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Brother Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.?
    by Dr. Brock H. Winters {ARM16}

So, sometime last year (2001) I hear that Past Grand Master Benjamin Barksdale of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia had made Martin Luther King Jr. a Freemason posthumously, while he was still in office in the Spring of 2000. This event has been confirmed to be true, by members of that Grand Lodge.

I haven't been around much longer than 62 years here, but from my research - I haven't been able to find another instance in the history of Freemasonry when a deceased person had been made a Freemason. Indeed, this action was without precedent. Martin Luther King Jr. was a remarkable individual and we can say with certainty that there would have been few if any Prince Hall Lodges that would have not been proud to have him as a member, and yes there are rumors that Mr. King had planned to become a Freemason before his untimely demise. Yet, recognizing what is done is done and it makes no sense to challenge Past Grand Master Barksdale or somehow try to undo what he did - there still remains some key questions to resolve here.

    (1) Was/Is Martin Luther King Jr. a Freemason? Of course he wasn't a Freemason during his life, but since he was Made-On-Site Posthumously, should we now consider him a Brother? Is his former wife now a widow? What obligations if any do we owe his family? Should he be listed on our list of Famous Freemasons?

'I will not participate in the raising of a dead person' is definitely not one of the items we'd find in our obligations concerning the types of people we would not confer degrees on, but there were some vital assents that are missed when you try to make a dead person a Freemason. They do not become Freemasons on their own freewill and accord, they do not state their belief in one Supreme Being and they are not obligated. Since time immemorial what has made a Freemason is his obligation. Even before all the long lectures and ceremony or symbols and decorations and drama and costume - there was the obligation and grip. Even Masons Made-On-Site or in One Day have to repeat or affirm to the obligation or they 'should'.

Therefore, I offer that Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not during his life a Freemason nor has he become a Freemason during his exit from this mortal plane

    (2) Do our Grand Masters have too much liberty and freedom when it comes to making Masons-On-Sight? And how does this action impact the future.

In the very first issue of this magazine, Brother David L. Gray {CRM2} eloquently challenged the reliance of Prince Hall Grand Lodges on Mackey's 25 Landmarks. And this is the same source where Prince Hall Grand Lodges draw their supposed inherited right and ability to make Masons-On-Sight.

I feel that my personal thoughts are in line with most Freemasons by saying that like any privilege that a Grand Master may have - it may either be used, unused, overused or abused. My feelings here are that the making of Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a definite abuse of this privilege.

The fact that this action took place does tarnish our institution. We violated some of the oldest laws and traditions in Freemasonry. The external qualifications which prompts many Mason Makings-On-Site are one thing, but this action is beyond repair. The best thing we could ask is for in this situation is for the responsible parties to disregard this posthumous raising for us and maybe declare Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a Honorary Prince Hall Freemason.

In other words - I hope I don't surf the internet and see the name of Martin Luther King Jr. on any of these 'Famous Freemason' list.