Phi Beta Mu was established as a result of the respect and appreciation which our Founder, Colonel Earl D. Irons, had for his professional associates. Col. Irons was Bandmaster and Chairman of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Arlington, then known as North Texas Agricultural College. He envisioned an organization that would honor outstanding band directors whose dedication and devotion to their profession were paramount, but whose admirable traits and services were not necessarily known nationally. Col. Irons sought to honor deserving individuals on a state level similar to the manner in which he and Honorary Life President, D. O. Wiley, had been honored by the American Bandmasters Association in 1936.

During the summer of 1937, Col. Irons was performing as a guest conductor and cornet teacher at the Texas Tech Summer Band Camp. During this time, he had discussions about his plan for this special organization with Dr. D. O. Wiley, Director of the Tech Band Camp. These two men decided that the time was right to start such and organization, and “Prof” Wiley assembled a group of prominent band directors at the camp for a meeting with Col. Irons.

Among those Texas directors present at this early meeting were: Carl Cochran of Marlin, Russell Shrader of Sweetwater, George Rucker of Bowie, Sanford Eskridge of Wink, H. A. Anderson of Lubbock, and Clyde Rowe, who later taught in Borger. Cochran, Shrader, and Rucker were especially interested in creating the framework for the organization.

A number of meetings were held in the University’s Textile Building during that summer. The final decision to organize was reached during a watermelon feast in Professor Wiley’s backyard. At this time it was decided that the organization should b e structured to be a national bandmaster’s fraternity with the details to be worked out during the ensuing year.

Col. Irons received advice and help from Dr. Cothburn O’Neal in working out details of the organizational structure. Dr. O’Neal was a former student of Irons’ in 1925 and was on the faculty of North Texas Agricultural College, serving as an English professor. Together they selected Phi Beta Mu, with the subtitle of National Bandmaster’s Fraternity, as the name of the organization. Phi Beta Mu was interpreted to mean, “Life, Love, and Music.” The colors chosen to represent the Fraternity were blue and white.

The original member recognition pin was the five lines and spaces of the staff in a vertical position, closed at each end, with Greek letters for Phi Beta Mu inset across the center, thus: Col. Irons and Dr. O’Neal, with the ideas gleaned from the earlier meetings at Texas Tech, wrote a proposed Constitution and Oath which were approved in the summer of 1938. The Charter members of Phi Beta Mu were: Col. Earl D. Irons, Founder, Carl Cochran, R. A. Dhossche, Walter S. Dickensen, Sanford Eskridge, Joe L. Haddon, Robert McCown, Clyde Rowe, George M. Rucker, Russell E. Shrader, Richard Walker, and D. O. Wiley

The first official meeting was held at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas, in February 1939. The first initiates were Weldon Covington, Jack Mahan, R. C. Davidson, Lyle Skinner, Vergne Adams, Holmes McNeeley, and Alfred M. Riley. Dr. Cothburn O’Neal was the first individual to be made an Honorary Member in recognition of his work with Col. Irons in setting up the Fraternity Constitution and Oath.

Dr. Milburn Carey was initiated in 1942 as a member of Alpha Chapter. In 1944, Carey chartered Beta Chapter in Enid, Oklahoma; and in 1946, Harold L. Walters invited Dr. Carey to charter Gamma Chapter in Indiana. Mr. Walters was an Honorary Member of Beta Chapter at that time.

During World War II, while most of the members were serving in the armed forces, the credentials and minutes of early meetings were lost. When the Fraternity was reactivated, the members recognition pin was changed to the bass drum with the baton and the Greek letters for Phi Beta Mu crossed over the drum.

With the existence of three chapters for several years (Alpha, Texas; Beta, Oklahoma; and Gamma, Indiana), the need became apparent for a fully operative national structure. In 1954, L. H. Buckner, Immediate Past-President of Alpha Chapter; Alfred Riley, President of Alpha Chapter; and Jack H. Mahan, Secretary-Treasurer of Alpha Chapter, met in Dallas to create the national organization. The meeting took place in Mr. Mahan’s home. It was decided that there should be a President, Vice-President, and Executive Secretary, with six national board members. The standard recognition pin designated for each national officer was:

President - regular pin with 10 red stones
Vice-President - regular pin with 10 blue stones
Executive Secretary - regular pin with 10 green stones
Chapter Past-President - regular pin with 10 pearls

It was decided that the interim national officers would be Alfred M. Riley, President; L. H. Buckner, Vice-President; and Jack H. Mahan, Executive Secretary. In 1955, a national election was held and Milburn E. Carey was elected President, and Raymond F. Dvorak was elected Vice-President. Jack H. Mahan was appointed Executive Secretary by the newly elected Board of Directors at the recommendation of President Carey.

Further refinement of the national organization and the Constitution was worked out by Mahan and R. C. “Chief” Davidson of Plainview at a meeting held during the Tri-State Band Festival at Enid, Oklahoma in 1957. After this, the Fraternity began to grow to include additional states. Mississippi was slated to be installed as the fourth chapter and was assigned Delta, but the installation was unavoidably delayed. Louisiana became the fourth chapter to be installed but was assigned the name Epsilon, since Delta had already be allotted to Mississippi.

The Fraternity became an international organization in 1975 with the installation of the following chapters:

Graz, Austria - 1975
Alberta, Canada - 1976
Japan - 1978

The National Officers who have served to date are:

National President

Alfred Riley, Interim President - 1954-1956
Dr. Milburn Carey - 1955-1977
Dr. Charles Minelli - 1977-1982
Jack White - 1982-1989
Eldon Janzen - 1989-1995
Harris Brinson - 1995-1997
Keith Mann - 1997-2001
Van B. Ragsdale - 2001-2006
David Willson - 2006-2010
Sheryl Bowhay - 2010-2013
Paul Worosello - 2013-2016
Keith Bearden - 2016-

National Vice-President

Raymond Dvorak - 1956-1981
Jerry Bordner - 1982-1989
James Barnett - 1989-1993
Harris Brinson - 1993-1995
Keith Mann - 1995-1997
Van B. Ragsdale - 1997-2001
David Willson - 2001-2007
Paul Worosello - 2010-2013

National Executive Secretary

Jack H. Mahan - 1954-1974
William Postlethwaite - 1974-1977
Richard C. Crain - 1977-2008
David Lambert - 2008-

Brothers Harold L. Walters and Karl L. King collaborated in writing Men of Music March, published by Rubank, and dedicated it to Phi Beta Mu. Col. Earl D. Irons wrote Hail to the Fraternity, published by Volkwein Brothers and dedicated it to Phi Beta Mu.

Since the early records of the Fraternity had been lost during World War II, the early history has been reconstructed through the taped reflections of Charter Member D. O. Wiley and conversations with Honorary Life President Milburn Carey and Honorary Life Secretary Jack Mahan. Dr. Wiley credited Brother Mahan with much of the growth of the Fraternity. Dr. Milburn Carey, Honorary Life President, chartered all of the chapters with the exception of the six chapters that Mahan chartered.

All of the Brotherhood owes a great debt to Milburn Carey and Jack Mahan for their many contributions to Phi Beta Mu.

In the 75 years since the inception of Phi Beta Mu, Alpha Chapter has worked diligently to provide various awards and services to fellow music educators. The Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame is presented, supported and sponsored each year at the TBA convention where more than 250 educators have been inducted. The Outstanding Young Bandmaster and the Outstanding Contributor award honor the Texas’ up and coming music educators as well as the most ardent advocates. Alpha Chapter members come together for the annual Reading Band at the Texas Bandmasters Convention, programming the latest publications of grades 1, 2 and 3 concert band literature. Alpha Chapter’s most ambitious project, the Band Director’s Support Network offers at no cost, consulting services, professional development, and peer mentoring to directors throughout the state by participating PBM members. The TMEA convention Alpha Chapter booth educates fellow music educators to purpose and services of Phi Beta Mu.

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