Grand Master's Message

Building a Solid Foundation

By Grand Master Speed Hallman

What induced you to become a Master Mason?

That’s a question I like to ask brethren, and it’s also a good question to ask ourselves every now and then.

I asked it at WhiteStone just last month, at the annual meeting of the District Deputy Grand Masters and District Deputy Grand Lecturers and I got about 50 different answers. There were common themes, such as Masons in the family and learning that coworkers and friends were Masons. One brother added an anecdote about shaking hands with President Ford, who instantly recognized him as a Mason.

I was so engrossed in their stories that it didn’t occur to me to answer my own question. I’ll answer it now as a way of introducing myself to you.

My Masonic journey began when my cousin Tom Speed enlisted me to help finish the family history he had been compiling for 20 years. Tom was in his 80s and didn’t think he would live to finish the book.

He was a quiet man living on a quiet street in Oxford, and the most kind and gentlemanly person I’ve ever known. Tom and his wife Edna were childless and he was utterly dedicated to our Home for Children. Past Grand Master Dan Rice told me that Tom headed Oxford #122’s fundraising for the Home in the Oxford community and took the job seriously.

During the course of our work on the book, I learned that this mild-mannered and scholarly insurance agent served as an Army Air Corps flight engineer in World War II. He flew missions over the Himalayas – the famed and treacherous “Hump” – hauling gasoline and war materiel that kept the famed Flying Tigers aloft in their fight against the Japanese.

Tom faced various health challenges with a quiet wit, describing his maladies with a smile as “geriatric syndrome.” Gradually, his health declined. Once when we visited him in the hospital in Oxford we could hear music from the St. John’s Day celebration just down the street at the Children’s Home.

He died five months after I was raised and before we finished the family history. His brother James, also a Mason, his secretary Kathy Webb, and I completed and delivered the manuscript to the School of Graphic Arts at his beloved Home for Children. They produced a beautiful hardbound book, which we dedicated to Tom.

During our time together I learned that Tom and other cousins and uncles I loved were Masons. So was the grandfather who died before I was born, but whose compassion and wit were familiar to me from family lore. If these men were in a group that I could join, sign me up.

That’s the answer I would have given to the DDGMs and DDGLs gathered at WhiteStone.

My goal for the meeting was to do more listening than talking, to provide an opportunity for the experienced to share their hard-earned wisdom with the newcomers, and to let them know how much I appreciate their work.

These district officers are absolutely crucial to the success of any grand master and to the vitality of the craft. They are the Grand Lodge’s point men in our 368 lodges and with our 37,604 members.

I talked about my priorities, including an emphasis on philanthropy and district-wide activities, the importance of transparency and accountability for Grand Lodge committees, the new committee I charged with evaluating and recommending models for future Grand Lodge governance, and additions to the Lion and Pillar program for 2018.

I’ve been fortunate to serve with grand masters who every year raised the bar and inspired us to clear it. I’ve learned from them to work hard, every day, to serve North Carolina Masons and to settle for nothing less than excellence. They taught me to act so that, when the time comes to hand the gavel to my successor, I did everything I could to make the most of my time and make a difference. Note well that these lessons apply to lodge officers as well as to grand lodge officers, to masters as well as grand masters.

I have ideas for how every one of us – from the youngest entered apprentice to the most experienced Master Mason – can best use our brief time to advance our beloved fraternity. You have ideas too, and I want to hear them. I’ll need your support, and you already have mine if you’re engaged in the heady business of creating excellence in your lodge.

I’m seeing excellence in Masonry across the state, and I see a future that is bright. We know what we need to do to be successful, and we do not need to turn to history to see our best days. I’m excited by the possibilities of the next year and the next decade, and I’m absolutely convinced that the best is yet to come.

Brethren, we have the solid foundation, if only we will build on it. We have the rules and maxims, if only we will follow them. The world’s greatest fraternity is now in our care. To echo a wise past grand master, a mentor on whose shoulders I stand, let’s go to work.

Thank you for your support and trust, and for all that you are doing and will do to build Masonry for the next generation.