by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR
A few accounts claim certain famous men who were not Freemasons intended to join the fraternity but circumstances did not permit them to do so. Notable among these are Dr. Martin Luther King and President Abraham Lincoln. King likely was to have been made a Mason upon returning from his tragic trip to Memphis. Lincoln actually petitioned Tyrian Lodge No. 333 in 1860, but decided not to join until after his presidency, thinking becoming a Mason would look like he was doing so for political purposes.
There has never been any doubt about President Herbert Hoover's Masonic status. He was not a Freemason. History nor Hoover himself have never had much to say about why… he just wasn't.
In the unpublished memoirs of prolific Masonic author Ray V. Denslow, however, we learn there is more to the story. Former Secretary of Agriculture, Arthur M. Hyde, lived in Trenton, Missouri, near the town where Denslow resided. After his presidency had ended, Hoover visited Hyde at his home and a few guests were invited to the affair. Denslow and his wife Clara were among those fortunate to receive an invitation and he gave the following account:
"Mrs. Denslow and I were both invited to the Hyde home to meet both Mr. and Mrs. Hoover. The evening proved to be in the nature of a reception. I had opportunity to talk privately with Mr. Hoover for a time and to study him and his wife at close range. Mr. Hyde said to him 'this is the young man I spoke to you about.'
I never did learn what he was speaking about, unless it was that Mr. Hyde told me once that Mr. Hoover would petition the Masonic fraternity if he thought he could get in. The inquiry came before campaign time and I assured Mr. Hyde that he knew, as well as I, that any attempt to present a petition at that time might be regarded as campaign propaganda. He said Mr. Hoover wouldn't consider it in that event and the matter apparently dropped here.
Another interesting thing Mr. Hyde said to me, was that when Hoover attended college in California he was not a member of any college fraternity. Several fraternity men attempted to keep him from going with Miss Lou Henry, later his wife, who was a sorority girl; this angered him to such an extent that he always regarded fraternities with a questionable eye. Not until after his experiences in Europe and this country did he assume a favorable attitude towards them."
Hoover's situation, then, was somewhat similar to Lincoln's — political reasons may have prevented him from becoming a Freemason. What's more, he may have put off thoughts about joining until it was too late due to a prior negative experience with fraternities. It's not clear how seriously Hoover may have thought he wouldn't "get in," but it is a near certainty he would have been elected to receive the degrees had he done so.
Lincoln, King, Hoover and probably many others have considered knocking at the outer door but for whatever reason just didn't take that first step; and in the vast majority of cases it's a shame. The craft most certainly would have been all that much better having them as Brothers.
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.
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