In this series on Famous Freemasons, we delve deeper into the history of these notable individuals to explore their dynamic lives beyond the lodge room door. In this installment, we meet:
b.Jan. 6, 1880 – d. Oct. 12, 1940
A name that many film buffs recognize, cowboys idolize, and at least for a time, the man that everyone wanted to be. Tom Mix was a circus performer, champion horseback rider, radio personality, beloved Freemason, and perhaps most known for his roles in Western films as the clean cut cowboy who always saved the day. Mix appeared in nearly 300 films, the majority of which were silent, and at one point in time was the #1 box office star in America.
Thomas Hezikiah Mix was born in Mix Run, Pennsylvania, on January 6th, 1880. He spent the
majority of his young life working on a local farm, and was instilled by his father with a love and passion for horses. Upon the onset of the Spanish-American War, like many others his age, Tom decided to enlist. Although never seeing any real war action, he moved through the ranks, and served his country well. Before being honorably discharged, Tom went on furlough where he met Grace I. Allen. On his next furlough, he decided to marry her. For a short period of time he returned to active duty, but ultimately was forced to choose between the military and his wife. This resulted in never returning to active duty from his last leave, and being declared AWOL. In the 15 years that followed, he had married and divorced three times. Though his marriages were unstable, his professional life and career was developing rapidly. He found work at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, which boasted its own touring Wild West show. This gave Mix his first introduction to acting and performing, and went on to earn numerous riding and roping contests.
His acting career flourished, scoring roles with various talent agencies and film companies. Throughout the 1920’s, he made over 160 cowboy films, and even built his famous set known as Mixville located today in what would become the Edendale district of Los Angeles unremarkably refereed to today as the Glendale Boulevard Corridor in the Silverlake area. Over 150 movies were shot in Mixville, which was considered to be its own Western town. It was complete with all of the props and locations you might find in a frontier town, such as a dusty street, hitching rails, a saloon, jail, bank, doctor’s office, and surveyor’s office. It even boasted a simulated desert, large corral, period homes, and an indian village of lodges near the back lot. Mix’s career was inspirational for future movie stars such as John Wayne and Ronald Reagan, both of which were very vocal about the influence which Mix’s career had on their lives.
Throughout his acting career, Tom Mix was also a devoted freemason. He was raised on February 21, 1925, at Utopia Lodge No. 537, in Los Angeles California. He joined both the Scottish Rite and The Royal Arch, and participated in the famed 233 club. The 233 was an entertainment industry social club which claimed over 1,700 Masons as members from the motion picture and theatrical industries. Members of 233 included: Douglas Fairbanks, Harold and Frank Lloyd, Wallace Berry and Louis B. Mayer. One of the outstanding patriotic activities of the Club was a gigantic “Pageant of Liberty” in the Los Angeles Coliseum on July 5, 1926 before an audience of 65,000 and employing over 2,500 actors and a chorus of 1,200. Mix, the star that he was, rode into the spectacle astride his horse Tony portraying Paul Revere beside Hoot Gibson who rode as a Pony Express rider. With the 233, Mix is said to have participated in traveling Craft degree team composed of actors.
Tragically, Mix died in a fatal automobile accident on October 12, 1940. His memorial service was held at Little Church of Flowers at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA, not far from Mixville. A memorial of a sorrowing horse marks the location of Mix’s passing in Arizona highway. At his memorial service Mix’s close friend, Monte Blue, read a Masonic ritual in his honor.
Mix was truly a man from another era, a mythical era when celebrity and fame created legends… even if for just a little while. Tom Mix left a legacy for many, and is still regarded today as one of the most influential actors in the history of film-making. Without his influence, countless actors may have never graced the silver screen. His impact changed lives and history as we know it.