Was Abraham Lincoln in a fraternity? The answer is no. Lincoln did not attend college. One could be a lawyer in those days, 150+ years ago, by reading the law. That is what Lincoln did. Given that the Civil War was raging and the American fraternity system, still in its infancy, was at a virtual standstill during the war, honorary membership was not offered to him. Perhaps he would have been asked by one of the fraternities after the war’s end, but Lincoln died and that possibility became moot.
Beta Theta Pi claims two men who had direct ties to Lincoln, according to these posts which appeared on Beta’s facebook page:
Schuyler Colfax, DePauw 1854, was an energetic campaigner against slavery and helped found the Republican Party. He was, thus, a dear friend to President Lincoln. Colfax, the eventual vice president to Ulysses S. Grant, was the Speaker of the House during the latter half and end of the Civil War. He was sought after often by the wartime president for counsel, and as a Lincoln biographer noted, “The president rarely took any step affecting the interests of the nation without making his intentions known to and consulting with Mr. Colfax.” In fact...As Speaker of the House, it was Colfax who announced the final tally of the vote on the 13th amendment, thereby abolishing slavery. His voice shaking, ‘On the passage of the Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States (which required a constitutional majority of two-thirds affirmative), the ayes have 119, and the noes 56.’ Colfax and his wife were invited by Lincoln to join him in the presidential box on the fateful evening of his assassination. They couldn’t attend as they were heading to California, to which the president said, ‘How I would rejoice to make that trip, but public duties chain me down here, and I can only envy you its pleasures.’ It was the last time the two ever spoke.
2. Beta Founder and successful attorney John Reily Knox, Miami 1839, was part of the Electoral College when Lincoln ran for president in 1860 and, as such, cast his vote for Lincoln in the quest for his first term in office.
Fraternity men who have served as President of the United States
Thomas Jefferson, Flat Hat Club (F.H.C. Society), College of William and Mary*
Rutherford B. Hayes, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Honorary member
James Garfield, Delta Upsilon, Williams College
Chester Arthur, Psi Upsilon, Union College
Grover Cleveland, Sigma Chi, Honorary member
Benjamin Harrison, Phi Delta Theta, Miami University and Delta Chi, University of Michigan
William McKinley, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Mount Union College
Theodore Roosevelt, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Alpha Delta Phi, Harvard University
William Howard Taft, Psi Upsilon, Yale University
Woodrow Wilson, Phi Kappa Psi, University of Virginia
Calvin Coolidge, Phi Gamma Delta, Amherst College
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Alpha Delta Phi, Harvard University**
Harry S Truman, Lambda Chi Alpha and Alpha Delta Gamma, Honorary member
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Tau Epsilon Phi, Honorary member
John F. Kennedy, Phi Kappa Theta, Honorary member
Gerald R. Ford, Delta Kappa Epsilon, University of Michigan
Ronald Reagan, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Eureka College
George H.W. Bush, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Yale University
Bill Clinton, Phi Beta Sigma, Honorary member***
George W. Bush, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Yale University
National Panhellenic Conference women who have served as First Lady
Lucy B. Hayes, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Ohio Wesleyan College, Honorary member
Grace Goodhue Coolidge, Pi Beta Phi, University of Vermont, charter member
Lou Henry Hoover, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Stanford University
Barbara Pierce Bush, Pi Beta Phi, Texas A&M, Alumna initiate (post-White House years)
Laura Welch Bush, Kappa Alpha Theta, Southern Methodist University
National Pan-Hellenic Council women who have served as First Lady
Eleanor Roosevelt, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Honorary member
* The Flat Hat Club was founded at the College of William and Mary in 1750. It is believed to be the precursor of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, which was established at the same institution in 1776. The modern F.H.C. Society was revived at the College of William and Mary in May, 1972. The Flat Hat is also the name of the college’s student newspaper.
** Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Harvard University, also known as the “Dickey Club.” However, the national organization did not recognize the chapter because of the chapter’s stance on dual membership.
*** Bill Clinton became a member of Phi Beta Sigma in 2009, in his post White House years. He became a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a now co-ed service fraternity while at Georgetown University. It was an all-male fraternity when he joined as a college student.