Famous Freemason Video: Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington is considered by many to be one of America's most brilliant jazz composers and bandleaders of the twentieth century. Ellington's classics include "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Mood Indigo," and "I Let a Song Get Out of My Head."  And he was a Freemason.

Brother Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington became a Mason in Social Lodge No. 1, Washington, D. C., PHA in 1932.  He was also a 32° Scottish Rite Mason, and a member of the Shrine.

And this is one of his best--"Satin Doll."  Enjoy.


Book Review: Sherlock Holmes Annotated Edition

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

~Arthur Conan Doyle
Phoenix Lodge No. 257, England

For Valentine's Day, my wife gave me a wonderful gift--The Annotated Sherlock Holmes: Volume 1.  I've had my eye on them for a long time, but they were a little pricey (about $120 for all three volumes).  She knows me well, and it was a great gift.  For the past week, I've been slowly working my way through the stories from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.  It's a huge 10 x 8 book, over six hundred pages in length, and featuring more than 450 illustrations (not counting margins crammed full of detailed notes.) 

The margin notes and period photographs have really enhanced my enjoyment of the stories. I've read the stories many times over the years, and there were always parts I didn't understand--Conan Doyle was writing stories in his own era for people of his own era.  There were many references to popular literature, theater, and science of the time that I simply didn't catch.  All those references are explained in the margins of this volume.  I can honestly say that I now know the difference between the types of horse carriages used during that period now, and now know what a gasogene is--handy bit of cutting edge Victorian technology for those back then that might like to have a scotch and soda.  Those notes and illustrations have greatly broadened my understanding of the Victorian Era.

The edition includes all of Sidney Paget's original illustrations from The Strand Magazine, and also include many of the illustrations created by the American press when the stories were reprinted here.  It was kind of entertaining to see the dramatic differences in a scene illustrated by Paget and the same scene illustrated by an American magazine.

These books are a little pricey, but well worth it for fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  If I'm good, maybe I'll get the second volume for my birthday--that one includes stories from The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.  The third volume contains the four Sherlock Holmes novels.

And in case you're wondering--in all, there are 56 short stories, and four novels in what Sherlockians call "the canon."  If you haven't read them, you should give them a try--they're timeless.


Todd's Secret Project Revealed: The Video

This wasn't as easy I thought it was going to be, but I really like the way it turned out.  Not bad for my first try.  Have a look, and let me know what you think.  And be sure and crank up the volume--I think the music really works.


Freemason Wisdom: General Norman Schwarzkopf On Leadership

"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy."

~Norman Schwarzkopf

We have a common misconception these days that INTELLIGENCE = LEADERSHIP.  As we all-to-often learn, there is a big difference between intellect and effectiveness--in fact, they have little to do with each other.  Many of our nations greatest leaders throughout history were not particularly brilliant, but they had a quality that instilled confidence and faith in their ability to lead.  They were able to gain the trust of the people through the strength of their character.  People were able to put their trust in them.

Honesty and integrity are two of the most important qualities in a leader, and something see very little of in those who represent us today.  We have very low expectations that those we put into office are going to actually do what they say they will do--in fact, we expect them to do few of the things they promise.  It's a given these days that politicians are going to tell us what they think we want to hear instead of what they really believe in and intend to accomplish.

America has never needed leadership more than it does today. Perhaps we should start valuing character again.  Start looking for leaders that don't talk about what they are going to do, but those that actually accomplish the things they set out to do--because they actually believe in the things they say. 


Author Update: I Could Use Some Help!

The good news is, my second novel is nearing completion.  A Shot After Midnight should be released some time in April.  Of course, there will be more on that topic later--much, much more I'm sure.

The bad news is, I'm so busy seeing to all the details of that project, I'm having a tough time keeping up The Midnight Freemason blogs just lately.  So, I'm asking for your help.  If there is something you'd like to post, I'm looking for some guest contributors. I posted a few guidelines here--be sure and read those.  That should tell you what I'm after, and what the readers of the blog seem to enjoy.  If you have questions about whether something would be of interest or not, please feel free to email me at webmaster@toddcreason.org.  When you email me, if you put Midnight Freemason as part of the subject, it would be a big help (I get a few emails). 

So share something--tell me about an event you attended. Does your lodge have a unique story?  Share a personal insight or experience you've had as a Mason. Some trivia about a famous Freemason. Point me to a video. Pictures are great too.  Hey, everyone loves the Mason jokes, too.  Have a little fun with it.

Upon acceptance, I'll tell you the exact date it will post.--you'll have about a week to tell all your friends before it goes up. Make sure you include your name, lodge, and other affiliations with your piece when you submit it, so I'm sure to get it right when I post the piece.

And also . . . Even if you don't want to write a piece yourself, if you stumble across items of interest, send them my way--my surfing time has been seriously impeded. I'll still give you due credit for providing it.


Freemason Wisdom: Teddy Roosevelt On Living Life

Teddy Roosevelt

"The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything."

~Theodore Roosevelt
Matinecock Lodge No. 806, Oyster Bay, NY

We all know that person--the one that lives their life safely along the sidelines, never afraid to tell those playing in the game what they did wrong and what they should do next, but completely unwilling to put themselves out there.  That person at the family picnic that never fails to point out your age looking down their nose at you while you're jumping on the trampoline with the kids.  It's that person that will give you twenty reasons why you shouldn't do something unconventional, and then when you're successful at it, they'll just say you were "lucky". 

Many of us life by the the credo "better safe than sorry."  But many of the men I've researched and written about over the years think very differently about that.  They believe it's better to be sorry than safe.  That no good thing ever comes without risk.  That it's better to try and fail than never succeed at anything.  They understand that life if very short, and it's better to get to the end of it with bumps and bruises, than get to the end of it with regrets. 

It's amazing what can be accomplished when you believe you can't fail. 


Excerpted from A Freemason Said That?  Great Quotes from Famous Freemasons edited by Todd E. Creason. 

On This Day In History : Astronaut John Glenn Rockets Into History

Bro. John Glenn
 "I don't know what you could say about a day in which you've seen four beatiful sunsets."

~John Glenn
Concord Lodge No. 688, Ohio

Fifty years ago today, former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, became the first American to orbit the Earth.  In the years leading up to Glenn's flight in the Friendship 7 capsule, in which he circled the Earth three times, the goal of the program was very clear: to get Americans into space and, eventually, to land Americans on the moon.

The Illustrious John Glenn 33° originally petitioned his hometown lodge, Concord Lodge No. 688 of New Concord, Ohio, in 1964. He was elected to receive the Degrees of Masonry; however, his increasingly busy life made it impossible for him to receive those degrees at the time. Even so, he continued to desire admission in Concord Lodge. Fourteen years later, on August 19, 1978, John Glenn was finally able to finish what he had begun in 1964. At the Chillicothe High School gymnasium with hundreds of Master Masons present, John Glenn received the Master Mason degree in a special meeting. After the Master of Scioto Lodge No. 6 opened the lodge, he turned the meeting over to Grand Master of Ohio, Jerry C. Rasor, who in turn opened the Grand Lodge of Ohio who conferred the degrees.

On April 11, 1997, Brother Glenn received further light in Masonry in the Valley of Cincinnati when he received the Scottish Rite Degrees. He later received the highest Masonic honor on September 10, 1998, when he was conferred with the 33° of Masonry. Several of his friends from Washington, D.C., attended the event. Senate colleagues, Brothers Charles Grassley and Conrad Burns, were present as was a former Ohio congressman Brother Clarence Brown, Jr. of the Valley of Dayton. It might be interesting to note that there are two topics deemed inappropriate to discuss in a lodge of Freemasons because they are topics that divide men instead of uniting them—religion and politics. This ideal is obviously something John Glenn very much believes in. The three friends that joined Brother Glenn at the conferral of his 33° were Republicans. John Glenn has been a lifelong Democrat.

Famous Freemason And His Daughter: The Unforgettable Nat King Cole

I sometimes forget that sometimes the best way to show the talents of some of the Famous American Freemasons I've come to know over the last few years, is to just show their talent--we have that technology now.  I hope you enjoy this.  It's was a beautiful song when Nat King Cole recorded it orginally, and his daughter Natalie's voice with his only makes it better.

Stunning, isn't it?


You can learn more about famous Freemasons like Nat King Cole in Todd Creason's Famous American Freemasons series.  They are available at major online booksellers everywhere, and for both Nook and Kindle.

Masonic Poem: Ring of Gold

Ring of Gold
WB Peter A. Todd

This ring of gold means many things
To this life I chose to live,
For to my heart, it always brings
What God above, to me, did give?

The square and compass within red
Reminds me of how He died for me.
For on the cross, He did shed
His life for our sins to be free.

The trowel soothes my desires,
Always staying on the level of time
For the love of God to inspire,
Never to justice to be blind.

For this ring in my light,
Guiding me all the way,
Keeping its meaning within my sight,
Never from it to stray.

WB Peter A. Todd is from Massachusetts where he is the Past Master of several lodges A.F. & A.M: Tyrian Lodge, Acacia Lodge, Ashler Lodge, and Charles C. Dame Lodge. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Joseph Warren Medal.  And although I'm no expert, I thought he was a pretty good poet, too. 

I ran across one of his poems by chance, and contacted him.  He was only too happy to allow me to share his poem, and he sent me several more as well (actually, this isn't the one I planned on using originally).  If you enjoy it, make sure to let me know, and perhaps I'll post another later.  Better yet, let the poet know--you can email WB Peter A. Todd at ptrabbit@comcast.net


On The Lighter Side of Freemasonry . . .

"All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner."

~Bro. Red Skelton

Late Night Mischief

There's a man, walking down the street at one o'clock in the morning--he's loaded.

A policeman stops him and asks him, "where do you think you're going in that condition?"

"I'm on my way to a lecture on Freemasonry," the man slurred.

"Where can you possibly get a lecture on Freemasonry at this time of night?" the officers asks.

"From my wife, when I get home!"

And here's a math problem for you . . .

Q: How many Masons does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Three. One to screw it in, one to read the minutes of the previous light bulb replacement, and one to sit on the sidelines and complain that this wasn't the way they USED to screw in light bulbs.

Sadly, of all the jokes and humourous quotes I've received over the last few months, these were the only ones I could post on here--but keep them coming.  I enjoy them!


Famous Freemason Trivia: Freemasons And Guns

WWII Hero Audie Murphy
The Hero

Audie Murphy grew up in poverty, and even when he was a very young boy he often helped put food on the family table by hunting rabbits—with a slingshot. He rarely missed with the makeshift weapon. One day , a young man home from college, knowing the Murphy family was very poor, loaned Audie a .22 rifle to hunt rabbits with, and gave him eight rounds to use. Audie returned the rifle some hours later, but he only had four rabbits. Before the college boy could tease him about his accuracy, Audie handed him four unused rounds. When Audie grew older, it was said he could hit a darting rabbit from the window of a moving car with a .22.

"God created man but Samuel Colt
made them equal."
The Equalizer

Samuel Colt got the idea for invention that made him famous while working as a young man on the sailing ship Corlo—he was watching the wheel of the ship when the idea of the rotating chamber came to him. “Regardless of which way the wheel was spun, each spoke always came in direct line with a clutch that could be set to hold it . . . the revolver was conceived!” Colt’s single-action six-chamber revolver revolutionized firearms. Colt’s style of manufacture was different as well—he wanted all the parts of his guns machined to precise tolerances so the parts were interchangeable instead of requiring each gun to be hand tooled by a gunsmith. That meant parts could be ordered by customers when they needed to be replaced, and the guns could be assembled in a very efficient method invented by Samuel Colt—the assembly line.

Sousa at the range
The Shotgun Maestro

Known as The March King John Philips Sousa is one of the most famous composers in American history—but he had a hobby. He was one of the best trapshooters in the United States. He won trophies and medals in many national competitions, and it wasn’t unusual for him to shoot more than 15,000 targets in a single season—with an average accuracy rate of between 75 and 98 percent during competitions. He was elected president of the American Amateur Trapshooters’ Association in 1916, and in 1917, became chairman of the National Association of Shotgun Owners.

1835 Jackson assasination attempt
Divine Intervention?

In 1835, Andrew Jackson became the first President that was subjected to an assassination attempt. As he was leaving a memorial service in the United States Capitol, and as he walked through the Rotunda surrounded by friends, a man stepped out the crowd, pulled a pistol, and shot him in the chest. Before anybody could react, the man pulled and fired a second pistol. Surprised, but uninjured, Andrew Jackson went after the assailant with his cane. The shooter was apprehended by a group that included United States Representative Davey Crockett. The priming caps on both pistols had fired, but failed to ignite the charge in the pistols. They were later re-primed with fresh caps, and both guns fired flawlessly. Nobody knows why they failed to go off—they were properly loaded. A few believed that Jackson was extraordinarily lucky—most believed it was Divine Intervention that saved Andrew Jackson’s life that day. A statue of Jackson still stands to this day in the Capitol Rotunda where that attempt occurred.


Freemason Quotes: Valentine's Day Edition

Bro. Winston Churchill
and Clementine
"My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me."

~Sir Winston Churchill
Studholme Lodge No. 1591, England

"Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination."

Lodge of the Nine Sisters, France

Bro. Red Skelton
"Two times a week, my wife and I go to a nice restaurant, have a little beverage, good food and companionship.  She goes on Tuesdays; I go on Fridays."

~Red Skelton
Vincennes Lodge No. 1, Indiana

"If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life."

~Oscar Wilde
Apollo University Lodge No. 357, England

Bro. Richard Pryor
"I believe in the institution of marriage, and I intend to keep trying till I get it right."

~Richard Pryor
Henry Brown Lodge No. 22 PHA, Illinois

"Heaven grant us patience with a man in love."

~Rudyard Kipling
Hope and Esperence Lodge No. 782, India


Masonic Poem: The Old Master's Wages

The Old Master's Wages

I met a dear old man today,
Who wore a Masonic pin,
It was old and faded like the man,
It's edges were worn quite thin.

I approached the park bench where he sat,
To give the old brother his due,
I said, "I see you've traveled east,"
He said, "I have, have you?"

I said, "I have, and in my day
Before the all seeing sun,
I played in the rubble, with Jubala
Jubalo and Jubalum."

He shouted, "don't laugh at the work my son,
It's good and sweet and true,
And if you've traveled as you said,
You should give these things their due."

The word, the sign the token,
The sweet Masonic prayer,
The vow that all have taken,
Who've climbed the inner stair.

The wages of a Mason,
Are never paid in gold,
But the gain comes from contentment,
When you're weak and growing old.

You see, I've carried my obligations,
For all these many years,
It has helped me through the hardships
And the failures full of tears..

Now I'm losing my mind and body,
Death is near but I don't despair,
I've lived my life upon the level,
And I'm dying upon the square.

Sometimes the greatest lessons
Are those that are learned anew,
And the old man in the park today
Has changed my point of view.

To all Masonic brothers,
The only secret is to care,
May you live your life upon the level,
May you part upon the square.

~Author Unknown

I thought this was a great poem.  I'd like to thank Brother Randy Casteel, Deputy Master of the Valley of Danville (IL) Lodge of Perfection for sending it to me.  He's also a member of my lodge--Ogden Lodge No. 754.


Whitney Houston: The Star Spangled Banner

I don't usually post on the weekends, and this doesn't have anything to do with the topics I usually post about, but I thought I'd share a great moment, and a great performance.  This was Whitney's performance at the Super Bowl in '93.  It speaks for itself.  Start playing the video, and then read the rest of what I've written as it plays.

This is the way our National Anthem should be treated--with respect.  It put a lump in my throat then, and it still does now.  I get tired of hearing artists botch our National Anthem, forget the words (if they ever knew them to begin with) or treat it as a joke--this performance incidentally took place three years after Roseanne Barr's abominable performance. 

There is a moment in this performance that gets me--after "the rockets red glare."  She's nervous, she looks over and sees somebody she knows, and realizes she's got it.  That one moment seemed to give her the confidence for the finish she gave that was truly remarkable in every way. 

It's sad to me the way drugs can strip away such a God-given talent, and leave nothing in its wake--but death.  Let's definitely legalize drugs--that's a great idea.  You see the way it impacts our famous Americans when it's illegal, like Whitney, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and many, many more.  And how many more "troubled" stars, gifted artists, are unknowingly headed towards the grave now? I'm sure it will be much better when you can buy your pot and pills at the local convenience store with an I.D.

We don't know what killed Whitney Houston yet, but I'd bet drugs played a role--just guessing.  It definitely ruined her career, which was on the rise, and silenced that great voice she had long before she passed.  I know those way on the right, Libertarians, and way on the left, Progressive Liberals, are both pushing for the legalization of drugs. 

I wonder what kind of America we will have when drug use and addiction becomes socially acceptable.


Freemason Trivia: Al Jolson

Bro. Al Jolson

"You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

~Al Jolson
St. Cecile Lodge No. 568, NY

Al Jolson was one of the first mega-stars when it came to singers--he was the first recording artist in history to sell more than 3 million records. Developing his style on Vaudeville stages, his fame grew through his recordings in the 1920s.  His popularity grew even more when he started making movies--his voice was the first one many Americans first heard in movie theaters--starring in the first Warner Brothers "talkie" The Jazz Singer.

William Frawley
Vaudeville was known for producing some of Hollywood's best known early talents--like W.C. Fields, Will Rogers,and Abbott and Costello.  But Vaudeville performers were notorious for "ripping off" each others work, and Jolson was no angel.  In fact, the song he was best known for My Mammy was originally introduced by another Vaudeville performer.  Jolson liked it so much, he used it in his Broadway musical Sinbad where it became is biggest hit.

You know who recorded it first?  William Frawley . . . that's right, it was Fred Mertz.  Jolson may have ripped him off early in their careers, but he got even by becoming famous on I Love Lucy years after most Americans had forgotten all about Al Jolson--and he is probably on a rerun of I Love Lucy or My Three Sons right now somewhere in TV-Land.


Famous Illinois Freemason: "Uncle Joe" Cannon's Shoplifting Case

"Uncle Joe" Cannon political cartoon
Tempestuous Illinois Freemason, Joseph Gurney "Uncle Joe" Cannon, served a record-long term as Speaker of the House between November 9, 1903 and March 4, 1911. He was known for his fiery rhetoric, and his iron-fisted rule of Washington D.C. That period of Washington D. C. politics is known as "The Age of Cannon."  His record as Speaker of the House stood for fifty-nine years until another Illinoisian, Dennis Hassert, finally broke it.  When Uncle Joe Cannon finally retired in 1922, he was featured on the very first cover of Time magazine.  He returned to his home on Vermilion Street in Danville, Illinois, where he lived out the remainder of his life.

Abe and Sarah Bush Lincoln
But it was one of Joe Cannon's early cases that was the most interesting. Long before moving to Danville, Illinois, he lived in Tuscola, Illinois, and served as state's attorney for the 27th juducial district between 1861and 1868.  During this time he was sent to Charleston, Illinois to defend a woman accused of shoplifting--she had taken a piece of cloth from a local store.  After interviewing the woman, he learned she'd taken a small swatch of material home to compare the color against a piece she was working on--a common enough practice in that day.  Joe Cannon talked to the judge, and was able to get the charges dropped.  It was just a misunderstanding after all. 

That was fortunate, because it wouldn't have looked good for the President of the United States, a man known as "Honest Abe," to have his step-mother, whom he called "mother" and credited with his sense of humor, convicted of shoplifting in Charleston, Illinois.

That's right, the woman that Joe Cannon went to defend was none other than Sarah Bush Lincoln.

I like to tell a story about a local hero every once in awhile, and Uncle Joe is definitely an iconic character in my part of the world--and of course, Lincoln spent some time here too.  Originally, Joe Cannon was made a Mason in Shelbyville, Illinois, he affliliated with Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, Illinois in 1858--that lodge is still thriving.  I was told later, by my friend Michael Shirley (then Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332) that he was also a charter member of that Illinois lodge, where he lived so many years.  He was also a member of Vermilion Chapter No. 82 of the Royal Arch, and the Athelstan Commandery of the Knights Tempar, both in Danville--sadly neither of those are still in existence. 

When I wrote about Uncle Joe Cannon in Famous American Freemasons: Volume II by friend Bob Blacketer, the Secretary of Olive Branch (then and now), went digging through all the musty and dusty records looking for material for the chapter in my book about Uncle Joe--I'd like to thank him again for that. 

Famous Freemason: Hiram Rhodes Revels

Bro. Hiram Rhodes Revels
Hiram Rhodes Revels was born free in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on September 27, 1827. Educated in Indiana and Ohio, he graduated from Knox University in Illinois. Ordained in the African Methodist Episcopalian Church, Revels accepted a pastorate in Baltimore in 1860. He served as an army chaplain for a black regiment during the Civil War and helped establish schools for freed slaves. In 1869 the Mississippi legislature elected him to the United States Senate, in which he was the first African American member.

When Hiram Rhodes Revels, was escorted to the front of the Senate Chamber to take his oath on February 25, 1870, the Atlanta Constitution reported that “the crowded galleries rose almost en masse, and each particular neck was stretched to its uttermost to get a view. A curious crowd (colored and white) rushed into the Senate chamber and gazed at the colored senator, some of them congratulating him. A very respectable looking, well dressed company of colored men and women then came up and took Revels captive, and bore him off in glee and triumph.”

Hiram Rhodes Revels was a Prince Hall Freemason, and served as Grand Chaplain of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio. He was elected to the Senate from Mississippi to fill the unexpired term of Albert G. Brown, who withdrew from the office in 1861 when Mississippi joined the Confederacy. After an ugly battle over whether Revels even qualified as a citizen, the argument was finally resolved in a 48-8 vote in favor of Hiram Rhodes Revels being seated.  He served a little over a year and later became the President of what is today Alcorn State University.


L. Ron Hubbard: Freemason Or Not?

L. Ron Hubbard

"Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today, and you make your tomorrow."

~L. Ron Hubbard
Founder of the Church of Scientology

Author and founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, is often said to have been a Freemason. He was friends with Jack Parsons, chemist, and founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories.   Jack Parsons was also the head of the AgapĂ© Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) in Los Angeles, California, and later head of the Pasadena OTO branch. It is believed that Hubbard was initiated into the OTO in 1944 by either Aleister Crowley or Jack Parsons, in fact, that may very well have been where and when he and Jack Parsons met.  However, whether or not he was member of OTO is of little importance in determining if L. Ron Hubbard was a Freemason--Ordo Templi Orientis is not a Masonic organization.

He may have very well been a member of OTO, but there is no evidence that L. Ron Hubbard was a Freemason.


Freemason Wisdom: George Washington On Freemasonry

"The grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race."

~George Washington
Fredericksburg Lodge, Virginia

Famous Freemason: Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" Escape

Brother Nat King Cole
Thomas Waller Lodge No. 49, California
There had been rumors that there might be trouble, but Nat King Cole refused to cancel the performance. Two shows were planned in Birmingham, Alabama—one for whites and one for blacks. There had been rumors of trouble in the past—it was something he had learned to live with when he toured. There were rumors that Ku Klux Klan planned to grab him during the show. Nobody knows what they planned to do with him once they had him, but the kinds of atrocities that were being done to blacks in Alabama during the 50s were well known. The police were there, guarding the stage, but nobody actually believed even the Ku Klux Klan would be so bold as to try to kidnap a famous performer off the stage during a show.

The orchestra had just begun playing the introduction of Cole’s second song during the first show when a coyote howl rang out in the theater—the signal for the attack. Five men rushed up the aisles of the theater. “Here they come,” someone shouted. People began screaming. The police, thinking any attack would come from the wings of the stage, were unprepared for an attack from the audience.

Nat King Cole didn’t know what was happening. The lights were in his face as he sang. Suddenly, somebody came out of the darkness and grabbed for him. He stumbled backwards, falling over and breaking the piano bench.

The police rushed out from the wings, cracking one of the assailants in the head with a nightstick, and wrestling another off of Nat King Cole. Very quickly, the police apprehended the five men. Fortunately, not all 150 members of the Klan who were supposed to show up at the performance had—it could have ended very differently. The singer got up, limping badly on his ankle and nursing a swollen lip, and left the stage.

The audience felt bad about what had happened, and they began to applaud and call his name. After more than five minutes, Cole returned to the stage to say a few words. They wanted him to continue the show, but Cole had been injured during the brawl, and cancelled the show. Cole and his group returned to the hotel, but they knew they were in danger as long as they remained in Birmingham—they needed to get out of Alabama fast. Little did they know they had a friend who had quickly heard about what had happened, and had begun making calls—a friend with certain connections.

Years later, Nat King Cole and his Birmingham travel agent
possibly talking about who was the best singer???
Cole’s wife, two thousand miles a way, had no idea what had happened in Alabama when her phone rang in Los Angeles. The man on the other end told her what had happened, told her that her husband was fine. Of course she knew who the man was—everyone in American did. And how he learned about the incident so quickly isn’t hard to imagine considering some of the friends he had—they did call him “the chairman of the board” after all. She had to know as long as her husband remained in Birmingham, he was still in danger, but Frank Sinatra reassured her by saying, “Don’t worry, honey, we’ll get them out of there.” She may have known whom he meant when he said “we.” Some of Sinatra’s friends were people like Carlo and Joe Gambino, Jimmy Fratianno, Salvatore Spatola, and Albert “the Executioner” Anastasia.

Wherever that first plane out of Birmingham was scheduled to go the following morning is not where it wound up going. The plane was rerouted and took Nat King Cole and his musicians out of danger. The musicians landed safely in Chicago.

And Frank may have had a little help with commandeering that plane out of Birmingham—from then vice-President Richard Nixon.

Brother Nat King Cole was a member of Thomas Waller Lodge No. 49, PHA, Los Angeles, California. He joined in 1938. The lodge was founded by a group of African-American musicians who were members of Musicians Local 767, and Cole joined with his friend and drummer Lee Young. Nat King Cole remained faithful to Masonic principles his whole life—he saw himself as a builder of musical architecture, but he built more than music. His music helped to bring people and races together.

Neither Frank Sinatra nor Richard Nixon were Freemasons.

I told this story in Famous American Freemasons: Volume II, and I like it for several reasons. It reminds us that not-so-many years ago, America was a very different place, and while we still have work to do, we have come a very long way. It’s also a reminder of those brave African-American men and women who challenged the barriers, and put themselves at tremendous risk in the process in their struggles for equality. And finally, that even back in those days of overt racism and discrimination, there were those with skin just as white as mine, that saw the injustices being done, and helped to do something about it. I’m going to spend a little time this month, Black History Month, sharing a few stories about remarkable Freemasons like Nat King Cole.


Hitler's War Against Freemasonry

"Ourselves or the Freemasons or the Church — there is room for one of the three and no more... We are the strongest of the three and shall get rid of the other two."

~Adolph Hitler

Adolph Hitler considered Freemasonry a threat, as he did any group that "mistakenly" taught that all men were equal and encouraged independent thought. When Hitler rose to power, he set out to destroy his perceived enemies--the Freemasons high on his list. The ten Grand Lodges of Germany were dissolved, and many prominent members of the fraternity were sent to concentration camps as political prisoners. Freemasons were targeted by the Gestapo--membership lists of the Grand Lodges were seized and Masons had their libraries and collections of Masonic objects looted by the Gestapo. Many of these objects siezed were exhibited in an "Anti-Masonic Exposition" inaugurated in 1937 by Herr Dr. Joseph Goebbels in Munich.

The same thing happened in Austria when the country was captured by the Nazis. The Masters of the various Vienna lodges were remanded to some of the most notorious concentration camps, including the Dachau in Bavaria.  Then it happened in Czechoslovakia, then Poland . . . Holland . . . Belgium . . . Norway . . .   In Spain, General Franco in 1940, sentenced all Freemasons to ten years in prison as soon as they were identified as members of the craft. When France fell to the Nazi's, the Vichy government caused the two Masonic bodies of France--the Grand Orient and the Grand Lodge of France--to be dissolved, and all their property was sold at auction to fuel the Nazi war machine.

Forget-Me-Not pin
As early as 1934, Freemasons in Germany knew they were suddenly at tremendous risk--many went underground. They left their traditional symbols, like the square and compass, and adopted one in its place the Nazi's wouldn't recognize--a small blue flower called a Forget-Me-Not. It was common at the time--a pin given to those that had given to a charity (much like the orange poppies given out today by the American Legion Auxilliary when you offer a donation to them).  But that flower came to mean much more to underground Masons in Germany at that time. By this flower, and perhaps a handshake, Freemasons were able to identify each other in public, and in concentration camps.  It was worn by Freemasons who stubbornly refused to allow the light of Freemasonry to be extinguished by the Nazis, and by that symbol, Freemasonry emerged again from the semi-darkness of World War II to thrive again.  

The number of Freemasons who were killed by the Nazi's in not precisely known, but it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were murdered by the Nazis. Many Freemasons throughout the world still wear the small blue flower pin, in memory of those Brothers who died at the hands of the Germans.

Those tiny pins are still widely available--now that you know what it means, maybe you should get one in remembrance of a time when your "hobby" might very well have cost you your life.  It was not so much a hobby with those in Europe during World War II--it was something worth preserving, even at the risk of their own lives. 

Book Review: The Sherlockian

Everyone seemed to enjoy my post last week about Sherlock Holmes, so I thought I'd point out a really interesting book I just finished reading.  Few characters in literature have enjoyed the kind of fame as the detective Freemason Arthur Conan Doyle created.  To this day, his books and stories remain popular, his character has once again made the leap to the big screen (although little about Sherlock's lately incarnation is recognizable).  There are countless societies and organizations dedicated to the study of Doyle's character.  And other interesting fact--just like Star Trek, many of the fantastic technologies first "invented" by Sherlock Holmes have since come to pass--fingerprinting, blood spatter evidence, trace evidence, etc. 

I enjoyed this book The Sherlockian--half was told in the current day, and half followed a fictitious story about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his friend Bram Stoker.  It's interesting, because as Star Trek has its Trekies, Holmes has its lunatic fringe groups too--and this story takes place during the annual meeting of the Sherlockian group The Baker Street Irregulars.

In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective's next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning -- crowds sported black armbands in grief -- and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin.

Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had "murdered" Holmes in "The Final Problem," he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.
Or has it?
When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold - using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories - who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.