The First Joint Ceremony of Black & White Masons In America

handshakeThis piece comes from The Coal Miner Who Came West by Ernest Moore, in collaboration with Gloria Phelps, Copyright 1982 (pages 72 and 73)

The article is unsigned but very likely written by the author who was a Prince Hall Mason as was his grandfather, John Hale (1846-1921), who is the subject of the book.

(Transcribed by D. DeCoster, August 31, 2010 from a copy borrowed from The Seattle Public Library.  Spelling is in the original.)


It happened in the City of Destiny, Tacoma, Washington, on Saturday afternoon October 2, 1982, at 1:30 p.m., on the sight of the $44 million Sports-Convention Center, known as the TACOMA MINI-DOME.  Right before the eyes of those in attendance, under a partly clouded sky, through which the sun sprinkled its rays of sunlight, enabling those of us who did not wear our long-john’s to withstand the antagonizing winds that swept from Mt. Rainier.  For over two hours, we stood eight abreast, with a depth of some two blocks, clothed with dark suits, white shirts, shod with shoes of black and proudly wrapped with lamb’s skin aprons.  Not one of us dared break rank, for this was truly not only an auspicious, but an historical occasion.  An occasion where upon, the most worshipful Grand Master, George Brodewick of the Grand Lodge, Free and accepted Masons of Washington (White Masons) had invited their Black brothers, the most Worshipful Grand Master, Johnny Allen, of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and jurisdiction to participate with laying the Dome’s cornerstone.

Never before in the history of Prince Hall Masonry in America has there been such recognition and fraternization accorded us.  Having received orders from our Grand Marshal, Berry Carter, to proceed toward the speakers platform, and as we approached we were greeted along the way with spontaneous applause that caused many of our elder Brothers to “straighten up and fly right.”  You should have been there to have seen our Brothers “strut their stuff”.   They really put on the dog, and rightly so, for to them this was the dawning of a new day in Masonry.  A day where in all men of our order shall here after not by their race, or color, but by their deeds, predicated upon truth and justice, for all men are but God’s divinity, wrapped in human flesh, and we are our brothers keepers.  Having arrived just in front of the speakers platform, we could clearly observe the platform’s dignitaries.  The Mayor of Tacoma, Doug Southerland, Master of Ceremonies, who had requested the Grand Loge, Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, to lay the cornerstone.  Sharing the platform with him were the most Worshipful Grand Master George Bordewick and his officialdom.  The most Worshipful Grant Master Johnny Allen, of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Loge of Washington and Jurisdiction, with his guest, The Most Worshipful Grand Master Thomas Brown of the Oregon Jurisdiction, and the Honorable Russell S. Gideon, Sovern Grand Commander of the United Supreme Council of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rites of freemasonry P.H.A. Northern Jurisdiction U.S.A. Inc.  In introducing his guest Grand  Master Johnny Allen was most eloquent, affective, and at his best.  Grand M<aster Bordewick said, “this was the largest public gathering of Masons in Washington since the dedication of the Seattle Masonic Temple in 1916, “ and that constitutional problems have long prevented Black and White Masons from joining in a single order.  “Someday, maybe we can solve these problems.”  Grand Master Allen said, to his knowledge, the Tacoma ceremony was the first time Black and White Masons have gathered together for a joint ceremony anywhere in America.  When  presented the working tools of a Master Mason, the plumb, the level, and the square, Grand Master Bordewick layed the cornerstone with its cavity bearing the various memorials of our time, current newspapers, names of city council and other civic bodies including documents of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction.  The crowning words of the day were those spoken by the Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Washington (White).  Brother Warren Murphy said, “Our membership can boast of great statesmen, societies, explorers, and men distinguished in every walk of life.  However, it is not limited to the great or wealthy, but rather to all men, because every man of good reputation and character is eligible to petition for membership.  In fact Masonry regards no man on account of this worldly wealth or honor, but because of his personal integrity as a matured man.”  Mayor Southerland of Tacoma, and Grand Master Brodewick, stretched their necks to the end of their cable towes.  The Prince Hall Masons with the aid and assistance of the Grand Architect of the Universe will vouch safely  their voyage through this stormy sea of life.   The historical event was brought to close by prayer from Bishop Tolbert, of the Methodist Episcopal Churches Dist. No. 1.”

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Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.


  1. Yes, the day when ALL Brothers, regardless of the color of their skin, will sit together in one Lodge room is what American Freemasonry should be working towards. That day, IMHO, will occur within my lifetime & will be started when the last hold-outs in the South recognize PHA –and– have black men initiated, passed, & raised in the currently all-white Grand Lodges. Georgia was recently forced into part of this. Which Southern State will be next?

  2. The Phylaxis Society reported this momentous occasion in their 4th quarter issue of 1982. In the “Word from the President”, the late Bro Joseph A. Walkes,, Jr talks about the late PGM William Upton. PGM Upton is a forgotten brother in the ranks of mainstream masonry, but his legacy is very much alive within PHA Masonry…..
    The PHGL of Washington should be commended for being ‘proactive’ back in the late 1980s when it came to recognition. PGM Daniel Lumsford was ahead of his time……

  3. Thank you for sharing! I hope that this posting will cause those who read it to order back issues of the Phylaxis, or even become subscribing members of The Phylaxis.

  4. We really need to get out of the habit of calling PHA ‘black Masons’ and our other Grand Lodges “white Masons”. PHA has a large number of races in their lodges as a result of military lodges overseas and on or near military bases. And by the same token, many AF&AM and F&AM jurisdictions do not have the racial prejudices that many believe, having members of various races as well.
    I look forward to the time when brothers can look at both groups and feel comfortable with petitioning either, knowing they will be accepted with the open arms of brotherhood.

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