Monday, June 14, 2010
The membership of Freemasonry, by and large, is made up of average men. Its ranks include laborers, clerks, merchants, tradesmen, lawyers, enlisted and commissioned members of the armed forces, doctors, statesmen, farmers, salesmen…the whole spectrum.
In all ages, though, its ranks have included the great and the near great, including a sizeable number of Presidents of the United States, as follows:
George Washington: The only President to serve as Master of his lodge during his incumbency, Washington laid the cornerstone of the United States Capitol, acting as Grand Master pro tem for the Grand Lodge of Maryland. He was buried with Masonic honors. Masons of the United States have erected a granite monument in his memory on Shooter’s Hill, at Alexandria, Va.
James Monroe: Except for records of his membership, little is known of Monroe’s Masonic life.
Andrew Jackson: Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, Jackson was the first of two Presidents to have so served Freemasonry.
James K. Polk: Known to have served as Junior Warden of his lodge, there is no record of Polk ever serving as Master. During his Presidency he assisted in laying the cornerstone of the Smithsonian Institution with Masonic ceremonies.
James Buchanan: Master of his lodge in 1823, Buchanan also served as a District Deputy Grand Master in Pennsylvania. He delivered the address at the Masonic dedication of the statue of Washington, Washington Circle, Washington, D.C. He was buried with Masonic honors.
Andrew Johnson: During his Presidency Johnson participated in five Masonic cornerstone ceremonies… in Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, Antietam (Md.) and Washington. He was buried with Masonic honors.
James A. Garfield: Eventually holding membership in three different lodges (Masons may move membership from one lodge to another or, in some states, become dual or plural members), Garfield was Chaplain in the second of these. Many Masonic groups attended his funeral.
William Mckinley: Our 25th President was prompted to seek Masonic membership when he observed the fraternal kindnesses being exchanged among Masons in the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War.
Theodore Roosevelt: Often expressing his interest in Freemasonry, Roosevelt visited lodges at home and abroad. He participated in Masonic ceremonies on several occasions while President, delivering the principal address on one occasion and wearing Masonic regalia on another.
William H. Taft: Taft was another of the Presidents that took part in various Masonic activities while in office. On one occasion he posed for a picture while wearing Washington’s Masonic regalia at the White House.
Warren G. Harding: Becoming a Mason only three years before his death, Harding nevertheless became very active Ma sonically and joined a number of the appendant orders.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Mason for thirty-four years, Roosevelt participated in numerous Masonic activities, including “raising” his son Elliott as a Master Mason in 1933.
Harry S. Truman: Becoming a Mason in 1909, Truman was the second President to have served as a Grand Master, being elected Grand Master of Missouri in 1940. He was probably the most active Mason of any President since Washington. Millions of Americans witnessed his Masonic funeral service on national television
Gerald R. Ford: It is perhaps still too early to summarize Ford’s Masonic life. In addition to the Presidents listed, it is widely believed that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were Masons, but documentation of their Masonic memberships has never been discovered. Lyndon B. Johnson received the first degree and was thus an Entered Appentice, but he never became a Master Mason.
The foregoing summarizations have been very brief and do not even include the memberships and activities of some of the Presidents in appendant orders. Truman and Ford, for example, were each honored by the Scottish Rite when they were elected to its Thirty-Third Degree.
There have been many other famous Americans that were Masons, and these have included Benjamin Franklin, David Bushnell, George Walton, Haym Salomon, John Hancock, Joseph Hewes, John Marshall, Paul Revere, Red Skelton, Douglas MacArthur, and many, many more. Numerous Masons are members of the United States Senate and Congress, while others hold important commands in the armed forces. Several state governors are Masons.
LaFayette, Robert Burns, Goethe, and Rudyard Kipling were among famous Masons abroad. Masonic ranks in Europe have for several centuries included members of royal families.