Legend of Paddy Murphy

My informant who is in the SAE fraternity shared another piece of frat folklore with me when I sat down and interviewed him. He explained to me that before you are initiated into the fraternity, you are expected to know many stories about the legends of SAE. He told me one of the most widely known SAE stories, and it is the one that you will most likely hear first if you are rushing this fraternity. He told me it was called, “The Story of Paddy Murphy”.

Informant: “The story is kind of long and there are a lot of details but I will give you the main parts. So Paddy Murphy was an SAE and he ended up being Al Capone’s right hand man in the 1920’s. They did everything together and bootlegged booze all over the place. They became well known and there was this famous detective who was trying to put them in jail. This detective stole evidence from Capone’s office and took it back to his place. Capone knew where this guy lived, so they went to his apartment. Paddy had the man in his sights from across the building at another rooftop. Capone loaded a gun and told him to shoot the detective. Paddy noticed that the detective had an SAE pin on his shirt and decided that he couldn’t kill the man. Capone told him to choose the detective or himself. Paddy said he couldn’t kill a brother, so Capone shot him. The detective heard the gunshot and ran over to them. Capone fled but as Paddy took his last breath, he looked at the detective and said “Phi Alpha”, and then gave him the SAE grip, which is like a handshake. This story is special to anyone in SAE because it is about loyalty to your fraternity. This is one of the things that we hold most important to our fraternity.”

Analysis: I thought this piece was very interesting because it is like a myth of SAE. This story that they have is used to govern the fraternity. Through the actions of Paddy Murphy, the fraternity is given a model of how to be a correct SAE. This means that loyalty goes as far as taking your life in order to save another “brother’s” life. I thought this was a little extreme because I am not in a fraternity, but it seems like they take loyalty very serious. Many stories like this give an outline for people to follow, and although this Paddy Murphy character is a legend and these events are undocumented, the men in SAE hold this to be true and live their lives by this story.