There were fourteen past Presidents that were Brother Masons, They were of many different religions, backgrounds, and occupations. They all had the uncompromising dedication to the fraternity and what it stands for as well as their service to this great nation of ours. There were other Presidents that petitioned a lodge for membership, passed the 1st Degree, or were thought to be Masons. We have included those as well to avoid confusion and historical significance.
1st President (1789-1797)
Fredericksburg Lodge № 4, A. F. & A. M.
George Washington served as the first President of the United States of America. Brother Washington became Worshipful Master on December 20, 1788, and was inaugurated President of the United States on April 30, 1789, thus becoming the first, and so far the only, Brother to be simultaneously President and Master of his Lodge. He served two terms as President. Born in 1732, Washington was initiated on November 4, 1752, Fredericksburgh (Fredericksburg) Lodge № 4, Fredericksburg, Virginia, passed on March 3, 1753, and raised a Master Mason on August 4, 1753. He would serve as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Armies during the Revolutionary War. In 1788, Washington was appointed Charter Master of Alexandria Lodge № 22, Virginia during the organization of the lodge, and in December 1788, he was elected Master. There is no evidence that he was ever installed or presided over any meetings of this lodge. While President, he would act as Grand Master in leveling the cornerstone of the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C. on September 18, 1793. During his life, Washington was somewhat active and supportive of Freemasonry. He died on December 14, 1799, less than three years following his second term as President.
5th President (1817-1825)
Williamsburg Lodge № 6, A. F. & A. M.
James Monroe was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia in 1758. Monroe attended the College of William and Mary, fought with distinction in the Continental Army, and practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There is some dispute regarding the Masonic affiliation of Bro. Monroe due to the loss of lodge records. It appears that he was initiated on November 9, 1775, in St. John’s Regimental Lodge in the Continental Army. He later affiliated with Williamsburg Lodge № 6 in Williamsburg, Virginia. There are no known records to confirm his advancement through the degrees but there is evidence that Monroe was received as a Master Mason during a visit to a Tennessee lodge in 1819. It is interesting to note that Bro. Monroe was not yet eighteen when initiated indicating the concept of “lawful age” had not been universally fixed at twenty-one at this time. Like Washington, Monroe would serve two terms as President. He died on July 4, 1831, in New York.
7th President (1829-1837)
St. Tammany Lodge № 1
The following is from the book “10,000 Famous Freemasons” By William R. Denslow, Vol. II E – J, page 283. Reprinted from the Transactions of the Missouri Lodge of Research for the Educational Bureau of the Royal Arch Mason Magazine. This book printed by the Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co. Inc. Richmond, Virginia. (4 book boxed set, Vol. I, II, III, IV.) Vol. II, E – J, page 283.
Born March 15, 1767, in Washaw settlement between North and South Carolina. He was admitted to the bar in Salisbury, N.C. in 1787, and, the following year, migrated westward to Nashville, Tenn. Here he became a U.S. congressman (1796-97); U.S. senator (1797-98); judge of the Tenn. Supreme Court (1798-1804); and major general of Tennessee militia (1802). He defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 and was made major general of the U.S. Army and assigned to defend New Orleans in the War of 1812. His defense of that city made him a national hero. He added to his fame by operations against the Seminole Indians in 1818, and involved the federal government by pursuing Indians into Spanish territory, and hanging two English troublemakers. He was military governor of the Florida Territory in 1821, and again U.S. senator in 1823-25. His first presidential race in 1824 was unsuccessful, but he was elected in 1828 and reelected in 1832. There is doubt as to when and where he received his degrees. An article in The Builder in 1925 states: “The claim of Greeneville Lodge № 3 of Tenn. (formerly № 43 of N.C.) seems to be the most weight. An original transcript shows that he (Jackson) was a member at that time.” W. L. Boydon wrote in the New Age in Aug. 1920: “The generally accepted belief is that he was made a Mason in Philanthropic Lodge № 12 at Clover Bottom, Davidson Co., Tenn.” Bell, in his Famous Masons states: “Jackson was a member of Harmony Lodge № 1 (formerly St. Tammany Lodge № 29 of N.C.) Nashville, as early as 1800, but the date of receiving the degrees has not been learned. He was present at the first meeting of Tennessee Lodge № 2, Knoxville, March 24, 1800. Charles Comstock, Past Grand Master of Tennessee and historian, believes that he was a member of Harmony Lodge, and records a visit by him to the initial meeting of Polk Lodge, U.D.1 Knoxville (dispensation granted Jan. 15, 1800) by “Andrew Jackson of Harmony Lodge of Nashville.” In 1808 Harmony Lodge № 1 lost its charter, and here all record of Jackson’s Masonic affiliation ceases until 1822. He evidently kept in good standing by paying his dues to the Grand Lodge, as was then permitted. The proceedings of 1822 credit him with being a past master, but no record has been found of his mastership. He was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, on Oct. 7, 1822, and again in 1823, serving until Oct. 1824. He was elected an honorary member of Federal Lodge № 1, Washington, D.C., Jan. 4, 1830, and of Jackson Lodge № 1, Tallahassee, Fla. as well as the Grand Lodge of Florida (Jan. 15, 1833). He was a Royal Arch Mason, as he served the Grand Chapter of Tennessee as Deputy Grand High Priest at its institution, April 3, 1826, but no record exists of his affiliation with any chapter. As was the custom at the time, the Royal Arch degree was probably conferred by a blue lodge. He contributed $35.00 in 1818 to the erection of a Masonic temple in Nashville; requested two Lodges to perform funeral services; introduced Lafayette to the Grand Lodge of Tennessee in 1825; while president, assisted Washington’s mother lodge to lay a cornerstone of a monument to Washington’s mother in Fredericksburg, Va. (May 6, 1833); assisted in the Masonic laying of the cornerstone of Jackson City (across the river from Washington, D.C.) on Jan. 11, 1836; attended the Grand Lodge of Tennessee in 1839, and the same year visited Cumberland Chapter № 1 of Nashville to assist in the installation of officers. Died June 8, 1845.
James Knox Polk
11th President (1845-1849)
Columbia Lodge № 31, F. & A. M.
James K. Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on November 2, 1795. Studious and industrious, Polk was graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina. As a young lawyer, he entered politics, served in the Tennessee legislature, and became a friend of Andrew Jackson. Brother Polk was initiated in Columbia Lodge № 31 on June 5, 1820, located in Columbia, Tennessee. He would be passed and raised in this lodge though the actual dates are unknown. In 1825 he has exalted a Royal Arch Mason in LaFayette Chapter № 4 located in Columbia. Polk would serve as the Governor of Tennessee from 1839 through 1841 prior to his election as President of the United States. He would serve one term as President from 1845 to 1849. He left office in poor health and died a few months later on June 15, 1849, in Nashville, Tennessee. Brother Polk assisted in the Cornerstone Laying of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., on May 1, 1847.
President and Brother Polk did not just assist in the Cornerstone Laying for the Smithsonian, he signed the legislation that brought it into existence! (Along with overseeing the opening of The Naval Academy).
Concerning the war with Mexico, President Polk “selected the top generals and set the military strategy of the war.” Which started on May 11, 1846. It was an overwhelming military success. “California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming were all included in the Mexican Cession.”
James A. Buchanan
15th President (1857-1861)
Lancaster Lodge № 43, F. & A. M.
Born in Cove Gap near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania into a well-to-do Pennsylvania family on April 23, 1791, James A. Buchanan, a graduate of Dickinson College, was gifted as a debater and learned in the law. Tall, stately, and stiffly formal, he was the only President who never married. Brother Buchanan was initiated on December 11, 1816, passed and raised in Lancaster Lodge № 43 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He served as Master of his lodge from 1822 to 1823. In 1824, he was appointed District Deputy Grand Master for the Counties of Lancaster, Lebanon, and York. His tenure as President was fraught with the controversy surrounding the issues of states’ rights and slavery. Inaugurated in 1857, Buchanan retired from the Presidency after one term in office and returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he died on June 1, 1868.
16th President (1861-1865)
Abraham Lincoln was not a Freemason. He did apply for membership in Tyrian Lodge, Springfield, Ill., shortly after his nomination for the presidency in 1860, he withdrew the application because he felt that his applying for membership at that time might be construed as a political ruse to obtain votes. He advised the lodge that he would resubmit his application again when he returned from the presidency.
Lincoln never returned. On the death of the president, Tyrian Lodge adopted, on April 17, 1865, a resolution to say “that the decision of President Lincoln to postpone his application for the honors of Freemasonry, lest his motives are misconstrued, is the highest degree honorable to his memory.”
17th President (1865-1869)
Greenville Lodge № 119, F. & A. M.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on December 29, 1808, Johnson grew up in poverty. He was apprenticed to a tailor as a boy but ran away. He opened a tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee, married Eliza McCardle, and participated in debates at the local academy. Entering politics, he became an adept stump speaker, championing the common man. Johnson became a Mason in 1851 when he was initiated, passed, and raised in Greenville Lodge № 119 located at Greenville, Tennessee. Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, the Presidency fell upon Vice-President Johnson, an old-fashioned southern Jacksonian Democrat. Although an honest and honorable man, Andrew Johnson was one of the most unfortunate of Presidents. Arrayed against him were the Radical Republicans in Congress, brilliantly led and ruthless in their tactics. In 1867, the House of Representatives voted eleven articles of impeachment against him. He was tried by the Senate in the spring of 1868 and acquitted by one vote. While serving as President, he received the Scottish Rite degrees in 1867. Johnson left the White House in 1869 after serving almost four years as President completing Lincoln’s second term. Johnson died on July 31, 1875, in Carter’s Station, Tennessee.
Brother Johnson is supposed to have been a Chapter Mason but the name of the Chapter and date of exaltation are unknown; was Knighted in Nashville Commandery №1, Nashville, Tennessee, July 26, 1859, and, the First President to become a Scottish Rite Mason, received those degrees in the White House June 20, 1867, from Benjamin B. French, 33 Deg. and A.T.C. Pierson, 33 Deg., both active members of the Supreme Council, S.J.
He participated in five cornerstone laying’s; the monument to Bro. Stephen a Douglas, Chicago, Illinois, September 6, 1866; Masonic Temple, Baltimore, Maryland, November 20, 1866; Masonic Temple Boston, Massachusetts, June 24, 1867; National Cemetery, Antietam, Maryland, October 17, 1867; and Masonic Temple, Washington, D.C., May 20, 1868. To attend this ceremony he gave leave to all Masons in government service, and President Johnson marched on foot in the parade as a Master Mason.
At the cornerstone laying of the Baltimore Temple, someone suggested that a chair be brought to the reviewing platform for him. Brother Johnson refused it, saying: “We all meet on the level.”
James A. Garfield
20th President (1881)
Magnolia Lodge № 20 F. & A.M.
James A. Garfield was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on November 19, 1831. Fatherless at two, he later drove canal boat teams, somehow earning enough money for education. He was graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1856, and he returned to the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) in Ohio as a classics professor. Within a year he was made its president. Garfield was initiated on November 19, 1861, in Magnolia Lodge № 20 in Columbus, Ohio. Owing to Civil War duties, Brother Garfield did not receive the Third Degree until November 22, 1864, in Columbus Lodge № 30 in Columbus, Ohio. On October 10, 1866, he affiliated with Garrettsville Lodge № 246 in Garrettsville, Ohio. Brother Garfield became a Charter Member of Pentalpha Lodge № 23 of Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1869. Garfield was elected President in 1880 by a margin of only 10,000 popular votes and was inaugurated on March 4, 1881. His Presidency was cut short when an embittered attorney who had sought a consular post shot him on July 2, 1881, in a Washington railroad station. Mortally wounded, Garfield died on September 19, 1881, from the gunshot wound.
William McKinley, Jr.
25th President (1897-1901)
Winchester Hiram Lodge № 21 A. F. & A. M.
Born in Niles, Ohio, on January 29, 1843, McKinley briefly attended Allegheny College and was teaching in a country school when the Civil War broke out. Enlisting as a private in the Union Army, he was mustered out at the end of the war as a brevet major of volunteers. He studied law, opened an office in Canton, Ohio, and married Ida Saxton, daughter of a local banker. McKinley was initiated, passed, and raised in Hiram Lodge № 21 located in Winchester, Virginia during 1865. He affiliated with Canton Lodge № 60 in Canton, Ohio in 1867 and later demitted to become a Charter Member of Eagle Lodge № 431, also in Canton. McKinley was elected Governor of Ohio in 1891 and served two terms from 1892 to 1896. He was inaugurated as President in 1897 and was elected to a second term in 1900. McKinley’s second term as President came to a tragic end in September 1901. While attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York he was shot by a deranged man. McKinley would die eight days later on September 14, 1901, becoming the second Masonic President to be assassinated.
26th President (1901-1909)
Matinecock Lodge № 806 F. & A. M.
With the assassination of President McKinley in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation’s history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy. He was born in New York City on October 27, 1858, into a wealthy family. Though he suffered from ill-health as a youth, he was an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. During the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt was lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment, which he led on a charge at the battle of San Juan. He was elected Governor of New York in 1898, serving with distinction. Assuming the Presidency in September 1901, Roosevelt received the three degrees in Matinecock Lodge № 806 in Oyster Bay, New York during the year. He was very supportive of Freemasonry for the remainder of his life. Following the completion of McKinley’s term, Roosevelt was elected to a second term in his own right and served as President through 1909. Roosevelt died on January 6, 1919, in Oyster Bay.
William Howard Taft
27th President (1909-1913)
Kilwinning Lodge № 356 F. & A. M.
William Howard Taft was born on September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a distinguished judge. He was graduated from Yale and returned to Cincinnati to study and practice law. He rose in politics through judiciary appointments earned through his own competence and availability. Brother Taft was made a “Mason at Sight” within the Body of Kilwinning Lodge № 356 located in Cincinnati, Ohio on February 18, 1909. Taft’s father and two brothers were also members of this Lodge. After the ceremony, Brother and President Taft addressed the Brethren, saying, “I am glad to be here and to be a Mason. It does me good to feel the thrill that comes from recognizing on all hands the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.” Taft was a distinguished jurist and an effective administrator but a poor politician. Large, jovial, and conscientious, Taft was inaugurated as President in 1909 and spent four uncomfortable years in the White House caught in the intense battles between the political factions of Washington. Taft’s term ended in 1913 and, free of the Presidency, served as Professor of Law at Yale until Brother and President Warren G. Harding made him Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a position he held until just before his death on March 8, 1930, in Washington, D.C.
Warren Gamaliel Harding
29th President (1921-1923)
Marion Lodge № 70 F. & A. M.
Warren G. Harding was born near Marion, Ohio, on November 2, 1865. An active civic leader, he became the publisher of a newspaper. He was a trustee of the Trinity Baptist Church, a director of almost every important business, and a leader in fraternal organizations and charitable enterprises. Harding was initiated in Freemasonry on June 28, 1901, in Marion Lodge № 70 located in Marion, Ohio. Because of some personal antagonism, Brother Harding’s advancement was hindered until 1920, by which time he had been nominated for President. Friends persuaded the opposition to withdraw the objection, and on August 27, 1920, nineteen years after his initiation, Brother Harding achieved the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in Marion Lodge. Harding won the Presidential election of 1920 by an unprecedented landslide of 60 percent of the popular vote. By 1923 the post-World War I depression was giving way to a new wave of prosperity and newspapers proclaimed Harding as a wise statesman. However, word began to reach Harding that some of his friends were using their official positions for personal enrichment. This alarmed and worried Harding but he feared the political repercussions of exposing the scandals. Looking wan and depressed, Harding journeyed westward in the summer of 1923 carrying the burden of revealing the corruption. Unfortunately, he did not live to find out how the public would react to the scandals of his administration. On August 2, 1923, Harding died in San Francisco of a heart attack.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
32nd President (1933-1945)
Holland Lodge № 8 F. & A. M.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, at Hyde Park, New York. He attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School. On St. Patrick’s Day, 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt entered public service through politics, serving in several state and federal positions before being elected Governor of New York in 1928. In the summer of 1921, at the age of 39, he was stricken with poliomyelitis. Demonstrating indomitable courage, Roosevelt fought to regain the use of his legs, particularly through swimming. Roosevelt received the three degrees in Masonry within Holland Lodge № 8 located in New York City in 1911. During his lifetime he was supportive of Freemasonry and somewhat active in the fraternity. He was elected President in November 1932 to the first of four terms spanning the Great Depression to World War II. His tenure as President was a period of great social and political change in the United States. Assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, he brought hope to the American people as he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed the organization of the Nation’s manpower and resources for global war. During this period he directed the war effort but also contemplated the planning of a United Nations in which international difficulties could be resolved. As the war drew to a close, Roosevelt’s health deteriorated, and on April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the beginning of his fourth term as President.
Harry S. Truman
33rd President (1945-1953)
Belton Lodge № 450 A. F. & A. M.
Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. He grew up in Independence, and for 12 years prospered as a Missouri farmer. He went to France during World War I as a captain in the Field Artillery. Returning, he married Elizabeth Virginia Wallace and opened a haberdashery in Kansas City. A very active Freemason, Truman received his Masonic degrees in Belton Lodge № 450 in Grandview, Missouri in 1909. In 1911, Truman and several other Masons organized Grandview Lodge № 618, and Truman served as the first Master of the Lodge. In 1940, Truman was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri and would serve as such until October 1941. Truman became a U.S Senator in 1934 and was active in monitoring the war effort while in the Senate. Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt chose Truman to be his Vice-Presidential candidate in the 1944 elections, which Roosevelt won. During his few weeks as Vice President, Truman scarcely saw President Roosevelt and received no briefing on the development of the atomic bomb or the unfolding difficulties with Soviet Russia. Suddenly these and a host of other wartime problems became Truman’s to solve when, on April 12, 1945, he became President upon the death of Roosevelt. He told reporters, “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.” As President, Truman made some of the most crucial decisions in history. Soon after V-E Day, the war against Japan had reached its final stage. An urgent plea to Japan to surrender was rejected. Truman, after consultations with his advisers, ordered atomic bombs dropped on cities devoted to war work. Two were Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese surrender quickly followed in 1945. In 1948, campaigning against the backdrop of crises in foreign affairs around the globe, Truman won a term as President in his own right. Deciding not to run for a second term, Truman retired from the Presidency in 1953 and returned to Independence, Missouri where he died on December 26, 1972, at the age of 88.
Lyndon B. Johnson
36th President (1963-1969)
Lyndon Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, on a farm near Stonewall, Texas. He was sworn in as the Chief Executive on November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. A year later, running against the Republican nominee, Senator and Brother Barry Goldwater of Arizona, he won a landslide victory, to serve as President for the four-year term, January 1965; January 1969. He declined to run for re-election in 1968. He received his first degree on October 30, 1937. After receiving the degree he found that his congressional duties (elected in 1937) took so much time he was unable to pursue the masonic degrees. The opinion among Masons is divided as to whether he should be regarded as a Masonic President since he never achieved the status of Master Mason. Masonic law in Texas declares that “Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts are Masons,” although denied certain rights and privileges, Lyndon B. Johnson was accepted and initiated in a Masonic Lodge, and at that time was addressed as “Brother.”
Gerald Rudolph Ford
38th President (1974-1977)
Malta Lodge № 465 F. & A. M.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1913, Gerald R. Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He starred on the University of Michigan football team, and then went to Yale where he served as assistant coach while earning his law degree. During World War II he attained the rank of lieutenant commander in the Navy. After the war, he returned to Grand Rapids, where he began the practice of law, and entered Republican politics. In 1948 he was elected to Congress where he developed a reputation for integrity and openness. That reputation made him popular during his twenty-five years in Congress where he served as House Minority Leader from 1965 to 1973. Ford was initiated in Freemasonry on September 30, 1949, in Malta Lodge № 465 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1951 he was passed and raised a Master Mason in Columbia Lodge № 3 in Washington, D.C. as a courtesy for Malta Lodge while Ford served in Congress. When Ford took the oath of office as President on August 9, 1974, he declared, “I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances… This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.” It was indeed an unprecedented time. He had been the first Vice President chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, was succeeding the first President ever to resign. President Ford won the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 1976 but lost the election to his Democratic opponent. He was the only President never elected to either the Vice Presidency or Presidency.
40th President (1981-1989)
Ronald Reagan has often been referred to as a Freemason. President Reagan is not a Freemason although he is an honorary member of the Imperial Council of the Shrine. President Reagan has on numerous occasions been involved in Shrine and masonic functions throughout his career. The confusion as to his membership arises from a ceremony held in the Oval Office of the White House on February 11th, 1988, when a group of Freemasons presented President Reagan with a certificate of honor from the Grand Lodge of Washington, D.C., then he was made an Honorary Scottish Rite mason. The title of Freemason can only be conferred by a Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. In Reagan’s case this was not done, probably because the ceremonies would have taken a full day to confer and the president’s time was limited; therefore, President Reagan should only be referred to as a Shriner or Scottish Rite mason. The Shrine and Scottish Rite are concordant bodies and cannot confer the title Freemason on any person.
George H. W. Bush
41st President (1989-1993)
George Bush has also on numerous occasions been referred to as a Freemason. The confusion as to President Bush being a member arises from the swearing in ceremonies at his inauguration. President Bush took his oath of office on the George Washington Bible which belongs to St. Johns Lodge in New York City. Because the Bible belonged to a Masonic Lodge many writers assumed he was a Freemason. The Bible was used at the request of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies
This Bible was first used on April 30, 1789, by the Grand Master of the Masons in New York, to administer the oath of office to George Washington, the first president. Other presidents who took their oath of office with this Bible are Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Jimmy Carter.