On August 29, 1978 Dr. Thelma T. Daley, 16th National President Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated officially welcomed Augusta Alumnae, a newly formed chapter in Georgia to the Southern Region. Officers were installed on October 14, 1978 by the Southern Regional Director Kathleen Wright and Regional Representative Alexis Roberts. Soror Geneva Stallings served as the first President for the chapter. Thirty-two (32) Augusta Alumnae Chapter Sorors were recognized as charter members by virtue of their signatures on the charter.
Securing a Permanent Home
With no official place to call home, the chapter used several community venues for meetings, with the last being the Shiloh Community Center. As the chapter increased its membership and community outreach, the need for a permanent meeting location became apparent. Under the administration of Chapter President Verma Curtis, the idea of purchasing a home for the chapter was born. Soror Juanita Burney was appointed to chair a property search committee.
During the search for a property to purchase, Soror Margaret Jones brought to the attention of the search committee that the home of Miss Lucy Craft Laney might be available. Miss Lucy Craft Laney was a distinguished community leader, the founder of Haines Normal and Industrial Institute (later known as the Lucy Craft Laney High School), and one of the nation’s leading educators. She lived most of her life at 1116 Phillips Street. At her death, the occupancy of her home was assumed by her niece, Miss Margaret Louise Laney who was also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Unfortunately, Miss Louise Laney succumbed tragically in a fire that did extensive damage to the Laney home. The house suffered hardships of the fire. However, the merits of its bountiful history outweighed the condition of the house.
Miss Margaret Louise Laney was survived by a brother, Thomas Laney of Ohio who was ill at the time of her death. The wife of Mr. Laney acted on his behalf to help settle the Laney estate. Soror Viola Evans and Mrs. Josephine Richardson were instrumental in paving the way for Sorors Margaret Jones and George Lillian Jenkins to speak with Mrs. Thomas Laney regarding the possibility of purchasing the home for the Augusta Alumnae Chapter. The Laney family gave first option to purchase the house to the Augusta Alumnae Chapter, under the administration of President Gwendolyn Rountree, with a request that the legacy of Miss Lucy Craft Laney would be honored and preserved.
Several successful initiatives were developed by the Augusta Alumnae Chapter to secure funding. The first being an event, a fundraising project at the Scared Heart Community Center on November 4,1988.
The second fundraising project was through the Augusta Alumnae Chapter. Four-chapter members, known as the Foundational Sorors provided requested funds. They were Sorors Justine Washington, Margaret Jones, Louise Rice, and Juanita Burney. The third initiative secured pledges from several devoted chapter members. Sorors Lela Stone, Theresa White, and Hertha Blount were instrumental in guaranteeing the remainder of funds needed for securing the home. The Laney house was purchased through a non-profit corporation known as Delta House, Inc. President Gwendolyn Rountree led the effort to incorporate The Delta House, which was established by the Augusta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Soror Viola Evans, a friend of the family, was appointed to serve as the Laney family representative.
Located in the thriving Black community of Augusta, the home of Miss Lucy Craft Laney was rich in history. The chapter membership was excited about the possibility of the purchase of a home so rich in historical significance. The purchase would provide an opportunity to restore and invest in a historical property important to Augusta. This facility became a meeting place and a home for the Augusta Alumnae Chapter to conduct Delta business. Additionally, as a museum, this building would serve to house and display data and artifacts on the life of Miss Lucy Craft Laney and other outstanding African Americans, to serve as a venue for community needs, and to expose the talents of gifted artists.
At its inception, in 1987, Soror Theresa White served as the first Executive Director and President of the inaugural Board of Directors. Soror Ora Griffin served as the Project Manager for the house restoration. Both sorors volunteered many hours devoted to the restoration of the house under the presidencies of Sorors Gwendolyn Rountree and Annie Rogers. Because of the historical significance of the home, the house was restored as it existed prior to the severe fire damage. This would assure eligibility for inclusion to the national historic register. Soror Rountree’s idea to establish a Museum of Black History and Conference Center was included in the restoration plan. The Conference Center was to be used by the sorority for meetings and by the public at large.
Attorney Carl C. Brown, Jr. assisted the sorority with legal requirements to rezone the property from residential to commercial status.
Attorney Brown, who represented Augusta Alumnae and Attorney Lansing B. Lee, who represented the Laney family assisted with the property closing. Representing the chapter were Sorors Gwendolyn Rountree, Theresa White, Hertha Blount, and Juanita Burney. Sorors Viola Evans, accompanied by Mrs. Josephine Richardson represented the family.
A Community Block Grant was awarded from the city to restore the front façade of the house. Local legislative leaders assisted in securing other funding from the state of Georgia and the Richmond County Commission. The members of Delta House, Inc. continued to lead the way through its own financial support of the restoration project.
The Delta House Corporation
The Augusta Alumnae Chapter organized Delta House, Inc, as a means of providing funding, activity support, fundraisers, and promotion of events through The Delta House and The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Conference Center.
The Inaugural Delta House, Inc. Board of Directors
(Listed on the Lucy C. Laney Museum Historical Plaque)
The following Sorors were approved by Augusta Alumnae Chapter to establish a corporation under the ownership of the chapter:
Theresa White, President*
Lela Stone, Secretary*
Annie Rogers, Treasurer
Ora Griffin, Restoration Chair*
George Bailey Jenkins*
Marie B. Johnson*
LaVetta B. Jones
**Development of the museum continued under President/ Executive Director Theresa White until the appointment of Christine Miller Betts.
The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History
In keeping with the promise to the Laney family to honor the legacy of Miss Lucy Craft Laney, the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History was envisioned and became a reality. When the property was purchased, a non-profit corporation was formed by members of the Augusta Alumnae Chapter. This new entity was given the name of The Delta House, Inc. The Board of the Delta House Inc. would consist of sorority members and others with an interest in the museum from the public sector.
Soror Theresa White served as the first Executive Director of the Museum and President of the Delta House Inc. Board of Directors until 1994.
Development of the museum continued under Presidents Annie Rogers and Christine Miller-Betts. A Delta Room within the Lucy Craft Laney Museum was established under the presidency of Soror Juanita Burney. The permanent exhibit and archives that chronicles the history of Augusta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. were displayed and arranged by the museum Executive Director, Christine Betts and Augusta Alumnae Chapter Heritage and Archives Historian, LaVetta B. Jones. The Delta Room is maintained by the Augusta Alumnae Chapter as a part of the museum for public tours.
A community-wide dedication and celebration in 1991 introduced the importance of the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Conference Center to the Central Savannah River Area. After serving as President of the Augusta Alumnae Chapter from 1991 to 1994, Christine Miller-Betts became the Executive Director of the Museum in 1994. Soror Betts worked in maintaining and establishing programs that benefited the community. Exhibits to expose the talents of regional and national gifted artists and of other locally noted African Americans are included in the displays of the museum.
Under the umbrella of Delta House, Inc., community service programs included not only the use of the conference center but use of a computer center, enrichment program for children, lectures, tours, a senior citizen program and a youth leadership program. All programs, tours, and exhibits are executed under the directions of Chris Betts and the historian, Corey Rogers.
A bust of Miss Lucy Craft Laney is permanently displayed on the museum ground secured through a “buy a brick” fundraising initiative. Also, a butterfly garden was established.
June 30, 2020, after the retirement of Executive Director Christine Betts, Linda Johnson was elected as the Executive Director of The Delta House, Inc. and the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Conference Center.
As of June 30, 2016, Augusta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., under the presidency of Soror Kim Gaines, was issued “Guidelines for Chapters Aligned with Auxiliary Charitable Foundations.” The purpose of the policy was to present a guide for chapters already involved with established auxiliary charitable foundations, while totally restricting the establishment of new and proposed auxiliary charitable foundations.
The rationale for this decision was based on possible legal actions that could be faced by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Grand Chapter. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. must protect Grand Chapter, its chapters, its assets and its legacy against all threats from without and within. Each chapter must take extra caution to make certain that its identity and profile in and before the community applies only to the chapter itself and not to any separate organization with which it may have an affiliation or working relationship –including a separate auxiliary charitable foundation or corporation, such as Delta House. Inc.
Due to the aforementioned guidelines, a Moratorium of Understanding, AKA MOU, exists between Augusta Alumnae Chapter and Delta House, Incorporated, with recognition that the ownership of the property had been relinquished to Delta House, Inc by purchase. When the property was purchased, the formation of a non-profit corporation, Delta House, Inc. became a saving grace for the Augusta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. as it became a perfect host for our chapter functions, as well as, a source of community pride as it made itself available to the public as well. Community members may join Delta House, Inc. in order to preserve the legacy of Miss Lucy Craft Laney. The operation of the property is maintained by The Delta House, Inc. For continuance of it legacy and heritage, the Augusta Alumnae Chapter has consistently maintained a partnership and supported The Delta House, Inc. with finances and service since its inception in 1987. It has continued to support the Delta House, Inc. as one of its community partners via donations and volunteer service.
Augusta Alumnae Chapter Presidents
Geneva Stallings 1978 – 1980
Louise Rice 1980 – 1982
Countess Wilkerson 1982 – 1984
Verma Curtis 1984 – 1986
Gwendolyn Rountree 1986 – 1988
Annie Rogers 1988 – 1990
Christine Miller- Betts 1990 – 1994
Marion Nanette Barnes 1994 – 1996
Deborrah Wilcox 1996 – 1999
Juanita Burney 1999 – 2001
Rosa Clemons 2001 – 2003
LaVetta B. Jones 2003 – 2007
Stacey Mabray 2007 – 2011
Angel Little 2011 – 2015
Kim Gaines 2015 – 2017
Danita Myler 2017 – Present
Delta House Inc. Board Presidents
Theresa White President/Museum Executive Director 1987 -1994
Gwendolyn Roundtree 1994
Vivian Sylvester 2002
Rosa Clemons 2006
Mettie Thomas 2010
Jean Embry 2014
Linda Johnson 2016
Rosa Clemons 2020
The Delta House Corporation works to provide support, fund, and help with activities, fundraisers, and events given by The Museum of Black History and Conference Center. The corporation convenes annually on the second Monday in August.