Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Grave marker symbols and a secret society

This is the grave of Henry Noble Taylor, known to his friends as Harry, who rests in the University of Virginia Cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Taylor was a journalist and a war correspondent for the Scripps-Howard newspapers. He was killed on the job by machine-gun fire in the Congo on September 4, 1960. The inscription on his footstone reads: “He died to find and tell the truth.” 


While many of us delight in discovering grave markers with symbols from society and fraternal orders, it was fun to see the mark of the Seven Society, one of the secret societies of the University of Virginia. The Seven Society was founded in 1905. Their symbol includes the number 7 surrounded by the signs for alpha (A), omega (Ω), and infinity (∞). 


Siskiyou Daily News, September 8, 1960.
The inner workings of the Seven Society remain secret but their philanthropic gifts to the University include great flair. Gifts from the Seven Society have varied with donations including numerous sevens. In UVA Magazine, Robert Viccellio explains, “One notable example occurred during Final Exercises in 1947, when the commencement address was interrupted by a small explosion at the front of the stage, followed by a check for $177,777.77 floating to the ground. The money established an interest-free loan fund for any student, faculty or staff member who was in financial trouble.” 


Membership is revealed only upon a member’s death when a banner appears during the funeral. There is also a tradition of wreaths in the shape of the number 7 with black magnolias.  



Robert Viccellio, “Wrapped in Mystery: A Guide to Secret-and Not-so-Secret-Student Organizations at UVA.” Virginia Magazine, UVA Alumni Association, 2012, 

Siskiyou Daily News (Yreka, California), 08 Sep 1960, page 6.

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