The History of the Houston Sigma Chi Alumni Chapter
Wild Game Dinner
The roots of the Houston Sigma Chi Alumni Chapter’s annual Wild Game Dinner date back several years before the game dinner became an official Sigma Chi function.
Brother Dr. W.M. “Red” Stevenson, Ohio 1922, was a successful physician and a big game hunter. Brother Stevenson later became president of the Houston Alumni Chapter in 1950. In the late 1930’s, Brother Stevenson began the tradition of annually inviting a few brothers to his home to enjoy a feast of wild game that he had brought back from his travels world-wide, from Alaska to Africa… from Montana to Mexico… a worldly feast that was rare for many to indulge in during the times. After dinner, brothers would enjoy fine cigars and good brandy. Rumor has it that they may have also enjoyed a few “wild games of chance.”
By 1945, the annual function had outgrown Brother Stephenson’s home, so it was decided to turn the ever-growing popular wild game dinner into an official Sigma Chi Alumni Chapter function. Other Brothers began chipping in and donating wild game such as deer, ducks, geese, and quail as well as fish and even alligator.
The first official Sigma Chi Wild Game Dinner was held in 1945 at the Houston Club, an elegant private club in downtown Houston. The annual dinner continued to grow over the next 65 years… the rest they say, is history!
The Brother who really put the annual function on the Sigma Chi Fraternity National “map” was Constantine Sig Milton K. Jackson, Texas 1949, Grand Praetor, and later President of the Houston Alumni Chapter in 1958. Brother Jackson became chairman of the Wild Game Dinner in 1957 and served as chairman for 15 years until 1971 when he was diagnosed with cancer.
Through Brother Jackson’s various active roles in the National Fraternity over the years, word had spread like wild-fire about the annual Wild Game Dinner in Houston.
In 1972, Brother Jackson passed the torch to the then current Houston Alumni Chapter President, Brother Bill E. Mills, Sam Houston 1960, who chaired the event for the next 10 years. Since then, many other hard working Sigma Chi’s have chaired the event.
Throughout the years of the annual Wild Game Dinner, many Significant Sigs and prominent Sigma Chi’s from all walks of life were called on to be guest speakers at the big event. Political leaders, astronauts, military generals, university presidents, and movie stars were among the celebrities to speak at the dinners.
In the earlier days of the dinner, the goal was always to get “over 100 Brothers” to turn out for the function. In recent years, the attendance has ballooned to almost 300 Brothers from all over the United States. Undergraduate Brothers, Grand Officers, and Alumni enjoy dining on venison, game birds, geese, alligator, pheasant, boar, and fish,
Historically, the Brother who has worn the Badge of Sigma Chi the longest is recognized at the dinner. (Initiation into the Fraternity is the date considered for this recognition.) The Brother last standing who has worn the Badge the longest is traditionally presented with a bottle of Old Granddad Whiskey. Several old timers have won this cherished title numerous times. Brother Minton, from Dallas, took home the prize quite a few times until he entered Chapter Eternal.
For several years during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Brother Raymond “Buddy” Rau, Houston 1961, opened his family ranch near Columbus, Texas for an annual Sigma Chi deer hunt. The ranch had a small, rustic hunting lodge complete with a wood-burning stove. The little lodge was very conductive to late night socializing and friendly wagering around a warm wood fire. It was like an ideal setting for a small gathering of Sigma Chi hunters and non-hunters alike. The Columbus deer hunt was always one of the highlights of the season and was a highly anticipated social function for the Sigma Chi brothers.
The annual event always produced several deer tagged to supply fresh venison for the annual Wild Game Dinner. A practical joke, the “Order of the Antler,” grew out of the Columbus deer hunts. The award was a mounted presentation of the largest (or only) antlers taken on the deer hunt. The “Order of the Antler” was short lived partly because of the scrawny racks that were presented. The “Order of the Antler” became just another humorous chapter in the colorful history of the Sigma Chi Wild Game Dinner.
In the past years, several individual bird hunts have been organized and hosted by various Brothers. In 2001, Brother Mills organized and hosted the first Sigma Chi Bird Blast. The Bird Blast was organized to supplement the amount of wild game donations needed to feed the growing number of brothers. The hunt was initially put on by Tim Crawley’s Waterfowl and Game Bid Outfitters, which supplied the birds, guides, bird dogs, and dog handlers. With the Bird Blast a current tradition today, a barbeque lunch in the fields, skeet shooting, and lots of fellowship are all a part of the Bird Blast in the field around the Hockley-Waller area. Since 2004, Brother Jay Hagins, Texas Tech 1968, has co-hosted the event. The most recent Bird Blast was held January 22, 2011, ten years and going strong!
What initially began as a brotherly dinner to enjoy some fine wild game in 1945 with a few Sigma Chi Brothers has now grown into a large annual gathering of Sigma Chi’s that travel cross-country to enjoy such fine food and Brotherhood today!