December 1, 2017

The New Oklahoma City Masonic Temple: 1921

By T.S. Akers

The New Masonic Temple
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

Freemasonry arrived in Oklahoma City in 1889. After meeting at two previous locations, the Freemasons resided at the “Baptist White Temple” located on Broadway, just north of the Skirvin Hotel. This period of fraternalism saw massive growth in membership and in 1918 the Masonic Temple Building Association, led by the India Shrine, resolved to erect a new Masonic Temple at the southwest corner of Northwest 6th and Robinson at a cost of $500,000.

Construction began on the new Masonic Temple in 1921 and the Cornerstone was laid by Grand Master Leslie H. Swan, of Oklahoma City, on 13 October 1922. By the time the Masons occupied the building in 1923, the total construction cost was $1,050,000. The first $500,000 came from funds accumulated by the Masonic Temple Building Association; a ten year loan was also procured in the amount of $556,000. Additionally, a second mortgage was taken out in the sum of $250,000 to decorate and furnish the Temple. Ultimately, these mortgages would be the undoing of the Temple.

Cornerstone ceremony for the Masonic Temple, 1922
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

Entering the new Masonic Temple from Robinson, visitors found a spacious lobby with access to the secretarial offices of the Masonic Orders housed there. A wide corridor led directly to the Shrine Auditorium. With a 40x90 foot stage, the auditorium seated 3,000 people and could be isolated from the rest of the building, with an entrance from 6th Street, for public functions in order to not interfere with Masonic activities. A smaller auditorium, Harding Hall, which seated 700 people was also located on the first floor. The second floor housed social rooms, billiard rooms, and lounge areas for the Masons. The top floor was comprised of the meeting rooms for the sixteen Masonic Orders that met at the Temple. The building also included a basement which served as the banquet and ball room.

 The Shrine Auditorium
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

The Knights Templar Room
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

Knights Templar in front of the Temple, 1925
(Courtesy of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Oklahoma)

In 1927, the Masonic Temple Building Association approved a resolution to execute two large mortgage notes with the American First Trust Company to pay off the bonds and floating indebtedness in a move to save $20,000 in interest. The following year, an agreement was entered into with the Mid-West Entertainment Company (what would become Warner Brothers) to lease the Shrine Auditorium for a sum of $12,500 per year. The beginning of the end came for the new Masonic Temple on 29 October 1929, when the stock market crashed.

In an attempt to save the Temple, the Masonic Temple Building Association agreed to lease all of the first and second floor, except for the Shrine Auditorium and Harding Hall, as commercial business space in 1930. As Masonic membership began to rapidly decline owing to the economic downturn that would become the Great Depression, the Temple was officially turned over to the lender on 4 September 1931. A rent agreement was soon reached to allow some Masonic Orders to remain in the Temple. By 1934, all but India Shrine had agreed to vacate. Ultimately, the Shriners would leave the Temple in 1937 and the building sat empty for 13 years until purchased by the Home State Life Insurance Company at a sheriff’s sale for $201,000.

The Knights Templar Room as it appeared after purchase by the Home State Life Insurance Company
 (Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

After serving as the home of the Journal Record and surviving the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City’s Masonic Temple was acquired by Heritage Wealth Management in 2015. Now known as The Heritage, the Temple has a new lease on life as alternative office space

 India Shrine Parade, originating at the new Masonic Temple, c. 1929
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

† Gene McKelvey, The Masonic History of the Murrah Building Bombing Memorial Museum (Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Lodge of Research).

July 21, 2017

S. Arch Thompson: Freemason and Oklahoma Educator

By T.S. Akers

S. Arch Thompson, c. 1961

Active students of Freemasonry are in constant pursuit of Masonic Light, moving from a state of Darkness to Light. Light as a symbol of Knowledge and Truth has long stood to illuminate man’s path in the world, helping him to understand the mysteries around him and within himself. Imparting knowledge is one of the key components of Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite in particular, for it is often labelled the University of Freemasonry. Oklahoma Masons have a long history of being proponents of the pursuit of knowledge, with many holding advanced degrees from educational institutions across the country. Many more Oklahoma Masons have also made it possible for students across this great state to pursue higher education through scholarships and grants to the numerous colleges and universities that call Oklahoma home. One Oklahoma Mason for whom the pursuit of knowledge was a lifelong journey was S. Arch Thompson of McAlester, Oklahoma.

Born at Harper, Kansas, on 16 September 1901, Thompson began his pursuit of knowledge at the Harper Christian College. He went on to attend Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) and graduated in 1925 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Thompson then took up residence at Blackwell, teaching and coaching. He ultimately became Principal of Blackwell High School. Thompson moved to McAlester in 1948 to take a position as Principal of McAlester High School. He would become Superintendent of McAlester Public Schools in 1950.

It was in McAlester that Thompson became associated with Freemasonry, taking the degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry in South McAlester Lodge No. 96 over the span of 1953 to 1954. He would take the degrees of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1956. Masonic degrees were not the only degrees Thompson was pursuing at this time. He went on to earn a Master of Science degree in school administration from Kansas State University and completed additional coursework at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Thompson’s dedication to McAlester Public Schools earned him the Pittsburg County Man of the Year designation in 1958. As superintendent, he would throughout his career oversee integration of McAlester Public Schools, construction projects amounting to $3 million, and the establishment of an adult education program. When the McAlester Scottish Rite Charitable and Educational Foundation was established in 1960, Thompson became chairman of the Scholarship Committee. He would serve the foundation until 1992, awarding over 3,000 scholarships totaling $1.4 million. Thompson’s early dedication to the foundation earned him the Knight Commander of the Court of Honour designation on 8 December 1961.

One of the projects undertaken during Thompson’s tenure as superintendent was the construction of a new auditorium for McAlester Public Schools. Completed in 1964, the building today located across from the old McAlester High School was dubbed the S. Arch Thompson Auditorium. Thompson retired in 1971 after giving 46 years to public education in Oklahoma. He was again honored by the Scottish Rite Valley of McAlester in 1975 when he was coroneted to the 33rd Degree.

Thompson’s civic pursuits outside of Freemasonry were numerous and included seats on the boards of the Oklahoma Education Association and the Choctaw Area Boy Scouts of America. To recognize his life of service, Oklahoma Christian University conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon Thompson

Before his death on 8 June 2002, Thompson’s many years of service to Freemasonry and the pursuit of knowledge were commemorated with his being awarded the Grand Cross of the Court of Honour in 1991. The Grand Cross is the highest honor bestowed by the Scottish Rite. Thompson was laid to rest in Memory Gardens of McAlester, Oklahoma.

Grand Cross of the Court of Honour Cap of S. Arch Thompson, c. 1991
(From the collections of the McAlester Scottish Rite)

† Compiled from the member profile of S. Arch Thompson, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

April 27, 2017

The McAlester Scottish Rite Temple

By T.S. Akers
(from an exhibit in the Library & Museum of the Valley of McAlester, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite)

Shortly after the Scottish Rite was established in McAlester, it became apparent that a meeting hall specifically for the Order would be necessary.  That first meeting hall, known as the Tabernacle, was situated on Washington Avenue and opened on 13 February 1904.  As interest grew in the Scottish Rite, it was soon necessary to expand.  After only a few months, and with a membership of 336, a committee was formed to consider building a Scottish Rite Temple.

The Tabernacle, 1904
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

It was in 1903 that a Brother named William Busby arrived in McAlester.  Busby was ever the businessman and within ten years, he acquired controlling interests in the four largest area coal companies.  The period known as the Busby Era would see the construction of the Busby Hotel, the Busby Theatre, and the Busby Office building. 

Busby assumed chairmanship of the temple committee, purchased the land, hired the architect, acted as contractor, and essentially built the first true Scottish Rite Temple in McAlester.  The cornerstone to the red brick temple was laid in 1906 at what is now 305 N. 2nd Street and the building was dedicated in 1907.  

Red Brick Temple, 1907
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

In time, the membership of McAlester outgrew what was known as the BB Temple (Busby’s Baby).  By 1928, there were over 8,000 Scottish Rite Masons in McAlester.  With as many as 1,700 joining the McAlester Scottish Rite in one year, expansion began with the construction of the Albert Pike Dormitory in the early 1920s.  This would become the Albert Pike Hospital in 1928.  That year, it was decided to undertake the “Rebuilding of the Temple.”

Beginning in 1929, the current buff brick temple arose from the shell of the 1907 temple in just eighteen months.  The construction cost was $575,000, of which $24,500 was for scenic drops painted by Thomas G. Moses to be used in the new auditorium.  The temple was dedicated on 17 November 1930.

Buff Brick Temple, 1930
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

Recent Discovery

While searching for historic photos of Oklahoma Freemasonry using The Gateway to Oklahoma History provided by the Oklahoma Historical Society, I came across a curious booklet. Published in 1928, the booklet titled After the Manner of King Solomon details the promotional push for the McAlester Scottish Rite Temple expansion. Included are wonderful artist’s renderings of the temple, a floorplan of the auditorium, and details of how the expansion would be financed. The financing plan called for Masons to each pledge at least $300, payable quarterly over three years. In exchange for the pledge, the Valley of McAlester would purchase a life insurance policy for the subscriber at one and a half times the pledge amount. In doing this, the $600,000 necessary for the expansion was ultimately raised.

Download After the Manner of King Solomon here.

March 28, 2017

Henry S. Johnston: Grand Master, Governor, Yogi

By T.S. Akers

 Henry S. Johnston

Throughout the history of Freemasonry, the rolls of the Fraternity have often included men who have held public office. Numerous Presidents of the United States were Freemasons, such as George Washington, William McKinley, and Harry Truman. During the height of fraternalism, many men belonged to a great many fraternal societies and the landscape in Oklahoma was no different. In more recent history, one notable Oklahoman who held membership in the Masonic Fraternity was Carl Albert, the 46th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. There have also been some rather interesting men who held public office in Oklahoma who were also Freemasons.

Only two Oklahoma Governors have ever been impeached and convicted, resulting in their removal from office. The first was Jack C. Walton, the fifth Governor of Oklahoma.[i] The second was Henry S. Johnston, the seventh Governor of Oklahoma.[ii] While Walton’s impeachment is a well-known period in Oklahoma history, owing to his placing Tulsa and Okmulgee Counties under martial law in 1923, Johnston’s alleged indiscretions were much less serious.[iii]

Henry S. Johnston was born in Evansville, Indiana, on 30 December 1867. He graduated from Baker University of Baldwin City, Kansas, and was ultimately admitted to the Colorado bar in 1891. Johnston made his way to the Oklahoma Territory in 1893, to participate in the Cherokee Outlet opening, setting up a law practice in Perry.[iv]

The best way to describe Johnston is that he was an esoterist. He is said to have counted Theosophy, New Thought, Unity, and Christian Science among his philosophical affinities. Johnston also had an interest in numerology and astrology. He would in time join the Rosicrucian Order.[v] While residing in Perry, Johnston took the degrees of Freemasonry in 1901 at Perry Lodge No. 78 AF&AM. He would serve that lodge as Worshipful Master in 1916.[vi]

Johnston became active in political circles shortly after arriving in the Oklahoma Territory and was elected to the Oklahoma Territorial Council in 1896. He was then elected to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention in 1906, where he served as the presiding officer. Johnston would ultimately be elected to the first Oklahoma State Senate, serving as president pro tempore.[vii]

While making two unsuccessful bids for Congress, Johnston was also active in Freemasonry. He would come to be a Royal Arch Mason and Knight Templar. Johnston took the degrees of the Scottish Rite in 1913, receiving the Knight Commander of the Court of Honor designation in 1919, and was coroneted a Thirty-Third Degree Mason in 1923. He was made Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma in 1921. Having been elected Senior Grand Warden in 1922, Johnston rose to the office of Most Worshipful Grand Master in 1924.[viii]

Knight Templar uniform of Henry S. Johnston
(From the collections of the McAlester Scottish Rite)

Johnston would ultimately claim the Governor’s office in 1926, overcoming allegations that he supported the Ku Klux Klan. His inauguration, which was the first to be broadcast over the radio, was also the first to be opened with a prayer. Johnston’s record as governor shows that he was able to increase education spending and establish a hospital for crippled children.[ix] His legislative success was short lived though, and scandal soon came to overshadow his administration.

Johnston had become acquainted with a Mrs. Oliver “Mamie” Hammonds and she became part of Johnston’s gubernatorial campaign. After winning election, Johnston made Hammonds his personal secretary. In this role, it began to appear that Hammonds controlled access to Johnston. When Johnston made the decision to pave Oklahoma’s highways with asphalt rather than concrete, it was discovered that Hammonds’ uncle, Judge James Armstrong, had a financial interest in an asphalt company.[x] It was at this point that the seeds of discontent were sown with the Oklahoma legislature, but the charges against Johnston would only grow stranger.

Johnston was a Freemason, as was Hammonds’ husband, and Armstrong was a Rosicrucian, as was Johnston. Another movement that was sweeping the United States at the time was the practice of yoga, then referred to as “yogi philosophy.” Many believed yoga to include hypnotism, with the terms being used interchangeably. For some, the control that Hammonds’ seemed to exercise over Johnston was thought to be the result of hypnotism. Johnston only exacerbated the issue with his beliefs in astrology, stating that he would only sign bills at specific times of the day when the zodiac would be more favorable.[xi]

Armstrong, Hammonds’ uncle, became acquainted with a Punjabi Sikh immigrant who traveled to Oklahoma City in 1926 to teach yoga. Yogi Wassan, as he styled himself, became Armstrong’s yoga instructor; it was then that rumors began to swirl that a “mystic pope” was exerting influence over Armstrong, and Johnston by association. The peculiarities to which Johnston adhered had finally become too much for the Oklahoma legislature and a failed impeachment attempt was made in 1927. Johnston, rather than curbing his esoteric pursuits, chose to attend a lecture series titled “Divine Yoga” in 1928.[xii]

The elections of 1928 would see numerous political opponents of Johnston gain office at all levels of government. As the legislature set to work in 1929, they quickly took up the call to impeach Johnston. The charges brought against Johnston included using the National Guard to prevent the 1927 impeachment, pardoning a murderer, and mismanagement of the Highway Commission. Johnston’s esoteric pursuits were also questioned, as it was alleged he was hosting séances, visiting an astrologer, and that both a swami and a yogi were on call by the governor.[xiii] Testimony in the impeachment hearings would eventually fill over five thousand pages, but of the eleven charges, Johnston was only convicted of the charge of general incompetence.[xiv]

Johnston would continue in public service, even after being removed from the governor’s office. He served in the State Senate again from 1933 to 1937, spending the rest of his days practicing law. Johnston died on 7 January 1965, one day after a proposal was introduced in the State House to lessen his impeachment.[xv] He was laid to rest in Grace Hill Cemetery of Perry.[xvi]


[i]  Larry O’Dell, “Walton, John Calloway,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed March 28, 2017, http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=WA014.
[ii]  Bob Burke, “Johnston, Henry Simpson,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed March 28, 2017, http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=JO015.
[iii]  O’Dell.
[iv]  Burke.
[v]  Philip Deslippe, "The American Yoga Scare of 1927: How Traveling Yogis Toppled the Oklahoma State Government," South Asian American Digital Archive, last modified September 10, 2015, https://www.saada.org/tides/article/20150910-4457.
[vi]  J. Fred Latham, The Story of Oklahoma Masonry (Guthrie, Oklahoma: Masonic Print Shop, 1978), 354.
[vii]  Burke.
[viii]  Grand Masters of Oklahoma (Oklahoma: Oklahoma Lodge of Research, 1975), 83.
[ix]  Burke.
[x]  Deslippe.
[xi]  Ibid.
[xii]  Ibid.
[xiii]  Ibid.
[xiv]  Burke.
[xv]  Ibid.
[xvi]  “Henry Simpson Johnston,” Find A Grave, accessed March 28, 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=9672378.

February 3, 2017

McAlester Scottish Rite Library and Museum


In 2014, I was appointed Director of Curatorial Affairs for the McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accept Scottish Rite. The Library and Museum of the McAlester Valley was established as a department in 1955. Our institution is home to numerous collections of early Masonic personalities in Oklahoma, including Daniel M. Hailey, William Busby, Clarence Brain, and William S. Key.

Under my direction, our museum has embarked upon an exciting exhibition plan telling the story of Freemasonry in the Indian Territory, and later Oklahoma. Since 2014, a total of ten new exhibits have been installed in our second floor gallery covering topics ranging from the McAlester Scottish Rite Temple to the Order of the Eastern Star. We were also fortunate enough to receive a loan of early 20th century Masonic porcelain.



Our mission is as follows:

The Library and Museum of the McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accept Scottish Rite is dedicated to preserving the Masonic history of Indian Territory from 1824, when Fort Gibson was established by Brother Matthew Arbuckle, to the present day.  This includes the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma and the merging of the Grand Lodges of Indian Territory and Oklahoma in 1909; in addition to the various Appendent Orders of Freemasonry that came to occupy the Indian Territory.

To support our Valley’s Library and Museum, please consider purchasing one of our unique “Patron Jewels” when visiting the McAlester Scottish Rite.

January 29, 2017

Clarence Brain: Masonic Scholar

 By T.S. Akers

Clarence Brain
(Courtesy of Cyrus Chapter No. 7, Royal Arch Masons)

Those actively seeking further light in Masonry are likely familiar with the names of Masonic scholars today. These are the men that write prolifically on the topic, ranging from books, to articles, and even blogs. These are the men who travel the Masonic speaking circuit. These are the men who often provide sound bites for the occasional documentary on Freemasonry, even the dubious ones. Oklahoma has been fortunate to claim several of these Masonic scholars as residents. Clarence Brain was one such scholar who was active in the Golden Age of Fraternalism.

Brain was born in Rowan County, Kentucky on 13 June 1875. He made his way to the Indian Territory in the employ of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad as a train operator.[i] The M-K-T Railroad, often referred to as the Katy owing to its stock symbol being the letters K-T, was formed in 1870. The Katy operated rail lines west of the Mississippi and crossed the Red River into Texas in 1872, five years before any railroad arrived in San Antonio.[ii] Brain would remain with the Katy until 1920, holding the position of dispatcher at Lehigh, in Coal County, and later chief dispatcher at Oklahoma City. Upon leaving the railroad, Brain entered the insurance profession in Oklahoma City, retiring in 1947.[iii] During that period, he served as a field representative for the Paul Revere Life Insurance Company.[iv]

While working in Lehigh, Brain took the degrees of Freemasonry in Savanna Lodge No. 20 in 1901.[v] Savanna Lodge No. 20 would eventually consolidate with Coalgate Lodge No. 211 in 1925.[vi] Southeastern Oklahoma was, in many regards, the “cradle of life” for early Freemasonry and it was there that Brain began to pursue the higher degrees of Freemasonry. He was exalted to the august degree of the Holy Royal Arch in Savanna Chapter No. 4, also at Lehigh, in 1901.[vii] That particular chapter of Royal Arch Masons was still quite young, having only been chartered in 1886.[viii]

A new Masonic order to the Indian Territory at the time included the degrees of Royal & Select Master. On 5 November 1883, a dispensation to form a Council of Royal & Select Masters was granted to Companions at Atoka.[ix] The driving force behind this was Joseph S. Murrow, who had received the Cryptic degrees in Texas.[x] Oklahoma Council No. 1, as it was styled, was duly chartered in 1886.[xi] For several years the Council of Royal and Select Masters at Atoka was in effect a Grand Body of itself, holding jurisdiction over all of Indian Territory.[xii] It was under the jurisdiction of Oklahoma Council No. 1 that Brain received the degrees of Royal & Select Master in 1902.[xiii]

Brain’s career ultimately took him to Oklahoma City. He was dubbed and created a Knight of the Temple in 1917 in Oklahoma Commandery No. 3.[xiv] Brain would soon transfer his other York Rite memberships to Oklahoma City, joining with Cyrus Chapter No. 7, Royal Arch Masons and Alpha Council No. 18, Royal & Select Masters in 1918.[xv] It was in Oklahoma City that Brain began to enter the circles of Masonic leadership. Brain served as High Priest of Cyrus Chapter No. 7 in 1923.[xvi] He presided over Oklahoma Commandery No. 3 as Eminent Commander in 1924.[xvii] Brain next attained the office of Illustrious Master of Alpha Council No. 18 in 1926 and was installed as Grand Steward at the 32nd Annual Assembly of the Grand Council of Royal & Select Masters that same year.[xviii] He would go on to serve as Worshipful Master of Oklahoma City Lodge No. 36 in 1928.[xix]

Past Commander Jewel of Clarence Brain
(From the collections of the McAlester Scottish Rite)

Brain took the degrees of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry at Guthrie on 20 November 1919.[xx] He later affiliated with the Valley of McAlester in 1936.[xxi] Brain was also a member of India Shrine of Oklahoma City, having become a Noble of the Mystic Shrine in 1918.[xxii]

Brain was a collector of Masonic rituals; his entire collection was gifted to the McAlester Scottish Rite Valley. It is noted that among Brain’s collection was a ritual hand written by Albert Pike himself, the location of this manuscript is not presently known.[xxiii] Prior to 1932, the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma was using a ritual prescribed by the General Grand Chapter. One version of the ritual, this from the Brain collection, was the Signet of Royal Arch Masonry published in 1896 by A.J. Hendricks and Frederic Speed. The General Grand Chapter’s ritual was by no means popular in Oklahoma and in 1931 a committee was appointed for the purpose of writing a new ritual, Brain was ultimately made chairman.[xxiv] The committee returned a ritual that was met with approval by the Companions of Oklahoma the following year, a ritual that mostly remains unchanged today. Brain would ultimately spend fifteen years as chairman of the ritual committee for the Grand Chapter of Oklahoma.[xxv]

When the chair degree of Thrice Illustrious Master was established for those who had presided over a Council of Royal & Select Masters, Brain was instrumental in bringing the degree to Oklahoma.[xxvi] Brain’s dedication to Freemasonry in Oklahoma was first rewarded by the Grand Council of Royal & Select Masters. He was elected Illustrious Grand Master of that order in 1930.[xxvii] Brain took office following the Crash of 1929 and the gravity of the situation was not lost on him. In his remarks to the Craft he stated:
It is unnecessary to call your attention to the unusual and unprecedented depression which has hung over our country and state during the greater part of the year. Many of you come from localities where it has been apparent to the must unobserving. For these reasons, I have hesitated to spend the funds of the Grand Council without seeing the hope of benefit or permanent results.
Brain went on to recommend that the Grand Council consider reducing or remitting the dues owed by the constituent Councils so that they might survive.[xxviii]

The first part of the Twentieth Century saw the proliferation of numerous invitational Masonic orders. Brain’s love for ritual would lead him to achieve membership in most. The Grand College of America of Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests was formed in 1933 in North Carolina.[xxix] This highly selective order, limited to thirty-three members in each tabernacle, soon spread across the United States. Brain would become one of the charter members of Joseph of Arimathea Tabernacle No. 4 in Oklahoma.[xxx] He would in time serve as Grand Preceptor of the Grand College of America in 1940.[xxxi]

The Grand College of Rites was formed in 1932 for the purpose of publishing rituals of long defunct Masonic orders. It was the Egyptian Masonic Rite of Memphis which surrendered its sovereignty to form the Grand College of Rites, Brain had become a member of the Egyptian Rite sometime prior.[xxxii] Brain’s membership in the newly formed College of Rites fit quite well with his prolific ritual collecting. The Grand College of Rites would eventually honor Brain by electing him Grand Chancellor in 1946.[xxxiii]

Other orders in which Brain became involved included the whimsical Order of the Bath, which he joined in 1940.[xxxiv] He was also a member of the Royal Order of Scotland, an invitational body associated with the Scottish Rite.[xxxv] A number of these Masonic orders began meeting together in Washington, DC, officially in 1938, but had loosely convened together as early as 1932. The weeklong series of meetings, dubbed Masonic Week is convened annually in February.[xxxvi]

The 1940s were a very busy period for Brain. While he was serving the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests as their national presiding officer, he was also progressing through the offices of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma. In 1941, Brain was elected Grand High Priest of Oklahoma.[xxxvii] Brain’s tenure as Illustrious Grand Master of Royal & Select Masters was beset with a depression. His tenure as Grand High Priest would see the United States enter into the Second World War. Brain’s remarks upon being elected to office where almost prophetic. He noted:
If adversity or misfortune should befall us, let us never be discouraged but rest secure in the knowledge that we are, in fact, triumphant. Let us subscribe to the idea that there is a mutual dependence between ourselves and all of our branches and agree, wholeheartedly, with a Grand Master of England who said a century ago: “The great power of Masonry is example and the chain extends from the highest to the lowest, and if one link shall break, the whole is endangered. Equity is our Principle, Honor our guide, and my recommendation always is Order, Regularity, and Observance of Masonic duties.”[xxxviii]

Past High Priest Jewel of Clarence Brain
(From the collections of the McAlester Scottish Rite)

Brain’s national Masonic career would continue to grow. It is interesting to consider that while Oklahoma rejected the adopted ritual of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Brain found himself serving on the Ritual Committee of the General Grand Chapter, becoming chairman in 1944.[xxxix] He would go on to serve the General Grand Council of Royal & Select Masters as General Grand Steward from 1945-1948.[xl] While Brain was serving as Grand Chancellor of the College of Rites, he would receive one of the highest honors in Masonry. The Society of Blue Friars was formed in 1932 to honor Masonic authors. With membership being limited to twenty individuals, it is one of the most exclusive Masonic groups.[xli] Only three Oklahoman’s have been inducted into the Society of Blue Friars, Brain would become the first in 1946.[xlii] The following year, Brain, who was quite ill, was invested with the Knight Commander of the Court of Honor designation in the Scottish Rite at his home in Oklahoma City.[xliii]

In his time, Clarence Brain was known throughout the Masonic world. He laid down his working tools on 3 March 1951. He was survived in death by his wife Emma Carolyn Tennent, the two had married in 1903.[xliv] Mrs. Brain herself was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution and had helped organize the Social Order of the Beauceant in Oklahoma, an organization for the wives of Knights Templar.[xlv] Brain was laid to rest in Memorial Park Cemetery of Oklahoma City.[xlvi]


[i]  “Brain, Clarence” (member profile, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[ii]  Hugh Hemphill, “Missouri Kansas Texas,” Texas Transportation Museum, accessed January 22, 2017, http://www.txtransportationmuseum.org/history-rr-missouri-kansas-texas.php.
[iii]  “Clarence Brain is Dead at 76; Rites Pending,” The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), March 4, 1951.
[iv]  “Brain, Clarence” (member profile, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[v]  Norman E. Angel, Kenneth S. Adams, and William A. Hensley, History of the Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma (Oklahoma: 1964), 131.
[vi]  Robert G. Davis and James T. Tresner II, Indians, Cowboys, Cornerstones and Charities: A Centennial Celebration of Freemasonry in Oklahoma (Oklahoma: 2009), 170.
[vii] The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the 37th Annual Assembly (Oklahoma: 1931).
[viii] Angel, 23.
[ix]  Charles E. Creager, History of Freemasonry in Oklahoma (Muskogee, Oklahoma: Muskogee Print Shop, 1935), 115.
[x]  Charles E. Creager, A History of the Cryptic Rite of Freemasonry in Oklahoma (Muskogee, Oklahoma: Hoffman-Speed, 1925).
[xi]  Creager, History of Freemasonry in Oklahoma, 115-117.
[xii] Ibid., 115.
[xiii] Angel, 131.
[xiv] The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the 37th Annual Assembly.
[xv]  The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the Fifty-third Annual Convocation (Oklahoma: 1942).
[xvi]  The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the Thirty-fourth Annual Convocation (Oklahoma: 1923).
[xvii]  “Brain, Clarence” (special collection, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[xviii]  The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Assembly (Oklahoma: 1926).
[xix]  “Brain, Clarence” (member profile, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma AF&AM).
[xx]  The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the 37th Annual Assembly.
[xxi]  “Brain, Clarence” (member profile, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[xxii]  The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the 37th Annual Assembly.
[xxiii]  “Clarence Brain Rites Are Today,” The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), March 5, 1951.
[xxiv]  The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the Forty-first Annual Convocation (Oklahoma: 1930).
[xxv]  “Brain, Clarence” (member profile, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[xxvi] Angel, 131.
[xxvii]  The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the 37th Annual Assembly.
[xxviii]  Ibid., 12-14.
[xxix] “History,” The Grand College of America Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, accessed January 22, 2017, http://www.hraktp.org/history.html.
[xxx] Angel, 131.
[xxxi]  Harold V.B. Voorhis, Masonic Organizations and Allied Orders and Degrees: A Cyclopaedic Handbook (New Jersey: Press of Henry Emmerson, 1952), 67.
[xxxii] “G.C.R. Historical Summary,” Grand College of Rites of the United States of America, accessed January 22, 2017, http://grandcollegeofrites.org/history/.
[xxxiii]  “Past Grand Chancellors,” Grand College of Rites of the United States of America, accessed January 22, 2017, http://grandcollegeofrites.org/pgc/.
[xxxiv]  “Membership Roster,” The Masonic Order of the Bath in the United States of America, accessed January 22, 2017, http://bath.albertpikedemolay.org/.
[xxxv]  “Clarence Brain Rites Are Today.”
[xxxvi]  James Hodgkins, “Masonic Week for the Uninitiated,” The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, last modified August 2011, https://scottishrite.org/about/media-publications/journal/article/masonic-week-for-the-uninitiated/.
[xxxvii]  The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the Fifty-second Annual Convocation (Oklahoma: 1941), 37.
[xxxviii]  The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the Fifty-second Annual Convocation, 38-39.
[xxxix]  “Brain, Clarence” (member profile, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[xl]  The Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of the State of New York, Proceedings of the 124th Annual Assembly (New York: 1947), 73.
[xli]  Wallace McLeod, “The Society of Blue Friars (Masonic Authors),” The Society of Blue Friars, accessed January 22, 2017, http://www.societyofbluefriars.org/information.html.
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[xliv]  The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the Fifty-third Annual Convocation.
[xlv]  “Carolyn Brain is Dead at 83; Rites Pending,” The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), January 14, 1957.
[xlvi]  “Clarence Brain Rites Are Today.”