The Freemasons are a secret society that falls down slightly on one of the vital elements of being a secret society – the secrecy. Everyone’s heard of them, most people have a rough idea of what goes on behind the Lodge doors and there are a lot of notable people that have publicly admitted to being masons. To look down the list, it almost seems that being a mason is essential to success to life. From every sphere of life, we present the Top 10 Famous Freemasons.
10. Henry Ford
Many masons have made it to the top of their industries through masonic connections, but how many of those men live on in the popular imagination? One enduring name is Henry Ford, the man who revolutionized mass production with his Model T Ford. He even gave his name to the whole production line process, now known as “Fordism”. But Fordism was about more than just making cars quickly, it was also about giving workers rights and wages that they never had before. With his $5 workday, he improved conditions radically and forced competitors to do the same, ensuring the working man’s financial future was secure. As one of the pioneers of “Welfare Capitalism“, Ford not only changed industry forever, he also changed it for the better. He was also a member of Zion Lodge no.1.
9. Oscar Wilde
Freemasons aren’t just hard-nosed businessmen looking to get to the top – it’s also open to fey social commentators like Oscar Wilde. His father, Sir William Wilde, was a mason and it was his influence that enabled Oscar to get into Oxford. It was while he was at Oxford that he joined the Apollo University Lodge, partly under pressure from his father. In his maiden speech, he demonstrated his famous wit when he said of Order founder John the Baptist “I hope we shall emulate his life but not his death – I mean we ought to keep our heads”.
Wilde was an enthusiastic mason, spending a fortune on masonic gowns and it was this extravagance that would end his involvement with the masons. He was expelled from one lodge for owing another member money for the gowns, and then failed to pay his subscriptions to the Churchill Lodge, which saw him expelled altogether. A short but eventful masonic career.
8. Davy Crockett
The “King of the Wild Frontier” was a folk hero and politician, but also a freemason. It was while he was serving in Congress in Washington that he became a mason, and when he left to explore Texas he gave his masonic apron to the Weakly Lodge in Tennessee, where it still remains. His idea was to settle in Texas and move his family there, but sadly it never happened. While he was there, there was a surprise attack by Mexican soldiers and so the Battle of Alamo began. When the battle was over, and the Mexicans had taken the fort, Crockett was discovered among the dead. It was later rumored that he surrendered and was executed, but others maintain that he fought to the death on the Texan side standing up, as ever, for the forces of good.
7. King George VI
One measure of just how high up the masons’ influence goes is the number of kings that have been masons. Many modern day British kings appear on the list – from William IV, predeccessor to Queen Victoria, to George VI, father of the present Queen. George ascended to the throne after the abdication of his brother Edward. One of the most controversial monarchs of the last few centuries, Edward VIII reigned for just a few months in 1936 before abdicating in order to marry divorcee Mrs Wallis Simpson. His struggle to gain confidence and overcome his stutter was well-documented in the film “The King’s Speech”, but it is less well known that he credits freemasonry with helping him do it. His speech therapist Lionel Logue was a masonic Master and worked with the Royal Masonic School. George himself was also very involved, and was reluctant to give up his masonic offices upon his ascent to the throne, as his brother had. Instead, a new position was created for him – Past Grand Master. A few years later, after the war, he wrote “Freemasonry has been one of the strongest influences on my life”. A powerful force indeed…
6. Nat King Cole
The famous singer was one of many black musicians who joined Thomas Waller Lodge No. 49, Los Angeles. He joined in 1938, alongside his drummer Lee Young, and stuck by his masonic principles throughout his life. Other prominent musicians of the time that were also masons included the Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, which led one mason to make a speech about the connections between Jazz and Freemasonry. In fact, even the Lodge Nat King Cole attended was named after a jazz musician – Fats Waller – who died around the same time that Cole joined. Cole himself died in 1965, a loyal mason to the end.