Life in Valdosta :: Prince Hall
While the ink was drying on the Declaration of Independence, a black man in Boston named Prince Hall was initiated into Masonic lodge # 441. It was an Irish Lodge attached to the 38th Regiment Foot, British Army garrisoned at Castle William (now Ft. Independence) in Boston Harbor. On March 2, 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for permission to form a Black Free Mason Lodge in the Colonies. A warrant was issued for African Lodge #459 on Sept,20, 1784, making it the first Black Free Mason lodge in North America. Because of travel and communications problems, it took until April of 1787 before Prince Hall received his charter. The original Charter is still in existence and remains in the hands of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. It was delivered in Boston in April 1787 by Capt James Scott (brother-in-law of John Hancock). Under its authority Masonic Lodge #459 was organized one week later.
Prince Hall is truly a cornerstone in African-American history. From voter to educator to founder and minister, Prince Hall paved the way for many. His father, Thomas Prince Hall was an Englishman and his mother was a colored woman of French extraction. In 1765, he worked his passage on a ship to Boston as a leather worker, a trade he received from his father. Later, he acquired real estate and was qualified to vote. Prince Hall was also a minister of the gospel.
He died in 1807. His Lodge was accredited as the first Afro-American/Minority fraternity in the U.S. Currently, there 47 state jurisdictions with more than 5000 lodges and 500,000 members. He also taught Afro-Americans to read, using the Bible in Lodges, which suggests that he established the first educational institution in the U. S. for minorities.
Valdosta lodge # 19 F&AM (PHA) Prince Hall Affiliated is the only Prince Hall Lodge in the city of Valdosta. It can trace its history back to one of the first Lodges chartered in the State of Georgia and part of the initial cadre of Lodges on the continent. It is chartered by The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia in Atlanta, in which the Honorable Ramsey Davis Jr., 33rd degree, presides as the Grand Master. PM John Way, 32nd degree, presides as the District Deputy Grand Master of the 9th district which includes Lowndes county. Local Valdosta officials are WM Demarcus Marshall 32nd degree, who presides over the Valdosta Lodge. His elected officers are SW Tony Wright, JW Edward Roberson, 32nd degree, Secretary Lucius Troutman and Treasurer Darryl Patterson.
Prince Hall masons are recognized and accepted all over the world as Free and Accepted Masons and the Valdosta lodge has been associated with many honorable members. Among them are:
- PM Gottrell Hester (deceased)
- Herman E Smith, (deceased)
- J.L. Lomax (deceased)
- Rev Freddie Drye (deceased)
- Rev Booker T. Jenkins (deceased)
- Rev Joe Hickey
- Rev Edgar Roberts
- Rev Sammie Williams (deceased)
- Rev James Banks
- Rev Calvin Benjamin
- Rev Joseph Benjamin
- Rev James Hart (deceased)
- Deacon L.B. Thompson
- Deacon Walter Humphrey
- Deacon Eugene Wilson
- Elder Robert Shannon
Valdosta lodge 19 houses other Masonic bodies including Sarah Chapter #10 OES, Genesis Council #53, Knights of Pythagoras, Sons of Moses, RAM,. Valdosta Consistory #29, Ossipe Court #186, Daughter of Isis and Ossipe Temple #65.
The Shriners The history of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine in the U.S. dates back to 1893. At that time, 13 black Masons under the leadership of John George Jones became the first Black Shriners in the United States.
Shriners aim to help, aid, assist, educate and bring joy to everyone. The constantly do charity work within and outside their community. Shriners fund medical research, college scholarships, shelter homes and care for the elderly, as well as many other charities. There are no race barriers with the Shriners. Help is given to anyone in need.
When Shrinedom came to the U.S., it was entrusted to Masons for several reasons:
1. Masons were considered to be faithful, worthy and among the noblest of men.
2. One had to be put to the test of all the degrees of Masonry in order to be considered for membership as a Shriner.
The Imperial Potentate of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine is Ralph Slaughter, 33rd Degree. The Deputy of the Desert of Georgia is James Johnson Jr. 33rd Degree. The Deputy of the Oasis of Valdosta is Gerone Anderson, 33rd Degree. The Shrine Temple in Valdosta is called the Ossipe Temple and Greg Smalls presides over it.