WINSTON-SALEM — The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina held their 224th Annual Communication here September 23–24. Grand Master Lewis R. Ledford presided before nearly 1,100 voting delegates from 320 lodges. Deputy Grand Master Robert E. Gresham Jr. was elected to become our next grand master.
The biggest surprise of the communication was the announcement by Past Grand Master Clifton W. Everett Jr. that he would not serve again as grand treasurer. Current Grand Master Ledford was elected to become grand treasurer at the conclusion of his term. There were no other startling developments or votes.
Some Grand Lodge officials arrived at the headquarters hotels on Wednesday, September 21 to be present and ready for the board and committee meetings that were to begin early Thursday morning when even more officials were on hand. The Committee on Finance and Board of General Purposes had their final meetings prior to bringing business before the membership. The Board of General Purposes voted on various nominations and appointments of Deputy Grand Master Robert Gresham pending his election. It was BGP’s next to last meeting with Grand Master Ledford, the last being just before Grand Lodge officer installation in December. Jurisprudence had their last conference before bringing amendments to the delegates. The Committee on Appeals met to review all actions and trials by the judge advocate in the last year and held hearings for men asking for permission to return to the fraternity after losing their membership. The Board of Custodians and Committee on Miscellaneous Publications, Board of Publications, and other committees met before the general session. There were two continuing education courses for lodge secretaries on Thursday.
Thursday night, Grand Master Ledford hosted a banquet for his guests at Annual Communication.
The formal opening began at 10:00 a.m. on Friday morning when Kevin Combs, past master of Statesville 27 called the hall to order. The opening procession was led by the United States and North Carolina flags and the banner of the Grand Lodge carried to their places by members of the National Sojourners Spirit of ’76ers. The officers of the Grand Lodge entered, and in a return to tradition years ago, the officers opened Grand Lodge with Deputy Grand Master Gresham presiding. They then received Grand Master Ledford.
District deputy grand masters and grand lecturers were seated on either side of the ceremonial lodge floor. Grand Lodge officers from the grand lodges of Prince Hall North Carolina, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia, and sitting officers from state appendant bodies were escorted to the stage which held the podium and the symbolic East. Finally, our past grand masters were brought to the stage. Each group was welcomed and accorded private grand honors.
Grand Orator A. B. Swindell IV delivered the keynote reminding Masons of the part Masonry plays in their lives and how they extend and share that effect with their communities and the rest of the world.
Through the rest of the morning, recognitions were presented, and a number of reports were introduced before breaking for lunch. Immediate Past Grand Master William L. Dill presented a supplement to his preliminary report of last year, finishing the business of his term.
Immediately after lunch, and before resealing the lodge, representatives of North Carolina’s Masonic youth groups, Rainbow for Girls (Bobbi Dupuis) and DeMolay, (Travis Glidewell) spoke to the gathering.
After the non-Masons were escorted from the lodge hall, labor was resumed. A ceremony was conducted to honor our members who died this past year.
At the conclusion of the Necrology, Grand Master Ledford presented his preliminary report on his year thus far. Throughout the day, slideshows were presented featuring photographs of Masonic events around the state during the last year. There was business requiring voting on Friday afternoon including the Report of the Committee on Appeals.
Grand Master Ledford called the membership from labor to refreshment around 4:00 p.m. Several hundred Masons and their ladies attended a barbecue and bluegrass evening at the Millennium Center just a block from the headquarters hotels. Proceeds from the event, catered by Big Boy BBQ, went to the NC Masonic Foundation. On Friday evening, Masons were seen in groups all over downtown Winston-Salem. They enjoyed the entertainment and many restaurants around the center of the city.
On Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m., the final business session of the Annual Communication began. The first business before us on the second day was, as always, the budget for 2012. Finance Committee Chairman Sam Lee presented the budget in sections, calling for discussion before asking for approval of the delegates for that section. Interspersed between those parts, delegates marked ballots to elect Grand Lodge officers for next year. The budget, with a small surplus projected, was approved as presented.
Before balloting began for grand treasurer, PGM Cliff Everett, who has held the office since 1996, took to the podium and announced that he would not again serve. Everett said that he was still capable of carrying out the duties of the office and still enjoyed the office, but thought that the time had come for him to step aside for fresh financial leadership. After Everett shared a history of grand treasurers for the last 50 years, delegates elected current Grand Master Lewis R. Ledford as grand treasurer. He will take his new office at the Grand Lodge officer installation which replaces him as grand master December 3.
Elections proceeded without any other surprises. Robert E. Gresham Jr. of Albemarle 703 was elected to become our next grand master. Gresham is a retired certified public accountant.
The Grand Lodge voted to grant a charter to Ashlar 765, a new lodge in Hampstead on North Carolina’s southeast coast. The area has had a growing population without a convenient lodge.
Code changes were considered on Saturday morning. Amendment Group 1, regarding the clarification of marriage extending until divorces are final, was referred back to committee for its wording to be polished. Groups 2, 3, and 4, clarifications of language in The Code, were all passed.
Group 5 was a wholesale change in the way we conduct funerals. It will give much greater flexibility to lodge masters in when and how they may conduct Masonic funeral services. A new manual for various ceremonies and suggestions for customizing funeral services is forthcoming. The changes have been widely welcomed as bringing modern and proper practice to this important final respect we pay to Masons.
Group 6 would have allowed alcohol in lodge facilities, except the lodge room. Once again, it failed. The vote was taken by written ballot and won a simple majority 434-414, but short of the 2/3 majority necessary to change The Code. All changes to The Code take effect January 1, 2012.
Five grand lodges were recognized. Foreign jurisdictions recognized were in Azerbaijan, Monaco, Moldova, and Malta. Prince Hall of Oklahoma, which manages most of the military lodges around the world was also recognized. This was the second Prince Hall jurisdiction we have recognized; fewer than a dozen voters dissented. This should simplify military affiliations for our lodges and furnish more possibilities for our servicemen overseas to enjoy fraternal support and visitation.
The most awaited appointment each year is the new grand steward, the man who will join the line of men advancing toward the office of grand master. The new steward is Dwight M. “Mack” Sigmon of Catawba 248. Sigmon is outgoing grand lecturer, and has been widely known for some years for his work as secretary of the Board of Custodians.
Elected to Grand Lodge offices were Dewey R. Preslar Jr. (Andrew Jackson 576), deputy grand master; Dalton W. Mayo (Hiram 98), senior grand warden; Douglas L. Caudle (Statesville 27), junior grand warden; and T. Walton Clapp III (Mystic Tie 237), grand secretary.
This year’s appointed officers include Bryant D. Webster (Nichols-West Asheville 650), senior grand deacon; A. Gene Cobb (Royal White Hart 2), junior grand deacon; Jimmie B. Hicks Jr. (St. John’s 3), grand marshal; C. Speed Hallman (Eagle 19), grand steward; Scott B. Gresham (Albemarle 703), grand tyler; Joseph L. Hester Jr. (226), grand chaplain; Michael W. Brantley (Raleigh 500), grand historian; J. Luigi Ammons (Millbrook 97), grand lecturer; James G. Martin (Phalanx 31), grand orator; and James R. Stevens (Garner 701), judge advocate.
Annual Communication was adjourned shortly after noon on Saturday.
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