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MODERN FREE HISTORY
Modem Free and Accepted Masons of the World Inc. is a Benevolent Patriotic Society established to promote friendship and brotherly love among its members and to carry on Benevolent works for the relief of the needy and helpless in our communities.
Our Masonic order was organized in November 1917, in Opelika, Alabama and initially entitled the Free and Accepted Colored Masons of America. Between 1917 and 1921, the founding father, brother Jerry Baxter Baldwin and other members, organized seventeen lodges throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. The first grand Lodge, Lincoln, was established in Phoenix City, Alabama in 1921 with Brother T. M. Phillips. Grand Master Lincoln Lodge is still active and vibrant.
The Free and Accepted Colored Masons of America, was incorporated as an independent Masonic order on December 3, 1921 in Jefferson County Alabama. A dream long held by Brother Jerry B. was becoming a reality. His dream was to organize a group of Black people who would dedicate themselves not only to understanding the principle of Freemasonry but also to apply those principles to improve the social conditions of their race. Brother Baldwin was intensely interested in everything that pertained to the welfare and advancement of Black people. He helped build business owned and operated by Blacks and loaned money to save homes and farms during the great depression.
In 1924, Brother Baldwin, was elected the first Supreme Grand Master of the Free and Accepted Colored Masons of America, and under his guidance the organization grew in unity and membership.
By 1927, the Royal Palm Lodge #3-a was chartered in Columbus Georgia. The Past Worshipful Master of this lodge was Brother T. McBride, who joined the Lodge in 1935. In the 1930's the Free and Accepted Colored Masons of America struggled to survive. Those were harsh times for all of America. The Stock Market Crashed in October of 1929, and in the next three years the bottom dropped out of the economy. However, "We should be proud of our fraternity", noted Brother N. A. Nall, Supreme Grand Deputy Master in 1945, "for we survived when few institutions stood the test of those hard times.
The Free and Accepted Colored Masons of America not only survived but grew. The first Eastern Star Chapter Tennie Wilson #174 was organized on Opelika, Alabama in 1936. Additional chapters were organized, including Smithfield Chapter #148, which became by 1940 the largest chapter with over three hundred members. By 1949, the first Grand Chapter, Silver Queen was established under the leadership or Sis. Dr. Esther Poole.
Sis. Poole became an Eastern Star at the age of eighteen and joined the Free and Accepted Color Masons in 1940. Between 1940-1960 she dedicated herself to organizing chapters and lodges and formed the first junior courts. She was committed to improving the quality of life for all people. She was the "organizer" and a "driver' before joining the Free and Accepted Colored Masons. In 1930 she formed the United Women Workers of America. This group was known as "the better half" of the United Mine Workers. Sis. Poole was an embalmer, hairdresser, pianist and a poetess. After many years of outstanding performance as a Star, she became the first Supreme Grand Matron of the Free and Accepted Colored Masons of America. She died in 1971.
Other Stars who joined the Free and Accepted Colored Masons in the 1940's include, Sis. Fannie Rushings of Hoyts Pride Chapter #195, our Longest serving Worthy Matron and Sis. Alma Patterson of Tennie Wilson Chapter #174. In February 1945, the Free and Accepted Colored Masons of America authorized their four principle officers: J.B. Baldwin, Supreme Grand Master, N. A. Nall, Supreme Grand Deputy Master, C.S.G. Boom, Supreme Grand Junior 'warden, to amend the certificate of incorporation, changing the organization's name to the Supreme Grand Lodge, Modern Free and Accepted Colored Masons of the World. The word "Modern" reflects the members' belief that while the ritualistic and symbolic aspects of Freemasonry are important, it is more important to practice in daily life, the Eternal Truth and Universal Themes underlying the rituals and symbols.
Ten years later; on April 4, 1955, the certificate of incorporation was amended. This third amendment changed the name of our order to its' present one, Supreme Grand Lodge, Modern Free and Accepted Masons of the World, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. As the name indicated this amendment established our affiliation with the Scottish Rite. This affiliation was set up by the merger of Modern Free with the United Supreme Council Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 33rd and Last Degree, Southern and Western Jurisdiction, United States of America, Grand Orient of Washington District of Columbia.
The merger was executed by brother J. B. Baldwin, Supreme Grand Master and Brother J. M. McMath Supreme Grand Treasurer of Modern Free, along with James A. MacDonald the Sovereign Grand Commander of the United Supreme Council. The United Supreme Council, first organized in 1895, and reorganized in 1918, had jurisdiction for the United States, its territories and dependencies.
The consolidation with this organization empowered Modern Free to establish Scottish Rite Consistories and to confer degrees from the fourth through the thirty-third and last degree. The merger also meant that Modern Free was a part of those Masonic orders linked to the First Council of the Ancient & and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry organized in Paris, France in 1758. The Illustrious Stephen Mourin, of Paris had been commissioned and empowered to establish the Scottish Rite in the United States and this degree was conferred upon David Leary, a prominent "colored Mason",in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1850.
Leary was granted, by the Supreme Council of France, a patent of power and authority and directed to establish a Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite among "colored Masons" in the United States. Two Supreme Councils were created; one with its See at the Grand Orient of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the other with its See at the Grand Orient of Washington in the District of Columbia. These were the only two regular and legal Supreme Council of the thirty-third and last degree among "colored Masons" in the United States, that is with the right and authority to confer the several degrees and establish bodies of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
The new authorities and powers secured by the merger helped Modern Free strengthen its effectiveness and increase its membership. Two additional Grand Lodges and additional Grand Chapter were established in 1955 in Georgia; Joppa Temple, the Ill. W. R. Waters, Grand Master, Luxor Temple the Ill. Miles B. Austin, Grand Master, and Electa Grand Chapter, Sis. C. B. Carter, Grand Matron.
The 1960's were the years of change for Modern Free. Growth in national membership continued, the establishment of international lodges and Chapters began, and major changes in Modern Free national leadership occurred. Membership increased when Tennessee was organized in 1962, under the direction of the Ill. Edward Emory and two Grand Chapters were established, Elizabeth Grand Chapter Mississippi, 1962, Sis. Willie Barnes Grand Matron and Morning Star Grand Chapter Florida, 1967, Sis. Florence Jones Grand Matron. Sis. Poole organized the first Junior Courts in 1968: Paal #68, Modernique #67 and Emulators #68. These courts are no longer in service, but at one time Modern Free had 50 Junior Courts in the United States and twelve in the Bahamas.
The government of Fraternal Order, underwent what was in 1967, a drastic change as the first Eastern Stars were placed on the Supreme Grand Council. Sis. Pole and other members had worked diligently to implement this change.
Other significant changes in Modern Free's National leadership occurred in 1967. The Ill. Jerry Baldwin, who had served as Supreme Grand Master, left due to ill health. He died March 23, 1978. In respect of his excellent leadership and service, Modern Free created an expression of appreciation to the member who best exemplifies the spirit and work of Brother Baldwin. The Modern Free Headquarters building in Columbus ,Georgia (Baldwin Hall) has also been dedicated in memory to the first Supreme Grand Master.
After Brother Baldwin's Resignation, the Ill. Frank Wooten was elected Supreme Grand Master in June 1967. During his administration a major membership drive was launched with focal points in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and the Bahamas.
Reaching the Bahamas, fulfilled part of Modern Free's objective to establish members around the world. In 1969, the Mecca Grand Lodge was established in Nassau , Bahamas with the late Brother L.L. Dean as Grand Master. In 1973 the Heroines of Jordan Grand Chapter was organized with Sis. Annabel Dean, wife of Brother Dean, who became Grand Matron.
Brother Frank Wooten resigned and the Ill. Arthur Ray assumed the office of Supreme Grand Master for a short period. In the early 1970's Modern Free requirements for a national leader who could guide the organization to higher levels of success, brought the Ill. Henry H. Williams to the office of Supreme Grand Master. Brother Williams was elected and installed in office in June 1971.
Sis. Poole, the first Supreme Grand Matron died in 1971, and in 1971 another very accomplished Star, Sis. Maragret Belcher, became the Second Supreme Grand Matron.
Under the leadership of Brother Williams Modern Free focused on moving to a higher plane of fraternalism, leadership and economics. Brother Williams who was a builder by profession built more than structures of brick and mortar . He worked assiduously with Modern Free members and leaders to build an organization that would 'Serve the Present Age'.
In the 1970's our motto, "We Serve The Present Age", was fulfilled in the establishment of five additional Grand Lodges and four additional Grand Chapters:
Markham Grand Lodge, Mississippi, 1971
Ill. Hosea Tyler, Grand Master.
B'Natural Grand Lodge, South Carolina,
1976, Rev. Levan Johnson, Grand Master.
Progressive Grand Lodge, Illinois, 1977,
Ill. Freddy B. Jones, Grand Master.
Tombs of Solomon Grand Lodge, Florida,
1973, Rev. Thomas C. Jones, Grand Master.
Cornerstone Grand Lodge, New York.
Ruth Grand Chapter, South Carolina, 1976
Sis. Ruth Boyd Grand Matron.
Crown and Scepter Grand Chapter, North Carolina, 1977
Sis. Josephine Davis, Grand Matron.
Elizabeth Grand Chapter, Illinois, 1977,
Sis. Shirley Williams, Grand Matron.
Esther Grand Chapter, New York.
In the 1980's international expansion increased and between 1983 and 1985 two Lodges and three Eastern Star Chapters were organized in Toronto and Ontario, Canada. In addition to Canada, Modern Free international has extended to Germany, West and North Africa, and as far East as Korea.
The current Supreme Grand Master Sov/ILL Gregory McClain 33° was elected June 28, 2003. The other elected officers are: Supreme Deputy Grand Master, Sov/ILL Melvin Cooper, 33°; Supreme Grand Senior Warden, Sov/Ill Anthony Carter, 33°; Supreme Grand Junior Warden, Gr/ILL. Gene Linton 33°, Supreme Grand Secretary, ILL. Billy Gaddis; Supreme Grand Treasurer, Sov/ILL. Larry Dixon, 33°. Grand Master Sov/ILL Gregory McClain 33° now leads the entire organization World Wide and has major plans for Modem Free going into the next millennium.
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