By Sylvester “Nunnie” Robinson
Lately I’ve been acutely aware of , at least in thought, Dr. Herman Allen whom for so very long I only knew from a distance even though we share some commonalities. I recalled running into Brother Vince Jones who was dutifully patrolling the parking lot Sunday two weeks prior, and I mentioned to him that I wanted to write an article about Brother Allen. I even invited him to join us perhaps for a sit down over breakfast. Time passed quickly and I still hadn’t acted on my instinct. However, after seeing fraternity brothers from the Zeta Chi Chapter in Fort Lauderdale perform a community service activity as a part of their social action initiative, I was both thrilled and motivated because the Zeta Chi community service event involved painting Brother Allen’s house, solidifying my idea or concept of telling Brother Allen’s story. Now regarding our commonalities, we both attend Mt. Hermon AME Church in Fort Lauderdale, sharing at least one ministry -The Sons of Allen – a male ministry named after AME founder Bishop Richard Allen. We are both members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. , and we both share a deeply abiding faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have observed personally his dedication and devotion to Almighty God via Mt. Hermon ministries. First, if you’ve ever attended a Mt. Hermon service, no matter which choir is singing, Dr. Allen is one common denominator – singing, clapping, shouting, swaying and praising God through song. Dressed in a tailored black suit with his royal Purple scarf adorning his shoulder and neck area, Dr. Allen’s presence in the choir stand was evident this past Sunday as we celebrated Greek Unity Day. He is a prayer warrior who gives powerful testimonies, some planned but often spontaneous, impromptu spiritual revelations of his relationship with Jesus from the choir stand, at Wednesday night Bible study or from his seat in the sanctuary. His participation in the Sons of Allen is a welcome delight to all because of his wisdom, meticulous and sagacious counsel, and many years of experience. I have never personally seen him be denied or refuse an opportunity to talk about God’s goodness, mercy and grace as it relates to his life.
We also have in common having lost wives which can be difficult even for the unbelievers. Knowing that he had been the guest speaker at one of Zeta Chi’s chapter functions, I lamented to him my absence knowing his oratorical skills and his plethora of experience in the fraternity. I knew at the time that I had to celebrate this gem of a man. At a recent SOA meeting, I found the opportunity to broach the subject of an article relative to him and his accomplishments. Naturally stoic, he wasn’t overly optimistic about my proposal. To accommodate his schedule, we agreed to meet after church over breakfast in the family life center. What should have been a private question/answer interview quickly became a social gathering as others joined our party which left the personal, detailed queries for another day. Dr. Allen did, however, provide me with a detailed resumé, an impressive account of his myriad accomplishments.
He was born on September 19, 1939, in Hallandale, Florida to parents Henry and Elizabeth Saunders Allen. Until her untimely death, he was married to Mrs. Mary Allen for 49 years, and they were blessed with two children: Lt. Colonel Travis Allen, USAF and Leonard Edward Wellington, III.
Dr. Allen attended Lanier Elementary and Junior High School, then completed his secondary education at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, graduating in 1957. After earning a bachelor of science degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. in 1961, he was accepted to, attended and graduated from the Howard University School of Denistry, DDS, in Washington, D.C. 1965.
He recalls beginning dental school with a $500 stipend but through ambition, determination and discipline found other ways to supplement his income and finance his education such as washing pots and pans in the Spellman kitchen which some may call work study. What he knew and we learn is that quitting was not an option as his parents were limited financially. After graduating he served an internship with the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington. Dr. Allen also served our country, earning the rank of captain in the USA Dental Corp from 1966-1968. In the same year – 1968 – he began a long successful career practicing General Denistry in Fort Lauderdale that ended after 52 years in 2020.
Dr. Allen recalls with sincere gratitude and appreciation the offer extended to him to work as associate by Dr. Gordon Merritt until he could afford to open his own practice. Dr. Allen stated with great clarity that prior to his arrival there were only 3 practicing Black dentists in Broward: Dr. Merritt, Dr. J. L. Bass and Dr. William Coleman. Although there were several established professional dental associations in area, segregation ruled the day. For many years until the mid 60s , Blacks were denied membership in the Broward Dental Association resulting from rules stipulating that one had to be a member of the Florida Dental Association and the Atlantic District Dental Association, obstacles designed to exclude Blacks. Dr. Allen, in the spirit of perseverance, found the status quo totally unacceptable, submitted an application for membership and joined by Dr. Merritt became members in 1969, the first Blacks to be granted membership. In 1972, Dr Allen became the first Black person to join the Fort Lauderdale Dental Club, and for more than 25 years he was the only African American attending meetings of the Broward County Dental Association and the Fort Lauderdale Dental Study Club. A pioneer and pillar of our community indeed.
On this past Sunday at Mt. Hermon after doing what he loves – singing – we again met for breakfast intent on finalizing two areas that went unaddressed: The origin of his undeniable and unfiltered faith and his experiences as a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
My question about his faith proved rhetorical because his answer proved what I knew. His faith was in a household whose fundamental belief in God guided their lives spiritually and socially. His mother was a Sunday School teacher who also sang in the choir and his father was steward, choir member and class leader. Attending church, often twice on Sunday, actively participating in Sunday School and observing and tagging along with his father, who served as class leader, visit and collect dues was central to their lifestyle. Lessons learned early in life are deeply imbedded in his Christian walk.
The direction of questions regarding Omega Psi Phi, our beloved fraternity, proved just as elucidating and profound. Having made the fraternity at Psi Chapter, Morehouse College in 1958, evoked certain assumptions that needed clarification. Was his experience pledging rewarding, difficult, personally gratifying and fulfilling? He believes in retrospect that it was one of the decisions he ever made socially and professionally. His best friend, Brother Samuel Brown, a fellow alum of Booker T. Washington and Morehouse, along with others, helped him navigate the challenges associated with academic success and fraternal aspirations. His experiences and associations with being in a fraternity whose motto is based on Friendship and whose Cardinal Principles – Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift guide our actions, have served Dr. Allen well. He recalls two special memories involving Omega: A letter of recommendation on his behalf and a $500 scholarship from the fraternity were the only tangible assets he possessed along with the influence of Omega’s Executive Director Brother H. Carl Moultrie that assisted in his gaining admission to Howard’s dental school. Additionally, there were several brothers from Morehouse who had established themselves in the DC area from Morehouse who supported Brother Allen at the time in every conceivable way – room& board, rent money, food, clothes and when he spoke of somehow trying to repay them eventually, their command was simply: graduate and pay it forward one day, the very essence of every worthy Omega man. Thank you Dr. Allen for being a foundational pillar of our community.
Your Brother in Omega and Christ, Publisher Bobby Henry and the staff of the Westside Gazette wish you Godspeed as you continue to this world a better place for all.
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