Masonic Presidents

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"Ideals are like stars. You will not succeed

in touching them with your hands, but,

like the seafaring man, you choose them

as your guides, and following them,

you will reach your destiny."

Carl Schurz

Freemason, 13th US Secretary of the Interior 1877-1881

George Washington
President 1789-1797 / Master Mason 1753


George Washington became a Mason at age 20 in 1753. It is suggested that he may have attended approximately nine  Masonic lodge meetings during the remaining 46 years of his life, and probably never presided over any lodge.

However, George Washington wrote letters in which he said he was happy to be a Mason, and, in 1791, described Masonry as being “founded in justice and benevolence…the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”

Asked more specifically about Freemasonry in 1798, Washington wrote, “…So far as I am acquainted with the principles and Doctrines of Freemasonry, I conceive them to be founded on benevolence and to be exercised for the good of mankind. If it has been a Cloak to promote improper or nefarious objects, it is a melancholly [sic] proof that in unworthy hands, the best institutions may be made use of to promote the worst designs.”

Interestingly, Brother George Washington took his oath of office as the first President of the United States with his hand upon a Bible from St. John’s Lodge No. 1 of the Ancient York Masons.  Since then, George Washington’s Inaugural Bible has been used for the inaugurations of Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush.

Additional use has been made in the funeral processions of Presidents Washington and Abraham Lincoln and in the center-stone laying of the U.S. Capitol, the addition of the Washington Monument, the centennials of the cornerstone laying of the White House, U.S. Capitol, and the Statue of Liberty, the 1964 World’s Fair as well as the launching of the aircraft carrier George Washington.

The Washington Bible is, interestingly, still in active use by St. Johns Lodge when not in civic display.

Many believe that every U.S. President was a Freemason.  In truth, there were only a few Freemason Presidents in the long line of America's Executive Office. Among those Presidents who also wore the Masonic Apron, you will find a few familiar names as well as a few lesser known Presidents.

Along with their Masonic careers, so too will you discover some interesting facts that bear consideration in light of their fraternal affiliation.

James Monroe
President 1817-1825 / Master Mason 1776

Entered Apprentice in Williamsburg Lodge No. 6 at Williamsburg, VA., on November 9, 1775.  Sadly there is no record of his taking any further degrees beyond the first.

The records of Cumberland Lodge no. 8 in Tennessee, June 8, 1819, show a reception for Monroe as “a Brother of the Craft.” possibly a Master Mason in 1776.

Said of the Masonic President James Monroe,  he was an “Episcopalian of deistic tendencies who valued civic virtues above religious doctrine.”  Stating in his first inaugural address the concept of religious freedom, “boasting that Americans may worship ‘the Divine Author’ in any manner they choose.” From The Religion of James Monroe, in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn, 2003.

Andrew Jackson
President 1829-1837 / Master Mason 1800


7th President, born at Waxhaw Settlement, N.C., March 15, 1767, was unquestionably a Mason, but when and where he was raised is not certain.

 

At the first meeting of Tennessee Lodge No.2 (originally No.41, N.C.) March 24, 1800, in Love’s Tavern, Knoxville, Tennessee, Jackson was present as a member of Harmony Lodge No.1, Nashville, Tennessee (originally No. 29, N.C.).

 

Past Grand Master Comstock of Tennessee, noted historian, believes Jackson was made a Mason in Harmony Lodge No.1. Federal Lodge No.1, Washington , D.C., elected him an Honorary Member January 4, 1839; Jackson Lodge No.1, Tallahassee, Florida, Elected him an Honorary Member sat some unknown date; the Grand Lodge of Florida elected him an Honorary Member January 15, 1833. His chief claim to Masonic fame is that he is the only Grand Master to become President. He was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and served from October 7, 1822, to October 4, 1823. In the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge (1822) he is credited with being a Past Master but no records substantiate the statement. Past Grand Master Comstock also believes that Jackson was a Royal Arch Mason, receiving these degrees, as was the custom in early days, under the authority of the Blue Lodge Warrant. He served the Grand Chapter of Tennessee as Deputy General Grand High Priest at its institution, April 3, 1826, but no record exists of his affiliation with any Chapter.

 

He acted as Senior Warden at the first meeting of Greenville Lodge No.3 (formerly No.43, N.C.), September 5, 1801; contributed thirty-five dollars in 1818 to the erection of a Masonic Temple in Nashville; requested two Lodges to perform funeral services; introduced Lafayette to the Grand Lodge of Tennessee in 1825; while President, assisted Washington’s Mother Lodge to lay the cornerstone of a monument to Washington’s Mother at Fredricksburg, Va. (May 6,1833); assisted in the Masonic laying of the cornerstone of Jackson City (across the river from Washington, D.C.) January 11, 1836; attended the Grand Lodge of Tennessee in 1839, and the same year visited Cumberland Chapter No.1 of Nashville, to assist in installation of officers. He died at “The Hermitage” near Nashville, Tennessee, June 8, 1845.

James K. Polk
President 1845-1849 / Master Mason 1820

Master Mason 1820.  EA, FC, MM, in Columbia Lodge No. 31, Columbia, Tenn., 1820, exalted a Royal Arch Mason in La Fayette Chapter No. 4 at Columbia in 1825.

President Polk, as a Freemason and elected Commander in Chief,  assisted in the cornerstone laying of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. on May 1, 1847.

In Polk’s career as president he oversaw the opening of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Smithsonian Institution, the groundbreaking for the Washington Monument, and the issuance of the first postage stamps in the United States.

Polk was an early  supporter of Westward Expansion expressed in a term that Democrats would later call “Manifest Destiny.”

James Buchanan
President 1857-1861 / Master Mason 1817


Master Mason 1817, Entered Apprentice Dec. 11, 1816, Lancaster Lodge No. 43, Lancaster, PA, Fellowcraft  & Master Mason degrees in 1817.

President Buchanan was the Junior Warden of his lodge from 1821 to 1822, and the Worshipful Master of the lodge in 1825.  He was later exalted in Royal Arch Chapter No. 43, in 1826 going on to become Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

Said of Buchanan in his work President James Buchanan: A Biography, by Philip S Klein, “His many talents, which in a quieter era might have gained for him a place among the great presidents, were quickly overshadowed by the cataclysmic events of civil war and by the towering Abraham Lincoln.”

Andrew Johnson
President 1865-1869 / Master Mason 1851


Master Mason 1851, Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, in Greeneville Lodge No. 119 now No. 3 at Greeneville, Tenn.

In 1851, johnson was probably a member of Greeneville Chapter No. 82, Royal Arch Masons, as he joined the Nashville York Rite Commandery of Knights Templar No. 1 in 1859. President Johnson received the Scottish Rite degrees in the White House in 1867.

Johnson joined the fraternity at the conclusion of his Senatorial term in the House of Representatives in 1843.

James A. Garfield

President 1881 / Master Mason 1864

 

Master Mason 1864, EA & FC Magnolia Lodge No. 20, Columbus, Ohio, MM Columbus Lodge No. 30, 1864, Affiliated with Garrettsville Lodge No. 246 in 1866, Affiliated with Pentalpha Lodge No. 23 Washington, D. C. as charter member in 1869. Exalted in Columbus Royal Arch Chapter 1866, and Knight Templar 1866, 14th Degree Scottish Rite 1872.

 

In his time, Garfield is credited as being a Chaplin of a lodge that he held membership in.

 

Politically interesting, Garfield supported articles of impeachment against President (and Masonic Brother) Andrew Johnson over charges that he violated the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

William McKinley

President 1897-1901 / Master Mason 1865
 

Master Mason 1865, He is sometimes said to have received EA, FC, MM, in Hiram Lodge No. 10 in Winchester, West Virginia, in 1865, but William Moseley Brown is authority for the statement that this event took place in Hiram Lodge No. 21 at Winchester, Virginia in that year. McKinley affiliated with Canton Lodge No. 60 at Canton, Ohio in 1867 and later became a charter member of Eagle Lodge No. 43. He received the Capitular degrees in Canton in 1883 and was made a Knight Templar in 1884.

 

President William McKinley said in 1901 that the brotherhood of fraternal societies was similar to the brotherhood of “equal citizenship” in the U.S.

 

It is suggested that McKinley became a Mason upon observing fraternal kindnesses exchanged between Masons in the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War.

Theodore Roosevelt
President 1901-1909 / Master Mason 1901


Master Mason 1901, EA, FC, MM, in Matinecock Lodge No. 806, Oyster Bay, NY in 1901. Somewhat active, and very supportive of Freemasonry.

Theodore Roosevelt, said in 1902, “One of the things that attracted me so greatly to Masonry . . . was that it really did live up to what we, as a government, are pledged to — of treating each man on his merits as a Man”.

From Roosevelt’s obituary in the New York Times, January 1919: Colonel Roosevelt was a member of the local lodge of Masons, and never failed to keep up his interest in it. He had made a habit for many years of visiting Masonic lodges wherever he went, as a member of the Oyster Bay lodge, and, returning, to tell his brother Masons here of his visits.

William Howard Taft
President 1909-1913 / Master Mason 1901


President Taft was made a Master Mason at Sight in Kilwinning Lodge No. 356, in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1901.

That made him a member at large, until the Grand Lodge issued a demit to Taft when he became a regular  member of that lodge. Somewhat active, Taft was very supportive of Freemasonry.

More on on Taft an Freemasonry from the National Heritage Museum:  Making a Mason at Sight: The Case of President-Elect Taft.

To the diversity of faith that Freemasonry supports, Tast was a member of the First Congregational-Unitarian Church which he joined at an early age through his parents.


It is suggested that as he rose in government, he spent little time in Cincinnati. and attended the church infrequently  worshiping when he could.

Warren G. Harding

President 1921-1923 / Master Mason 1920

 

President Harding received his Entered Apprentice Degree at Lodge No. 7O, in Marion, Ohio on June 28, 1901.  He received no other degree until after becoming U.S. President, FC & MM in Marion Lodge No. 70 in 1920 (MM Aug. 27, 1920), Royal Arch Chapter degrees in Marion Chapter No. 62 in 1921; Knight Templar in Marion Commandery No. 36, in 1921, Scottish Rite and Shrine in 1921.

 

Interestingly, Harding was blackballed on the first petition for membership in 1901 on objection and rumor over his heritage.  That impediment was over come and he was made an Entered apprentice on June of that year, but delaying his further progress for nearly 20 years.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
President 1933-1945 / Master Mason 1911


Our 32nd President was born at Hyde Park, New York, January 30, 1882. He was initiated in Holland Lodge No.8, New York City, October 10th, passed November 14th and raised November 28, 1911. He received the Scottish Rite degrees in Albany, New York, February 28, 1929. He was a member of the Grotto (Poughkeepsie, New York) and Tall Cedars (Warwick, New York.

 

He was “Right Worshipful” having been accredited the representative of the Grand Lodge of Georgia near the Grand Lodge of New York September 22, 1930.Stansbury Lodge No.24, Washington, D.C. made him an Honorary Member November 21, 1919, when he officiated at the Masonic laying of the cornerstone of its Temple.

 

He attended Architect Lodge No.519, of New York City, February 17,1933, where he raised his son Elliott to the Sublime Degree and made an address in which he stressed the importance of Masonic principles to this Nation, and his faith in the Americanism of the Ancient Craft, He died at Warm Spring, Georgia, April 12, 1945, and was buried at Hyde Park, New York.

Theodore Roosevelt, said in 1902, “One of the things that attracted me so greatly to Masonry . . . was that it really did live up to what we, as a government, are pledged to — of treating each man on his merits as a Man”.

Harry S. Truman

President 1945-1953 / Master Mason 1909

 

For the second time in the 169 year history of the United States of America, a Past Grand Master of Masons was elevated to the office of President.  Harry S.  Truman became the 33rd Chief Executive, Thursday, April 12, 1945, when he was sworn in by Chief Justice Harlan Stone, two and a half hours after the untimely death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  He was born May 8, 1884, a LaMar, Barton County, Missouri. 

 

He was made a Mason in Belton Lodge No.450, of Missouri, March 9, 1909, and served as Junior Warden in 1910.  In 1911, he organized Grandview Lodge No.618 and served as its first Worshipful Master.  Later, he was its Secretary, and again, in 1917, its Master.  From 1925 to 1930, he served the Grand Lodge as District Deputy Grand Master and District Deputy Grand Lecturer, and in 1930 was appointed Grand Pursuivant, and progressed regularly until his elevation as Grand Master in 1940.

On November 15, 1919, he was exalted in Orient Chapter No.102, Kansas City, Missouri; greeted in Shekinah Council No.24, Kansas City, Missouri, December 8, 1919; Knighted by Palestine Commandery No.17, of Independence, Missouri, June 15,1923, receiving the 32 deg in Western Missouri Consistery, Kansas City, Missouri.  On November 21, 1941, he received from Grand Commander Melvin M. Johnson, 33 deg, of the Northern Supreme Council, the Gourgas Medal for distinguished service to Masonry.  Humanity and Country.  In 1945, he was crowned a 33 deg by the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction.

 

He attended Masonic lodge meetings while campaigning, and while he was President of the U.S., and he wrote,

“The greatest honor that has ever come to me, and that can ever come to me in my life, is to be Grand Master of Masons in Missouri”

Gerald R. Ford

President 1974-1977 / Master Mason 1951
 

Master Mason 1951, EA Sep. 30, 1949, Malta Lodge No. 465, Grand Rapids, Michigan, courtesy FC & MM Columbia Lodge No. 3, Washington, D.C., Apr. 20 & May 18, 1951

 

Ford was initiated September 30, 1949, at Malta Lodge No. 465, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, along with his half-brothers Thomas Gardner Ford (1918-1995), Richard Addison Ford and James Francis Ford. The Fellowcraft and Master Mason Degrees were Conferred by Columbia Lodge No. 3, Washington, D.C., on April 20 and May 18, 1951, as a courtesy to Malta Lodge. Brother Ford was made a Sovereign Grand Inspector General, 33rd degree, and Honorary Member, Supreme Council A.A.S.R. Northern Jurisdiction at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, on September 26, 1962, for which he served as Exemplar (Representative) for his Class. Brother and President Ford was unanimously elected an Active Member of the International Supreme Council, Order of DeMolay and its Honorary Grand Master, at its Annual Session held at Orlando, Florida, April 6-9, 1975.

 

Ford held this post until January 1977, at which time he became a Past Honorary Grand Master, receiving his Collar and Jewel on October 24, 1978 in Topeka, Kansas, from the Hon. Thomas C. Raum, Jr., Grand Master, Order of DeMolay.

Other Illustrious Freemasons:


Benjamin Franklin
(January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790)

While not a President, Benjamin Franklin was an inventor, publisher, author, and statesman, Grand Master of Pennsylvannia, and member of the Lodge of Nine Sisters in Paris.

 

Paul Revere

(December 21, 1734 – May 10, 1818)
American metalsmith and patriot, famed for his "Midnight ride," and a Grand Master of Massachusetts.

 

Marquis de Lafayette

(September 6, 1757 – May 20, 1834)

French aristocrat who fought with American colonists against the British and was a great friend of George Washington.

 

Robert R. Livingston

(November 27, 1746 – February 26, 1813)

Member of the Constitutional Committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence and a Grand Master of New York.

 

John Hancock

(January 23, 1737 – October 8, 1793)

President of the Continental Congress from 1775 until 1777 and famous for signing his name large on the Declaration of Independence so that "King George can read it without his spectacles."

 

John Marshall

(September 24, 1755 – July 6, 1835)

Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1801 until 1835.

 

John Paul Jones

(July 6, 1747 – July 18, 1792)

"Father of the U.S. Navy," Scottish American sailor and the United States' first well-known naval fighter in the American Revolutionary War.

 

Aaron Burr

(February 6, 1756 – September 14, 1836)

Revolutionary War colonel and adventurer, Thomas Jefferson's vice-president after a tie vote was decided by Congress, and killed Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel.

 

Masonic Signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776:

 

Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania, Grand Master of Pennsylvania
William Ellery, Rhode Island, First Lodge of Boston
John Hancock, Massachusetts, became a Mason in Merchants Lodge No. 277 in Quebec, affiliated with Saint Andrew's Lodge in Boston, 1762
Joseph Hewes, North Carolina, Unanimity Lodge No. 7, and buried with Masonic funeral honors
William Hooper, North Carolina, Member of Hanover Lodge in Masonborough, NC
Thomas McKean, Delaware, Perseverance Lodge in Harrisburg, PA
Robert Treat Paine, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Grand Lodge
Richard Stockton, New Jersey, Charter Master of St. John's Lodge in Princeton, NJ
George Walton, Georgia, Solomon's Lodge No. 1, in Savannah, GA
William Whipple, New Hampshire, St. John's Lodge, Portsmouth, NH

Lyndon B. Johnson

President 1963-1969 / Entered Apprentice 1937

 

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President, was born on August 27, 1908, on a farm near Stonewall, Texas.  He was sworn in as the Chief Executive on November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  A year later, running against the Republican nominee, Senator and Brother Barry Goldwater of Arizona, he won a landslide victory, to serve as President for the four-year term, January, 1965; January ,1969.  He declined to run for re-election in 1968.

On October 30, 1937, he was initiated an Entered Apprentice in Johnson City, Texas.  He never advanced.  A week after his initiation he won an election for Representative in Congress and began a very busy political career in Washington which lasted until his retirement from the Presidency in January of 1969.

The opinion among Masons is divided as to whether he should be regarded as a Masonic President, since he never achieved the status of Master Mason.  Masonic law in Texas declares that “Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts are Masons,” although denied certain rights and privileges, Lyndon B. Johnson was accepted and initiated in a Masonic Lodge, and at that time was addressed as “Brother.”