinois on June 29-30, 1901, at which time he was nominated Right Honorable Chancellor of the Exchequer. During the formation of the Phi Alpha Delta fraternity, Neltnor attended the first board meeting of the as-yet unnamed group on August 12, 1902. Octigan served as National Recorder for Phi Alpha Delta from 1905-1906, and as Chief Justice from 1906-1907.

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