Sidna Brower Mitchell: Remembering Fraternity Men

Photo courtesy of Chi Psi Ole Miss.

The University of Mississippi is known for its fraternity life but I want to write not about Chi Psi at Ole Miss but about men at two other Chi Psi lodges/chapters.

Although my husband passed away almost 11 years ago, I still receive magazines from his fraternity (Chi Psi), his prep school (Phillips Academy at Andover, MA) and his college (UVA – the University of Virginia).  They’re perhaps hoping I’ll donate money as George Mitchell did.

I must say I particularly enjoyed “The Purple and Gold” spring 2018 journal of Chi Psi recently.  Featured was an article of the UVA chapter (Alpha Omicron) honoring Billy Hearns, a black man, known back in the early 1950s as the lodge’s houseboy, later called the caretaker and eventually initiated into the Bonds of Brotherhood.

Back in the early 1970s I met Billy Hearns when George and I visited Mr. Jefferson’s University.  Billy immediately greeted my husband as “Mr. George” and showed me the room with George’s name still on the door.  Billy was and obviously still is a charmer!

Another article quickly caught my attention, that noting the death of Richard (Dick) Jenrette who was a Chi Psi (Sigma ’51) at the University of North Carolina.  Years ago when I first moved to New York City to work for The World Telegram and Sun, I met Dick Jenrette on a trip to Maine.

Thanks to a dear Memphis East High School friend, Louis Weeks, then a student at Princeton University, I met John Elliott when I came north to be on television programs about the integration of Ole Miss in 1962.  John was a Princeton alum and someone with a seat on the New York Stock Exchange who even helped me find an apartment in Greenwich Village. He would often ask me to help host his delightful cocktail parties that including famous designers, stockbrokers and other so-called celebrities in those days.

One day John invited me to his summer home in Southwest Harbor, ME.  I had never been to Maine and was thrilled with the opportunity. We flew up on his private plane with Dick Jenrette and me getting on in New York with a stop in Boston to pick up John Hand, a corporate lawyer. John Hand and I soon became the best of friends but I never saw Dick Jenrette again.  

However, I followed his distinguished financial career—referred to as “the last gentleman on Wall Street—and later his involvement in saving historical houses.  In fact, Dick Jenrette died on April 22, 2018, in the Roper House in Charleston, SC, one of the many historical houses he restored as an avocation.

Dick Jenrette also left behind a list of “How to Succeed and Have a Long and Happy Life.”  Here are some of those sayings:

(1) Stay in the game.  That’s often all you need to do—don’t quit.  Stick around!

(2) Don’t burn bridges (behind you).

(3) Say informed.  Keep learning.

(4) Plan ahead but be prepared to allow when opportunity presents itself.

(5) Turn problems into opportunities.

(6) Present yourself well.

(7) Cultivate friends of all ages—especially younger.

(8) Be open to change—don’t be stuck in mud.

(9) Don’t forget to praise a job well done (but don’t praise a poor job).

(10) Look for the big picture but don’t forget small details.

And so, to Dick Jenrette — thanks for the good advice!

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