Born on December 29, 1880, Richard John Warrick Jr. was one of six founding members of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the oldest African American Greek Letter Fraternity in the nation. The others were Henry Minton, Algernon Jackson, Edwin Howard, Robert Jones Abele, and Eugene Hinson. A member of a distinguished Philadelphia family, he was the second of 11 children. Warrick attended public schools in Philadelphia, and the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University). He then entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1897 and would become the second black graduate of its dental school with a Doctor of Dental Sciences degree in 1899.
Dr. Warrick’s dental practice started in 1900 and was located at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, then on South 16th Street in the city of Philadelphia. The College of Dental Surgery ultimately merged with the University of Pennsylvania Dental Department in 1909, and then later became the School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Warrick was a participating founder of Mercy Hospital along with Dr. Henry McKee Minton.
Dr. Warrick was honored with a life membership in the William A. Jackson Dental Society. This Society was founded in 1908 and named after the African American to practice dental medicine in Philadelphia. Warrick was an original member of the Society, which is now part of the New Era Dental Society. The Society promotes awareness of dental needs in the African American community and provides assistance to those in need of dental care. With his membership in this society and his long practice in Philadelphia, Dr. Warrick laid the foundation for many future practitioners of dentistry in the city of Philadelphia.
On May 15, 1904 Warrick met with Edwin C. Howard, Algernon Jackson, and Henry McKee Minton at the residence of Dr. Howard on 508 South 10th Street in Philadelphia to discuss organizing a fraternity consisting of African American college graduates in the city. That meeting became the organizing session for Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. Warrick eventually became the Grammateus (secretary) of Alpha Boulé as the first chapter of the fraternity was called.
Dr. Warrick married Lela Ewing. The couple had one daughter, Lela Warrick, who became an educator in Philadelphia. Lela Warrick was a founding member of Northeasterners Inc., a Black women’s social and civic club, and Jack & Jill of America Inc., a social organization for black children and families.
Dr. Richard John Warrick died on December 17, 1957 in Philadelphia at the age of 76.
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Rodney J. Reed, A Grand Journey: The History of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, 1904-2000 (Atlanta: Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, 2021); Charles H. Wesley, History of Sigma Pi Phi: First of the Negro-American Greek Letter Fraternities (Atlanta: Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, 1993).