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Bernice Irene Sumlin

The 19th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Inc., Bernice Irene Sumlin (1974-1978) was born on November 29, 1926, in Dayton, Ohio, to Wright R. and Gussie Bingham Sumlin.

Sumlin was initiated into the Zeta Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., at Wilberforce College in 1946. After graduating with her B.S. degree in 1948, Sumlin transferred her Sorority membership to the Beta Eta Omega Chapter in Dayton. She furthered her education by graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she earned her M.A. degree. Sumlin then began her career in education. She served as a high school teacher, guidance counselor, community counselor and secondary principal before retiring. She then worked as an industrial consultant for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

In 1962, Sumlin succeeded LaRue Walter Frederick as Great Lakes Regional Director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., in Detroit, Michigan. Following a productive four year term she was appointed as chairman of the Sorority’s National Standards Committee in 1966. In 1972, Sumlin was elected First Supreme Anti-Basileus at the 45th Boule in Denver, Colorado.

In 1974, Sumlin was elected the 19th International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Sumlin’s administration donated $25,000 to Central State University for the restoration of the Hallie Q. Brown Collection of rare books by and about blacks, which had been damaged by a tornado. Additionally, during her tenure, AKA contributed half a million dollars to the United Negro College Fund. On October 25, 1974, Sumlin answered a challenge given by retiring Executive Director Carey B. Preston and initiated the Alpha Kappa Alpha Reading Experience, a national program offering individualized tutoring to undereducated inner-city youth.

In 1975, at the invitation of President and Mrs. Gerald Ford, Sumlin represented the Sorority at a reception held at the White House launching the International Women’s Year Conference. Later, she represented the Sorority at the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico, City. In addition, Sumlin’s administration saw the installation of the Sorority’s Founders’ Window at Howard University in Rankin Chapel. She also began the recognition of sorority members with twenty-five years of service as Silver Sorors and those with fifty years of service as Golden Sorors.

Sumlin was a presenter at the Fourth African American Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1997, and attended the 1999 Summit in Ghana. Her involvement in civic, educational and professional services has brought her many awards and citations, including an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Central State University. She has also been cited for outstanding service by the National Council of Negro Women, the Continental Society, the A.M.E. church and Outstanding Women of Dayton.

Sumlin passed away on January 11, 2018.

Accession Number

A2008.030

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/26/2008

Last Name

Sumlin

Maker Category
Middle Name

Irene

Schools

Weaver Elementary School

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Central State University

Wilberforce University

First Name

Bernice

Birth City, State, Country

Dayton

HM ID

SUM01

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Alpha Kappa Alpha

State

Ohio

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/29/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Dayton

Country

USA

Death Date

1/11/2018

Short Description

Association chief executive and educator Bernice Irene Sumlin (1926 - 2018) was the 19th International President of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She served as a high school teacher, guidance counselor, community counselor and secondary principal. After retiring from education, she worked as an industrial consultant for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Employment

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Pink and Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bernice Irene Sumlin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her election as supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her vision for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her administration of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her leadership style at Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls lessons from her tenure at Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her challenges at Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers Barbara McKinzie

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bernice Irene Sumlin reflects upon her time as supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers her successes as supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers sponsoring the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes the importance of scholarship at Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bernice Irene Sumlin talks about the future of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bernice Irene Sumlin reflects upon the importance of sisterhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bernice Irene Sumlin lists her favorites

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes the story of her birth

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes how she takes after her father

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers the Weaver neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls the Wayman Chapel A.M.E. Church in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers segregation in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls the shopping district of Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her early interest in oratory

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her elementary education

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers her influences at Weaver Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her interests at Weaver Elementary School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her teachers at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her activities at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers her high school classmates

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her relationship with her brother

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers when her brother was drafted

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her theatre involvement in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers her commencement speech

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls the Combined Normal and Industrial Department at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her work for Charles H. Wesley

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers Hallie Quinn Brown

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls the termination of Charles H. Wesley, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls the termination of Charles H. Wesley, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls joining Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes how she became a public school teacher

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers teaching at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers becoming a public school administrator

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her support of William Harrison

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her student, James E. Farmer

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers becoming supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers meeting Nelson Mandela

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Bernice Irene Sumlin recalls her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Bernice Irene Sumlin reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers school desegregation in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Bernice Irene Sumlin reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Bernice Irene Sumlin talks about her family

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes her involvement at the Wayman Chapel A.M.E. Church in Dayton, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Bernice Irene Sumlin describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$1

DAStory

2$10

DATitle
Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers becoming supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Bernice Irene Sumlin remembers her successes as supreme basileus of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Transcript
Now in 1974 you became the supreme basileus of the national organization of, of Alpha Kappa Alpha [Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.], right?$$That is correct.$$And can you tell us about how that happened? I know you were, you know, just tell us a little bit about that.$$I was asked by a past supreme to run for the national office. At that time Alpha Kappa Alpha was carrying thirty or forty thousand members. And I said, oh, I don't know whether I can do that or not but they told me go on and run. So Larzette Hale [HistoryMaker Larzette Hale-Wilson], the past national president, encouraged me to run. And she was a CPA [certified public accountant] within her own rights and she was Dr. Hale. They were formerly from Oklahoma. And so I did and I won. And I kind of surprised myself. And it was one of the most memorable experiences I believe I've ever had in my life. And I had excellent cooperation the whole four years that I served as international president of Alpha Kappa Alpha. And I was one of the first supremes out, well, to tell you the truth I was the first supreme out of, I started to say the State of Ohio but that wasn't true because we had L. Pearl [Lottie Pearl Mitchell] up in Cleveland [Ohio] but Dayton, Ohio. And I have to laugh at myself because when they elected me, everybody said, "We never heard of national presidents coming out of Dayton, Ohio." I said, "Well, you got one now (laughter)." And we laughed about that, you know. I said, "Little old Dayton had a--," so then I told one of my friends I said, "We have established the planes for the United States of America." I said, "The Wright brothers [Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright] are from Dayton, Ohio." And they said, "What?" I said, "The Wright brothers who established the planes that you fly on are from Dayton, Ohio." And I said, "And that's where I'm from." They said, "Dayton, Ohio." I said, "So now you can note that there is great performers from Dayton, Ohio."$It is said that we do not remember days, we remember moments. As supreme basileus what was your greatest moment, your proudest moment, your happiest moment?$$I think one of the happiest moments I had was when I brought all of the national presidents who were living and able to come to the national headquarters and I brought them and they were so thrilled. We had, at that time we had a national president that was a, that was moving toward a 102 years old, and I brought all of them together at our, at our headquarters. And they enjoyed that meeting. We had a meeting in which they sat down and they had a chance to talk to one another. That's the first time we had had them together and to have them all together at our national headquarters in Chicago [Illinois], they were very elated and excited and they never forgot talking about it, would forget talking about it or thanking me for that opportunity of bringing them all together. And they had a chance to go to the then dinner and we just rode them around Chicago, our national headquarters, and they were so elated. They were women then that was eighty, most of them were in their nineties, and we had some that was moving toward a hundred and we were able to have them all in Chicago.$$Now, were these ladies the founders of AKA [Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.]?$$They were national presidents.$$Okay.$$I think we had one founder living or I buried the last of our founders during my administration. And we buried her in Washington, D.C. But I buried two of our founders during my administration.