The Durhams Of Fairfield

Dr., Rev., Bro. Robert L. Uzzel and Bro. Frederic L. Milliken
Dr., Rev., Bro. Robert L. Uzzel and Bro. Frederic L. Milliken

Past Grand Historian of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas, Dr. Rev. Bro. Robert L. Uzzel,  has a new book out, “The Durhams of Fairfield.” This is Uzzel’s Roots story, tracing his wife’s family genealogy.

The Durhams, Black and White, originated in Fairfield County, South Carolina. Those that were slaves later moved with their Masters to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.  From the early 1850s to 1930 DeSoto Parish was the home of Mansfield Female College, the oldest female college west of the Mississippi river. Uzzel tells us of the famous Civil War Battle of Mansfield in this County on April 8, 1864. Here the Confederates defeated the Union Army and stopped their advance into Texas. The Battle of Pleasant Hill close by the following day again resulted in a Union defeat and forever kept the Civil War out of Texas. One of the prizes the Rebels seized in these victories was the Val Verde Cannon.

From the Parish of DeSoto, Louisiana, after the Emancipation, we follow the African American Durhams to Freestone, County Texas whose County Seat was Fairfield, Texas. There the Val Verde Cannon also found its final resting place. Just down the road apiece from Fairfield was the small town of Butler, Texas where most of the Durhams called home.

Durham 2

It seems almost prophetic, the hand of fate, that the Durhams of Fairfield County, South Carolina should end up in Fairfield, Texas, from Fairfield to Fairfield half way across the nation.

This book was 38 years in the making! Uzzel conducted an exhaustive research of the Durhams over the years. He researched birth certificates, death certificates and funeral programs, marriage licenses and baptismal and church records. He visited numerous libraries and courthouses for information. He mailed out questionnaires, conducted personal interviews, talked to many people via telephone, sent out and received correspondences and conducted long research on the Internet. It can be very difficult to trace the genealogy in the African American community.

In the author’s own words we will post below his journey in the writing of this “Roots” story.

How I Wrote The Durhams of Fairfield

by Dr. R. L. Uzzel

When my fourth book The Durhams of Fairfield:  An African American Genealogy was published in 2015, a dream going back nearly four decades came true.  The Durhams of Fairfield are truly a great family—a family with a very interesting history.  How did I become so interested in this family?  I married into it.  On 19 February 1977,

I married Debra Bass of Fairfield, Texas.  Debra is the daughter of Aldessa Henry Bass, the granddaughter of Gladys Durham Henry, the great granddaughter of Willie Anderson Durham, the great-great granddaughter of Rance Durham, the great-great-great granddaughter of Allen Durham, and the great-great-great-great granddaughter of the African Gobi.

I was born and raised in Waco, Texas and have had a passion for history since childhood.  On 14 May 1976, I received my Master of Arts degree in Church-State Studies (an interdisciplinary program involving courses in Religion, History, and Political Science) from Baylor University.  My thesis was entitled “The Nation of Islam:  Belief and Practice in Light of the American Constitutional Principle of Religious Liberty.”  One of my major sources for this work was The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley.  Later that year, Haley’s most famous book Roots:  The Saga of an American Family, was published.  I read this book and later watched the television miniseries.  Roots is about Haley’s maternal side.  At the time of his death in 1992, he was putting together a book on his paternal side.  Co-author David Stevens completed the editing of this work and Alex Haley’s Queen:  The Story of an American Family was published in 1993.  As was the case with Roots, I read Queen and watched the television miniseries.  I was inspired to do what Alex Haley did!

On 2 December 1974, I went to work for the Texas Department of Public Welfare (now Health and Human Services) in Teague, Texas.  Teague is ten miles from Fairfield, the county seat of Freestone County.  I worked as a social worker for the aged, blind, and disabled.  My duties included visiting nursing homes, where I assessed the social service needs of clients receiving Texas vendor payments.  I also arranged homemaker and chore services that enabled clients to remain in their own homes as an alternative to nursing home placement.   I served clients in Teague, Fairfield, Butler,  Streetman, Kirvin, and Wortham.  The latter community is the hometown of the Texas blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929).  During my first trip to Wortham, I visited the Wortham Black Cemetery (now the Blind Lemon Jefferson Cemetery) and visited this great singer’s grave, which is now regarded as a blues shrine.  I resolved to one day write a biography of Lemon.  In 2002, my first book Blind Lemon Jefferson:  His Life, His Death, and His Legacy was published.  One of the nursing homes I served was the Fairview Manor Nursing Center in Fairfield.  There I met a nurse named Debra Bass.  Debra and I had our first date on 21 October 1976, became engaged on 25 December 1976, and got married on 19 February 1977.  We lived for a few weeks in Fairfield, moving from Fairfield to Dallas, from Dallas to Kaufman, from Kaufman to Waco, from Waco to Dallas, and from Dallas to Ennis.  We now look forward to returning to the Fairfield area as we approach retirement.

Durham 1

Roots appeared about the time of our marriage.  I immediately began asking questions.  I found little information on the Bass and Henry families.  When I inquired about the lineage of Gladys Durham Henry, however, more information was available.  Initially, I assumed that they had come from North Carolina in view of the city of Durham, which was named for Dr. Bartlett Durham, who donated land for a railroad in 1850.   Durham is famous as the site of Duke University and the place where Bull Durham tobacco was first manufactured.  I did much research on the history of this North Carolina city.  However, it soon became evident that the Durham family to which my wife was related did not come from there.

While no member of the Durham family was adept at genealogy, it was commonly reported that the family had come to the Butler community of Freestone County (between Fairfield and Palestine) from Louisiana after the Civil War; and that there were six Durham brothers—Belton, Allen, Minor, Chris, Anderson, and Isaac.  Some of the descendants of these brothers still farm land in Butler, where Durham is a common surname.  My wife is a sixth-generation descendant of Allen Durham.

Mary Durham, the widow of Belton’s grandson Rev. General Bev Durham, told me that her husband’s great grandfather was an African named Gobi.  Johnnie Johnson, Jr., another grandson of Belton, told me that Gobi was a slave in South Carolina and conveyed to me the following legend:  “Once, there was a rain spell and they could not work.  The straw boss (overseer) and Gobi went hunting for bears.  In a bear cave, they uncovered some gold.  The straw boss died first.  Gobi had sworn never to reveal the whereabouts of the gold.  Some men tied Gobi to a tree in a bottom and wrapped a rope around him.  Gobi refused to reveal where the gold was hidden, even when surrounded by mosquitoes.  As a result, his tongue was torn out by its roots and he was left there to die.”  These early interviews pointed to South Carolina and Louisiana as places where the Durhams were slaves.  When I asked about a specific county in South Carolina and a specific parish in Louisiana, no one had a clue.

In September 1976, I received my first pastoral appointment in the African Methodist Episcopal Church to Emmanuel AME Church in Dallas.  Shortly after our marriage, Debra and I moved to Dallas.  During the next four years, I held jobs with the same agency in Fort Worth and Dallas.  While employed in Fort Worth, I had a client who was a member of Durham Memorial Church of God in Christ, named for founding pastor General Bev Durham, who died in 1966.  Through this client, I met both Mary Durham and Mary Edwards, the sister of Johnnie Johnson, Jr.  Mary Edwards, who died in 2012 at the age of 96, was a big help in my research.

During the next few years, I conducted many interviews with older family members and visited both Lone Star Cemetery and Pine Top Cemetery at Butler, obtaining names and dates from tombstones.  I went to the Freestone County Courthouse, where I examined birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses.  This information was very helpful.  However, the fact that none contained the exact county or parish of birth was frustrating.  I spent many hours in libraries, researching census records and slave schedules on microfilm.  I was able to verify some of the oral history I had obtained.  According to the 1870 Freestone County Census, Allen Durham was born in South Carolina around 1836 and his son Rance was born in Louisiana in 1859.  This, however, did not answer my question about the specific places of birth.  Numerous letters to libraries, genealogical societies, and other resources brought  limited results.  With the examination of numerous 1850 and 1860 records of these two important southern states, I finally hit pay dirt.  I found the majority of Durhams concentrated in Fairfield County, South Carolina and DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.

In 1983, I received a telephone call from Maj. (later Lt. Col.) Donald Smith Durham of Manassas, Virginia.  Don was calling in response to a letter I had sent to his brother Thomas in Shreveport that had been forwarded to him.  Don (who died in 2006) did much research on his genealogy and was confident that my wife was descended from slaves owned by his ancestors.  He confirmed what I had found in my research.  Don’s great-great grandfather was Robert Winfield Durham, who died in Fairfield County, South Carolina in 1852.  His widow, Mosley Eliza Durham, and three of their sons—Osman Lawrence Durham, Charlton Hightower Durham, and John Franklin Durham– relocated to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, bringing their slaves with them.  Osman had lived for about ten years in Lowndes County, Alabama.  Molsey and her three sons are all listed in the DeSoto Parish Census of 1850 and 1860.  Don and I exchanged much genealogical information by mail and phone.

I found the fact that the Durhams started their journey in Fairfield County, South Carolina and ended up near Fairfield, Texas to be more than coincidental.  In her book Mama, “Babe” and Me, Eddie Marie Jones Durham, the wife of Bobbie Jean Durham, a fifth-generation descendant of Allen Durham, described the residents in two places called Fairfield as “either ironic or intentional.”  I first met Eddie when I interviewed Allen’s son Luke Durham, whom her mother had married.  She was also a big help with my research.

In 1979, I was appointed to the pastorate of Macedonia AME Church in

Kaufman.  As a result, Debra and I relocated from Dallas to Kaufman.  In 1981,

I went to work as a social worker at Terrell State Hospital (a psychiatric facility).

During this time, I learned that there was a Durham family living in the community of Avalon, which is located in Ellis County, which borders Kaufman County.  I went to visit them in 1983 and interviewed Isiah Durham, the son of Julious Durham and grandson of Chris Durham.  I had interviewed Julious in 1980 in a nursing home in Dallas a few months before his death.  Isiah confirmed the story I had heard about Chris having a peg leg, stating that he had lost his leg in a boiler accident at Lake Port Cotton Gin in Butler.  It was also in 1983 that I conducted an interview with Mitcheola Durham, brother of Julious, at a nursing home in Teague.

Over the years, I have attended a number of Durham Family Reunions, each time giving a lecture about my research and interviewing family members about their personal stories.  During the 1980s, the family of Archie Durham, grandson of Allen Durham, held some wonderful gatherings.  Archie was a very good friend with much enthusiasm for my research.  When he died in 2001 at age 95, I participated in his funeral.  However, most of the Durham Family Reunions have been sponsored by the descendants of Isaac Durham, the youngest of the six brothers.  In 1999, while teaching at Navarro College in Corsicana, I taught Richard Durham, Jr., the great-great grandson of Isaac.  Richard was born on 15 August 1980 and was amazed to learn that his great-great grandfather was born on 15 August 1860.  Richard’s genealogical paper revealed that Gobi’s wife Mary was pregnant at the time of his death and gave birth to Isaac shortly after her arrival in Freestone County. Isaac was the only brother born in Texas.  The five older brothers were born in South Carolina.

I do not wish to give the impression that I worked on this project non-stop for nearly 40 years.  There were years when I did little or nothing on it.  I was involved in other research leading up to my 1995 Ph.D. in World Religions from Baylor University and my 2008 M.A. in Political Science from the University of Texas at Arlington.  After many difficulties and delays, I was blessed to have the following books published:  Blind Lemon Jefferson: His Life, His Death, and His Legacy (2002); Prince Hall Freemasonry in the Lone Star State: From Cuney to Curtis, 1875-2003 (2004); and Éliphas Lévi and the Kabbalah: The Masonic and French Connection of the American Mystery Tradition (2006).  I repeatedly put the Durham project aside but always came back to it.

With the advent of the Internet, including such sources as, my research accelerated. I found much interesting information.  In 1870 and 1880, there African American Durhams in both DeSoto Parish, Louisiana and Freestone County, Texas.   Some were born in South Carolina and some in Louisiana.  There were even a few born in Alabama.  The latter were more than likely the slaves of Osman Lawrence Durham.

On 23 August 2003, I made my first trip to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.  On 22-24 August 2012, I made a long-awaited trip to Fairfield County, South Carolina.  I returned to DeSoto Parish on 11 March 2013 and participated in the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mansfield in DeSoto Parish on 26 April 2014.  As a result, I was able to obtain valuable pictures and important interviews.  I find it interesting that the Fairfield Memorial Hospital operated in Fairfield, Texas for many years before the building was leased by East Texas Medical Center, while the Fairfield Memorial Hospital continues to operate in Winnsboro, Fairfield County, South Carolina.  My book contains pictures of both hospitals.  The Val Verde Cannon which was used at the Battle of Mansfield found its permanent home in front of the Freestone County Courthouse in Fairfield but was on display at the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mansfield.  My book contains pictures of the cannon at both locations.

On 5 March 2014, Eakin Press (the publisher of my Blind Lemon and Prince Hall books) accepted The Durhams of Fairfield for publication.  Much of 2014 was devoted to writing, editing, and proofreading.  After a number of delays, my first shipment of books arrived on 5 January 2015 and my first book singing was held for the Ellis County Genealogical Society in Waxahachie on 2 February 2015.

The Durhams of Fairfield continue to make their mark.  They are now scattered throughout the United States, involved in many businesses and professions and contributing much to their communities and to the world as a whole.  There can be no doubt that members of this outstanding family to whom I am related by marriage will always make their mark.  I thank God that my dream has come true and pray that this book will inspire the present generation and generations to come to do all they can to preserve the Durham legacy!

Durham 3

“The Durhams of Fairfield” book can be purchased at, Barnes and Noble, and Books A Million

Brothers Often Talked To, Never Seen

You correspond with Brothers for years. You get to know them really well. Or perhaps you go through a particularly trying time just once with a Brother long distance. That’s enough for a strong bond. But still there is something lacking, the joy of a face to face relationship.

Such was the case for me with the Brothers from Gate City Lodge No 2, Atlanta, Georgia.

That is until I finally made it to Atlanta.

In town for the 2013 Phylaxis Convention,  I got together with Brothers Beaux Pettys,  WM Victor Marshall, PM Mike Bjelajac and Carlos Peon all from the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Georgia.

Perhaps you remember the story of African American Brother Victor Marshall who the Grand Lodge of Georgia tried to expel because of the color of his skin.  And then after that battle was won when they refused to admit him to the Scottish Rite.

In case those stories got by you here are the original articles:

Georgia: Not Such A Peachy Masonic State

My brother’s keeper. Open Racism in Georgia Freemasonry.

Georgia Black Mainstream Mason Is Black Balled Again

 For The Second Time In His Masonic Journey

Mike Bjelajac was Master of the Lodge at the time and it is upon his shoulders that much of the heat was applied. Just a few minutes of conversation with Mike and you could tell why he handled it so well. He is a mild mannered, kind Brother, the non excitable type.

The Gate City Lodge Brothers decided to dine with me at the Phylaxis Society host hotel. This made for a good deal of interaction between Brothers from different Grand Lodges. You would never know that Georgia does not recognize Prince Hall by the way and manner in which brotherly love and affection was demonstrated this night.

Another chapter in life has been experienced and I am back home in Texas, now. But the joy of a time when we could break bread together, laugh and hug each other and get to know something of the inner man will live with me for many years hence. Truly there is no substitute for fraternity and fellowship in person.

The Hour Glass

The Hour Glass

African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012
By Ezekiel M.Bey

A Review by:  Wor.  Bro. Frederic L. Milliken

Talented Prince Hall Masonic authors and writers are not as plentiful as grapes on the vine. So when one comes along we need to take notice and pay close attention to his works. Such a man is Ezekiel M. Bey whose latest book is “The Hour Glass, African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012.” The Hour Glass records the sands of time in the life of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, the great men therein who shaped the world to come and the part Bey has played and continues to play in the development of Prince Hall Freemasonry in New York and the nation.

Ezekiel Bey is a writer, a Historian and a poet all rolled into one. He combines that unusual dual talent of being a great researcher and historian and a great writer at the same time. Bey is no esoteric closet intellectual, however. He is a Past Master and has served on the Grand Lodge Committee on Works & Lecture, the Committee on Masonic Education where he spent some time as Secretary and the office of Grand Historian from 2006-20011. He is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and has spent 10 years on its Commission on Bogus Masonry much of that time as its Deputy Director. At the same time he has served as editor in chief of his Grand Lodge’s publication, The Sentinel until 2008.

One of Bey’s pride and joys is the nationwide E-Group Blue Lite which he founded. A Prince Hall discussion and educational undertaking it has blossomed into one of the most active gatherings of Masons on the Internet. Recently he has added the Prince Hall Research & Information site Blue-

Ezekiel M. Bey

Ezekiel Bey has paid his dues. Now all that blood, sweat and tears – that hard work and dedication and honing of skills – has culminated in a fascinating work of Masonic history, The Hour Glass.

The Hour Glass begins where every other Prince Hall Masonic book doesn’t, with the Haitian Revolution, the revolt of African American slaves from 1791-1804. The connection here is by way of Freemason Jean Pierre Boyer who was to become the second President of Haiti. Sometime during this conflict when the US and France were fighting the Franco-American War he, and all the others on his French vessel, was captured by the American war ship Trumball and brought back to Connecticut as a prisoner of war. Discovering him to be a Mason they gave him a modem of freedom and then sent him to Pennsylvania where he was ultimately set free. Boyer who attended some Lodges while he was in Pennsylvania seems to have had a profound effect on all he came in contact with as New York’s first African American Lodge, African Lodge #459 New York chartered by African Lodge #459 Boston in 1812 soon changed its name to Boyer Lodge #1. After assuming the Presidency of Haiti Boyer welcomed a migration of freed Black Americans to his country.

Bey then takes us through the Underground Railroad and the part that early New York African American Freemasons played in that historical time after which there is a detailed account of the false information that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was Boyer Grand Lodge supposedly formed in 1845. Upon due research Bey confirms that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was The United Grand Lodge of the State of New York formed in 1848 which later changed its name to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of New York.

Next comes the painful experience of the National Grand Lodge or Compact as it was called. It was extremely stressful for New York as the United Grand Lodge of the State of New York never joined the Compact and its failure to do so resulted in the Compact attempting to expel the United Grand Lodge. Within Prince Hall Freemasonry the whole National Grand Lodge episode is a sore that will not heal. Remnants of the National Compact remain today but they are clandestine as many would say they always have been. While Mainstream Masonry also flirted with a National Grand Lodge at the same time it never pulled the trigger. Bey has contended that the whole National venture was illegal and he takes the reader through the steps of how this all came about.  The documentation he provides on the history of New York African American Freemasonry at this time and New York’s involvement with the Compact is outstanding. Any historian who would like to have a better understanding of this issue should refer to The Hour Glass.

What follows is a wealth of information on clandestine African American Freemasonry in New York. Bey takes us through the Committee on Clandestine Masonry and The Legal Committee reports at Grand Lodge Sessions 1954-1969. We learn who the players are, the measures taken by the MWPHGLNY to combat bogus Freemasonry and even about a court case filed against two bogus New York Masonic Grand Lodges.

From the 1962 report of the Legal Committee to the Grand Lodge:

Litigation was commenced against two of these spurious organizations in New York State about three years ago. In November of 1961, there was a trial involving your Grand Lodge and one of these spurious organizations. In January of this year, injunctive relief was secured against this organization known as the Supreme Council of the United States of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the 33rd and Last Degree A.A. Scottish Rite. This was the first case of its kind in the State of New York, in which injunctive relief was granted to a Masonic organization, giving it the right to put the spurious organization out of business. Moreover, the decision specifically stated that Prince Hall Masonry was legitimate and that it had a prior or better right to practice Masonry as against the organization which was enjoined. Your Legal Committee reports that this organization is now out of business.

Bey has continued in the footsteps of Harry A Williamson and Joseph Walkes in association with the Phylaxis Society in educating the Craft and those seeking membership about the evils of Bogus Freemasonry. This remains a continuing battle against ignorance. The Hour Glass exposes each and every one of these clandestine organizations, names names, dates and places, for all to see.

No story would be complete without heroes. Bey, in addition to his mentor Joseph Walkes, chronicles the lives and contributions to Prince Hall Freemasonry of RW Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Harry A Williamson and S. David Bailey.

Schomburg, a native of Puerto Rico, was a promoter of Spanish speaking Lodges within Prince Hall New York. He was a researcher, historian, writer and accumulator of many Masonic books and manuscripts. In 1911 with John A. Bruce he formed the Negro Society for Research. Schomburg was elected Grand Secretary in 1918 and served in that position through 1926.

Bey tells us:

Schomburg saved every bit of information that he could get his hands on and built an archive in which he donated to public libraries. He is the reason that today Freemasonry and the black struggle in America have a huge section in the New York City Public Library in Harlem. This spirit of saving information for our future influenced his good friend and Brother, R.W. Harry A. Williamson, Grand Historian of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York. It was Arthur Schomburg who encouraged Williamson to place his collection of over 800 books, manuscripts, photographs, periodicals, pamphlets, and scrapbooks in the N.Y.C. Public Library’s Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints.

By the year 1925, Schomburg had acquired over 5,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, etchings and many other items. When the Division of Negro Literature opened in the New York City Public Library on 135th Street in Harlem, Schomburg sold his collection for $10,000 to the Carnegie Corporation to be placed in the new library. Schomburg later became curator for the library in 1932 in the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints. In memory of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the New York City Public Library in Harlem was renamed in 1973, “The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture”.

Another giant of Prince Hall New York that Bey writes about was Harry A Williamson. Grand Historian from 1911 through 1924 Williamson held many Grand Lodge offices including Senior Grand Warden and Deputy Grand Master and chaired many Grand Lodge Committees. He was a prolific writer and was an early crusader against Bogus Freemasonry in the state of New York.

The third legend from Prince Hall New York was S. David Bailey an accomplished jazz percussionist. Bey tells us that he had:

collaborations with most of the Ellington Alumni, such as Mercer Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ben Webster, “Shorty” Baker, and Al Sears. David Bailey also played with Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Miles Davis, Chris Conner, Billie Holiday, Marian McPartland, Lucky Thompson, Lena Horn, Harry Bellefonte and the Gerry Mulligan Band(s) for 13 years until 1968 when he left to join the newly formed “Jazztet” featuring Art Farmer, Benny Golson,

But Bailey had another love – flying. Again we learn from Bey:

From 1968 to 1973, David worked with famed criminal attorney F. Lee Bailey as Vice President of Marshfield Aviation in Marshfield Airport, Massachusetts, 20 miles south of Boston. As Chief Pilot and flight instructor, and the attorney’s personal pilot, David flew the business Learjet in and out of Logan International Airport in Boston. Dave was also a Designated Pilot Examiner for the FAA in Boston as he was in New York. David enjoyed a good professional relationship and warm friendship with F. Lee Bailey.

But in a strange twist of career paths Bailey returned to his first love when he became Executive Director of Jazzmobile.

In Prince Hall Freemasonry Bailey became a District Deputy and his efforts in Masonic Instruction and Masonic Education became renowned. He headed up the first Grand Lodge Committee on Education and now 86 years old he can look back upon an illustrious Masonic career of 60 years.

It is difficult to know where you are going unless you know where you have been. The Hour Glass will prove to be a most valuable work for Prince Hall New York Masons to remember where they have been and to honor and treasure the memories of those who have gone before them.

It is vitally imperative that within the Craft records and archives are kept to show a clear path of what Freemasonry has stood for and what it has withstood throughout its history. Ezekiel Bey has been meticulous and detailed in his research for this book. The Hour Glass is both interesting and informative.

Not shy in expressing himself, Bey writes with a passion that jumps out at you from the pages of his book. His love for the Craft comes through loud and clear.

Moreover, Bey blazes a trail that other Prince Hall Grand Lodges should take. A chronicling of the history of any Grand Lodge casts in stone what defines that Masonic community and it is by such a work as this that a Grand Lodge can tackle the future with a mission statement in hand.

This is a monumental work that will be on every library shelf and in many a Mason’s bookcase. It should be in yours also.

Masonic Expression Has Many Forms

Masonic scholarship has come a long way.  With the tools, the media and the technology available today Freemasonry has evolved into a medium of communication that has heretofore never been seen in the past. Oh we had great Masonic writers, the Masters, many years ago.  Most of them are still widely read today – Mackey, Pike, Claudy, Pound, Newton, Denslow, Hall, Wilmshurst and others. Today a new crop of 21st century Masonic writers are plying their trade.

But the Masonic communication has blossomed into many other avenues of expression.  In addition to magazines and books now we have websites, blogs and Masonic radio with podcasts available.  We have videos, power point presentations and all the wonders that high-tech computer technology can bring us. And lest we be remiss let us not leave out the Masonic Internet Forum where those who are part of the Masonic intellectual aristocracy vent their spleen.

Yet the standard of “having arrived” in the medium of Masonic communication is still deemed to be the book by a small cadre of those who have authored a 300 page plus “work of art.”  If you haven’t devoted 5, 10, 15 years of research to open up a new slant with new discoveries on a Masonic subject, then you haven’t really attained the honor of being called a writer of any merit, according to this clique of Masonic scholarship. You can’t be an author unless you have written a book, say these protectors of Masonic purity.

And may God strike you down immediately if you dare express an opinion, especially one that criticizes other Masons and opens up debate.  Why then you are nothing more than a muckraking hack. So research papers are in but opinion essays and blogs are definitely out, the latter being a perversion of “true” scholarship.

This snobbish view prevailing in Masonry today has led to boycotts, ostracizing non conformers and ill feelings between the antients and the moderns in Masonic communication.

There is one form of Masonic communication used by the Masters of yesteryear that is often overlooked by today’s creators of voluminous, heavily footnoted works of assiduous research.  It is a way of expressing Masonic feeling and /or opinion in few words while deeply stirring the soul and is the essence of creative writing.  The Masonic poet is a lost breed, he working his craft from a state of inspiration, almost an inner whispering of the word gleaned from prodigious meditation rather than in a hundred works of cross reference in ten or more different libraries.

So stands tall Ezekiel Bey, a Prince Hall Masonic Poet who destroys one big myth with every poem he writes, that there is little scholarship in the Prince Hall ranks and even fewer who publish anything. Bey is a Phylaxis Society researcher and Fellow , 2nd Vice President of the Council of Representatives, an authority on Bogus Masonry, who has written a book and many a research paper, yet he really shines when it comes to Masonic poetry. He epitomizes to me the complete Masonic writer and communicator, one who has mastered many realms of Masonic communication while refusing to turn up his nose at any means of expression.

The Hour Glass


By Ezekiel M. Bey

As the earth wind blows, in a chaotic mist
making whirls of dust, from the air it twist.
Hurricane and lightening, darkening the sky
heavy clouds are made, rain become plumb-lines

Horizontal rivers, as a level sits
though the waves make angles, as the currents kick.
Nature makes designs, from what the Master draws
tessellated borders on the Adept’s Floor.

Mountainous terrain, how the rocks are cut
shaped and fashioned cleverly, like a cliff that tucks
beautiful the scene, when the view is wide
when the eye is open, a creating mind.

Beautiful the woman, in her natural state
to be protected by him, he becomes her gate.
To embrace her spirit, to admire her soul
to complete her oneness, is her vital goal

Now can you imagine, counting all the stars
counting every vein, on a single palm,
counting every atom, in a single cell,
counting every angel, those from heaven fell

Can you see the limits where there are no bounds?
can you break the speed, of a single sound?
As a circle’s infinite, there’s one place to enter
all of this is possible, standing in the center.

By Ezekiel M. Bey

Masonry prepares us, for the inner man
Masonry assists us, helps us understand
Masonry’s the spirit what we are inside
Masonry’s the knowledge of the inner eye
All of us have entered through the inner door

Thrice a voice had spoken, was it all your choice
With all faith and confidence we confirmed with “yea”
It was all a wonder, at high noon’s mid-day
As the apprentice learned, that the truth tells all

As he build on bricks, soon became a fellow
He perfected arts, from the Master’s lead
A true Master rose from a grip of needs
Oh those ruffians ran, from desperation’s call

One by one it happened, yes they had to fall
Solomon the wise, or Solomon the fool
You are no KING Solomon breaking all the rules
Oh the power of greed, a destructive path.

You can rule with iron, don’t ignore the craft
It does not take much to connect the dots
You can switch positions to reveal your plot
Some have said the winner, just gave birth to lose
Those you chose the loser will rise up to rule

God has said the first, shall indeed be last
And the last be first of the greener grass.
So the hour glass changed, from the upper chamber
Ending sands of time, to the lower nature
Till the last grain falls, No more sun dial’s tick

Till the clock’s last second, till the last laid brick.
So you wonder why, why I haven’t fell.
Made of the best timber, of the strongest cell.
Its because of Faith, it’s because of Mercy.
Its because of Grace, it’s because God RAISED ME!

Third Day Phylaxis Society National Convention

Phylaxis Society ConventionThe third day of the Phylaxis Society Convention in Arkansas was one of much celebration and fellowship but also one of some very interesting presentations.

A paper was delivered on A Black History Moment: A Phillip Randolph and the Sleeping Car Porters. Ah, the memories of those early railroad years brought back to real life in the story of sleeping car porters was fascinating and nostalgic.

Another paper was “The Reciprocal Effects of Illinois Abolitionists on Society.”

The paper which I will comment on in detail was The Masonic and French Connection of the American Mystery Tradition by Dr. Robert Uzzel.

Phylaxis Society Convention 2Brother Robert L. Uzzel is a very interesting Mason.  He possesses a BA in Religion and Sociology, a Masters in Church-State Studies, a PHD in World Religions along with graduate work in Political Science. He teaches college courses in Religion, History and Political Science while at the same time he is Pastor of an A.M.E. Church – college professor, ordained minister, active Freemason and also a noted author.  He is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society, holder of the Dr. Charles H. Wesley Medal of History and a Blue Friar. Just the sort of fellow I like to pick the brain of.

His presentation was based on his book “Eliphas Levi and the Kabbalah” which I got an autographed copy of after the lecture.

Uzzel says that he chose to write about Levi because it all starts and ends with him.  Uzzel tells us Levi was a major source of Albert Pike’s “Morals & Dogma.”  He also explained that Levi drew a comparison between Tarot Cards & the Kabballah.

But Levi’s influenced stretched much further and wider according to Uzzel.  The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in Great Britain claimed Levi as its inspiration. Crowley also claimed kinship with Levi.

Theosopohical Society founder Madam Blavatsky admitted to being influenced by Levi, Uzzel expounds.  And the Levi also was a big influence on the Rosicrucians.

All this and more made a fascinating lecture on a subject I needed to know more about.

Noon time saw us gather for a Phylaxis Society Luncheon with all the Phyllis Chapters with us. It was a mini awards luncheon with the big awards coming that night at dinner. Presentations were made to winners of the 4B awards – Books, Business, Ballots and Brotherhood.

After lunch we were all honored with a Grand Master’s Forum where presiding Grand Masters took the hot seat and we peppered them with any and all questions.

Late in the afternoon we all retired to our hotels to freshen up and then return for the  Annual Awards Banquet. The major awards given out were the Chapter of the Year, Man of the Year, Brice E. Simmons Award and the John. G. Lewis Medal of Excellence.  The keynote speaker was Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe.

After all the ceremonies were over many of us gathered in groups and took pictures, exchanged contact information and parted with that embrace of fellowship that so endears the heart.