The Masonic Lodge is well-known for attracting prominent members, and the high standards for membership in the Lodge draw men of consequence to its ranks. Men who seek admission to the Lodge must believe in a Higher Power, display high standards of moral character and have extensive personal references. For all of these reasons, various leaders and prominent citizens, men who have made history have been members of the Lodge. Here is a look at prominent Masons in various fields of public life.
Perhaps the most prominent American Mason was George Washington. Washington is still prominently displayed in Masonic materials, and shortly after the American Revolution there was talk of having a single US Grand Lodge with Washington as the Grand Master. The federalist spirit of the times held, however, and to this day each state has its own Lodge.
Sam Houston, the only man to ever serve as governor of two states (Tennessee and Texas), leader of the Texas Revolution and the first president of the Republic of Texas was a Mason. There are those who believe that he did not put Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to death after the Battle of San Jacinto because Santa Anna was also a Mason. Tactical considerations regarding the Mexican troops still in Texas and under Santa Anna’s command probably figured more prominently in his considerations.
Fourteen US presidents have been Masons, not all of them as some conspiracy theorists believe. The last president to have been a Mason was Gerald Ford. Two rather ignominious presidents—James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding—were Masons, but so too were Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson. A number of failed candidates for the office were also members of the Lodge, including Barry Goldwater, Robert Dole and William Jennings Bryant. The fact that Bryant and Dole both lost races to non-Masons seems to put a fly in the conspiracy theory ointment.
Some of the United States’ most prominent military leaders have also been Masons. Douglas MacArthur and George C. Marshall were too of the most important Allied generals in World War II, both were Masons. World War I hero General John “Black Jack” Pershing was a Mason, and Masons commanded on both sides of the Civil War. George Pickett of “Pickett’s Charge” at Gettysburg was among the Confederate Masons and General Daniel Butterfield commanded Union troops, won a Medal of Honor and wrote the bugle call “Taps.” Astronauts and veterans Buzz Aldrin—the second man on the moon—and John Glenn—the first man in orbit—are both Masons.
Masons have also entertained Americans for years. Harry Houdini, one of history’s most prominent conjurers, was a Mason, and his long-standing battle against spiritualism would seem to contradict slanders that the Lodge is involved with the occult. Clark Gable and John Wayne both belonged to the Lodge, and cowboy legends Gene Autry, Will Rogers and Roy Rogers were also Masons. Jazz great Duke Ellington wrote some of the most lasting songs in popular music, and Nat King Cole helped to put a voice to them—both were Prince Hall Masons. With the low standards of character associated with most celebrities today, fewer have been interested in the Lodge (and vice versa), but “Perfect Strangers” star Bronson Pinchot is a Mason, and so is former “Seinfeld” star Michael Richards.
This is hardly a comprehensive list of the leaders of men who have been a part of the Lodge, but rather a quick look at the kinds of people the Lodge look for. Courage, vision, service to others and a cheerful spirit prevail in Freemasonry, as these men and others prove.