Monday, October 16, 2006

Sweet Home Alabama: Mason Meltdown, Part 1

The following is reprinted with permission from Sandy Frost's website, and was originally published on Oct. 11, 2006.

Sweet Home Alabama: Masonic Meltdown, Part 1 by Sandy Frost

“In Birmingham they love the Gov'nor.
Now we all did what we could do.
Now Watergate does not bother me.
Does your conscience bother you, tell the truth.” — Lynyrd Skynyrd

On Monday, September 25, two veteran Birmingham, Alabama radio talk show hosts, Russ and Dee Fine, were fired an hour before their program was scheduled to end, in large part for “outing” Alabama’s Governor Bob Riley (R) as a member of a secret society that is still governed by documents forbidding membership to “negroes or other inferior races.”

As a result, a rally to protest “Masonic Racism in Alabama” will be held at 4 pm, Wednesday, October 11, 2006 outside the Birmingham Scottish Rite Masonic Center where Ronald A. Seale, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, is expected to appear. Other than animal cruelty protests held by former Shriners outside Shrine circuses, this is the first known Masonic protest to be held outside a Masonic event.

The Fines had questioned why Riley had not renounced his membership in the “racist” Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of Alabama. “As a private group, we believe the Masons and any other private group should certainly be entitled to their own membership guidelines,” Dee said. “But when a sitting governor who is running for re-election is found to be a member of such a group, and we have the temerity to expose and talk about it and then we get fired for telling the truth, people who believe in freedom of speech should become very concerned.”

The Fines have tackled controversial issues from illegal aliens to Islam but, according to Dee, "It looks like we can talk about everything BUT the Masons.”

Her co-host and husband, Russ, said “We’ve been in radio nearly twenty years and have never experienced anything like this. Here we are in Birmingham, Alabama, the virtual epicenter of the civil rights movement; a place where our local and the state’s largest newspaper, the Birmingham News, runs some story with a civil rights angle nearly every day of the week, yet their editorial page editor and their nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist won’t touch this story, even though the editor admitted to me, in a one word email reply, that ‘yes,’ it bothered him. I don’t understand the media’s refusal to run with this.”

“It is far more important and sinister than former Florida Congressman Foley’s homosexual dalliances,” he continued. “Why? Because a sitting Republican governor is a member of an organization that discriminates against black citizens of his state and a sitting president came to Alabama to endorse and fund raise for him the Thursday after we were fired on Monday.”

“Although I can’t prove it,” Russ continued, “clearly, getting us off the air the week the President was coming to Birmingham was no coincidence. The President should have told the governor to do the right thing but apparently silencing us was their collective view of what doing the right thing meant.”

“Information and photos revealing the governor’s membership in the racist Alabama Lodge had been on our site for a couple of weeks,” Russ revealed. “There’s no way the President’s advance men didn’t know about this. They are way too good for this to have slipped through any cracks.”

“It’s chilling,” he concluded, “especially in view of that which happened recently in 'Pootie’s' Russia.” Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was recently found shot dead. She had been finishing up a story about military torture and abductions in Chechnya.

Russ’ day job is as a biomedical research scientist and tenured professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine, where he has been for over 30 years. He earned his Ph.D. in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from the University of Oklahoma in 1970 and conducts research and runs three research centers, two of which deal with injury-related neuron trauma, with emphasis on head and spinal cord injury.

On 9/29/06, he wrote on the Russ and Dee website:

“This is not rocket science: Bob Riley is the Governor of Alabama and is running for re-election. The President of the United States came to Birmingham, yesterday, September 28th, to help raise more money for Riley’s re-election campaign.

However, that which the mainstream media fails to address or conveniently chooses to ignore is that Bob Riley is a Mason, a member of the Grand Lodge of Alabama. So far so good. No big deal. Lots of well-known people are Masons. But, when we learned and then exposed on our former morning drive radio talk show that Governor Bob Riley’s Grand Masonic Lodge discriminates against African Americans, by formal resolution... that they will not allow a black man to become a member — we knew that his affiliation — because he is the governor and wants to be the governor for four more years — was and is 100% wrong.”

The “media blackout” was partially lifted when an AP story by Jay Reeves was widely published the same day:

“BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Gov. Bob Riley is defending his membership in a Masonic organization that critics say excludes blacks. Riley, a Republican…is a member of a Masonic lodge in his east Alabama hometown of Ashland that is affiliated with the Grand Lodge of Alabama, a statewide group with no known blacks among more than 30,000 members.

Speaking in an interview with The Associated Press, Riley said he did not know whether his lodge had any black members. But Riley denied that the Masonic group is racist, as did two leaders of the organization in interviews Friday.”

The protest rally has been organized by a former high level member of the Masonic affiliate, the Scottish Rite Orient of Alabama, David Cooksey.

“The Grand Lodge of Alabama’s 1876 resolution states very clearly that they do not allow African-Americans to join,” he explained. Cooksey resigned from both his Blue Lodge and the Scottish Rite after 13 years of Masonic service in protest after emails between lodge and grand lodge officers emerged that allegedly attacked his character for having asked questions regarding racism and financial misconduct.

Cooksey’s letter of resignation stated:

“This system is now dysfunctional and its leadership has no glue, its Honor Court is not honorable; it is filled with political hat wearers and the incompetent. Hats, awards, pins, chains and rings do nothing except stroke the egos of the unworthy. I can no longer be a part of such filth and such negativity any longer.... It will die in its present form because its leadership refuses to learn from their mistakes, but especially because they will not make the effort to learn from them.”

Coincidentally, it was confirmed today that an audit team of two from the Masonic affiliated groups, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Shriners Imperial Council, spent the morning at the Cahaba Shrine in Huntsville, Alabama investigating allegations of Bingo theft that were, according to an anonymous source, reported all the way up the chain of command three years ago but remained “swept under the rug” and ignored. Questions left with the office of Willard E. Fawley, Shriners’ controller, remain unanswered at the end of the business day. Cahaba Shrine Potentate, Robert Utley, was unavailable for comment.

Back to the Gov’nor.

It seems that there is a connection between Governor Bob Riley and Michael Scanlon, who pled guilty last November to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress and other public officials. Scanlon was partners with Jack Abramoff in the “ripping off Native American tribes for $85 million in gambling lobbying fees” scandal. Abramoff pled guilty to defrauding of American Indian tribes, corruption of public officials, conspiracy and wire fraud.

According to a 4/13/06 Birmingham News article:

“A Washington lobbyist who has been convicted of bribery gave $100,000 in 2002 to four Alabama political action committees that contributed heavily to Gov. Bob Riley's campaign that year. Michael Scanlon, who had been Riley's press secretary during part of his first term in Congress, gave four $25,000 checks to PACs run by Fine Geddie and Associates on June 6, 2002, two days after Riley won the Republican primary for governor, campaign disclosure reports show....

When Scanlon contributed the money to the four PACs, he was representing an Indian tribe in Mississippi that operated casinos…At the time of the Alabama donations to the Fine and Geddie PACs, Scanlon was running Capitol Campaign Strategies, a public relations firm that shared clients with Jack Abramoff, the convicted lobbyist at the center of the federal investigation. One of the clients that Abramoff and Scanlon shared was the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, whose casino interests feared an expansion of gambling next door in Alabama. Riley campaigned for office as a gambling opponent; Democratic candidate Don Siegelman backed a state lottery. Asked if his 2002 campaign received money from Scanlon, Riley said Wednesday, 'I don't know.' He referred questions to his campaign staff.”

Unlike other elected officials who quickly disassociated themselves from this web of corruption by either returning or donating the tainted campaign contributions to charity, the Riley camp has remained silent on the issue.

Conflict of Interest?

In the “Current Interest” section of the Nov/Dec 2005 edition of the Scottish Rite Journal , it was reported that:

“Alabama Governor Bob Riley was invested with the Rank and Decoration of Knight Commander of the Court of Honor on May 9, 2005, in a private ceremony held at the Alabama Governor’s Mansion. Following the Investiture, a reception was hosted by Governor and Mrs. Riley.”

It is not yet known if Riley violated Alabama conflict of interest or any other laws by hosting the Scottish Rite ceremony and reception in the Governor’s Mansion, presumably at tax payers’ expense.

However, the same article reported that:

“On July 20, 2005, Ill. Ronald A., Seale (the same as mentioned above), 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander, opened a Court of Honour in the auditorium of the Memphis Scottish Rite Bodies for the purpose of investing fifty-year member, Bro. Jabie Sanford Hardin, Jr., the founder of Sysco foodservice company, the premier supplier to commercial kitchens.”

According to a May 10, 2005 press release from the Governor’s office:

“GENEVA — Governor Bob Riley joined local officials to welcome Sysco Corporation to Geneva, where the food service giant will open a distribution center. Jack D. Carlson, Vice President of Real Estate and Construction for Sysco, said several factors were involved in selecting the facility’s location. 'This site was chosen because of the availability of an existing high quality building in a location that could easily serve a growing Gulf Coast marketplace. Additional factors influencing the decision were an available outstanding workforce, and the willingness of the city, county and state officials to assist in securing economic development incentives and other assistance,' Carlson said.”

Carlson failed to mention another possible factor, that the founder of Sysco and Governor Riley both held high positions in the Scottish Rite.

Editor’s [Sandy Frost] Note: The Shriners Hospitals for Children and Shriners Imperial Council have also attempted to silence those who question them by filing a defamation lawsuit against whistleblower Vernon Hill and website operator/accountant, Paul Dolnier. In early September, the men were sued for defamation after they questioned Shriners finances and alleged that the group might “be of interest” to Pennsylvania authorities after Dolnier spent hours with PA investigators explaining findings, based on tax returns, that showed that instead of the required 100%, only 23% to 48% of what was raised by some Pennsylvania temples was going to charity. More coverage at:

All copies of material reprinted or duplicated from “by Sandy Frost” must include the following credit line: From Copyright © 2006 by Sandy Frost. Used by permission.

— Sandy Frost

Image: Sandy Frost

| | | | | | | |


  1. Great post. As always, I appreciate your udates on this matter.

    By the way, did you see the letter Russ and Dee posted on their website last week? It is just a brief update, but they state that much has happened that they are eager to discuss. So, I am anxiously awaiting to hear more of their story.

    D. Martyn Lloyd-Morgan
    The Liberty Sphere


    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Masons, with their white aprons and architectural symbols, are part of an age-old order that preaches fraternity, service and faith. Mozart was a Mason, and so were George Washington and John Wayne. But in much of the South, the Masonic bonds of the brotherhood are being strained by race: Groups operate in a separate-but-supposedly-equal system in which whites typically join one network of Masonic groups, called Grand Lodges, and blacks typically join another, called Prince Hall. Masons have quietly debated their interracial relations for years, and the issue is increasingly coming into public view. In Alabama, some dissident whites have split from the lodge system, and Republican Gov.

    Bob Riley's membership in an all-white lodge has drawn fire in his campaign for a second term. In North Carolina, white Masons recently voted down a bid to recognize members of the black group as fellow Masons. White-controlled Grand Lodges in 12 Southern states still have not officially accepted black Masons as their brothers -- the Masonic term is "mutual recognition" -- and, in some cases, blacks have taken similar stands. "Only the states of the old Confederacy, minus Virginia and plus West Virginia, don't have mutual recognition," said Paul Bessel, a Maryland Mason who wrote a book on the topic. "There are, I'm sorry to say, some Masons who are racists. But the vast majority don't feel that way." Grand Lodges and Prince Hall groups coexist with few problems and officially recognize each other in 38 states and the District of Columbia, with members free to intermingle and attend each others' meetings.

    Frank Chandler, a leader of the black Masonic group in Delaware, was happy to see mutual recognition granted in his state last month. "The importance of it to me is that this is 2006. If we as black folks and they as white folks can't live together, we're got real problems," said Chandler, a retired Delaware state trooper. But, Bessel said, the separation in the Deep South is entrenched and remains in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. It even extends to Shriners, the men who wear funny red hats and operate a network of 22 charity hospitals for children. Shriners draw all their members from Masonry, and many of their policies are based on Masonic rules, he said. Masonry began in the United States more than 200 years ago. Mainstream Masonry was controlled by whites, so blacks began meeting at lodges of their own in the 1770s; the organization that resulted was subsequently named for one of the founders, Prince Hall.

    The all-black lodges flourished alongside their white counterparts, and Prince Hall organizations spread. White Masons in Washington briefly considered admitted Prince Hall Masons in 1890, Bessel said, but the resulting uproar kept most such proposals on ice until 1989, when the Grand Lodge of Connecticut passed a resolution formally recognizing black Masons. Since then, 37 other state organizations have granted mutual recognition. But the South remains a holdout. In Alabama, where critics say Grand Lodge members refused a move to recognize black Masons in 1999, a handful of white Masons dissatisfied with the refusal to recognize black Masons has formed a group outside the old lodge system.

    The issue also has become political, with Democratic opponents accusing Riley, the Republican governor, of racism for his membership in an all-white lodge. Riley said he didn't know there were two separate Masonic groups and hadn't heard of mutual recognition until questioned recently by an Associated Press reporter. This fall, white Masons in North Carolina refused to grant mutual recognition to Prince Hall Masons, meaning members still cannot attend each others' meetings and, more symbolically, aren't considered brothers in the fraternity.

    The vote was 681 for recognition and 404 against -- just short of the two-thirds majority required for passage, according to Ric Carter, assistant to the grand secretary of North Carolina and editor of the state's Masonic newspaper. Black Masons in North Carolina granted recognition in their first vote after a study of the issue was completed in 2004, Carter said. While support is growing in the white group, he said, the lack of more progress is frustrating to leaders. "It's not moving fast enough for me," said Carter. "I think it's just old men who can't change." The leader of Prince Hall Masons in North Carolina, Milton G. "Toby" Fitch Jr., agrees. "That raises the ugly head of racism, segregation, all over again," said Fitch, a state court judge and former majority leader in the North Carolina House. At the core, Fitch said, white Masons are saying they won't recognize blacks as brothers in Masonry. "The best analogy I can give is Baptist churches. You have black Baptist churches, and you have white Baptist churches. But they both recognize each other as being Baptist," he said. "We are talking about accepting the fact that, `You practice Masonry and I practice Masonry."' In Delaware, Masons ended more than 150 years of racial separation when they came together Sept. 16 to sign a compact of recognition, Chandler said. But Masons in some Southern states have never even considered coming together across racial lines.

    The head of Prince Hall Masons in Arkansas, Cleveland Wilson, said neither black nor white groups there have discussed mutual recognition. Extending the Masonic brotherhood would be nice, he said, "but we're fine without them." "I'm of the attitude that since they haven't shown any interest, I'm not interested, either," said Wilson.

    (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  3. The issues in this story have deep Washington, D.C. roots and suggests how Alabama and other deep south states might respond positively to the dilemma of segregated organizations that benefit from local and federal tax laws or reflect unfavorablly on public servants who should always consider the sensibilities of all backgrounds of their constituents.

    Fred Kleinknecht, the former Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite Masons, Southern Jurisdiction, had initiated efforts in the District of Columbia, beginning as early as 1975 to bring together his organization and the Prince Hall Masons, the black Lodge. In June 2006, now retired, he testified before the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission on legislation to establish a memorial to the more than 5,000 black soldiers of the Revolutionary war, including Prince Hall and his son Primus. Mr. Kleinknecht thought this history could bring together the two Masonic groups across the country for a common purpose that honors the nation's birth. He is now a member of the Board of National Mall Liberty Fund D.C., ( the organization I chair to build the memorial. See his statement at --

    Primus Hall knew General Washington, and his father was one of several free blacks (already in the Army) who protested Washington's initial order to bar blacks from the Continental Army. Washington is feted as the most famous Mason, and he clearly understood the role blacks played under him in winning the Revolution. Fred thought that history could heal wounds and bring Masons, white and black, together -- as well as the nation.

    Legislation to build the memorial, the National Liberty Memorial Act, S. 2495, was introduced by Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and, among others, Senator Charles H. Grassley of Iowa, who is a member of the Scottish Rite Masons. Senator Grassley has been a strong supporter of this concept for over 20 years. See his statement at The key committee where our bill (National Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Energy Committee) is pending is chaired by Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming. Senator Thomas is also a member of the Scottish Rite Masons.

    Fred arranged a meeting with Senator Thomas in October of 2005. Mr. Kleinknecht told him how significant this legislation was to the prospect of future unity between the black and white Masonic orders. We are persuaded that Senator Thomas will eventually support our bill and understands its national ramifications for racial unity. We hope that the bill will be approved in the lame duck session. Certainly, had it been approved months ago, it could have diffused some of the controversy inherent in the AP story coming out of Alabama. Perhaps that Scottish Rite Lodge would have accepted the call to help build this national memorial that would go on the Mall at Constitution Gardens, near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and World War II Memorial. They would be standing up for those who helped create the U.S. and the freedoms they enjoy -- black soldiers and patriots, some of whom were also Masons and some of whom sired Prince Hall Masons.

    In 1975, the District of Columbia City Council (see transcription of the Washington Star article attached) under chairman Marion Barry and Dave Clarke conducted a hearing that involved the Scottish Rite Masons, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Society of the Cincinnati and other exclusive organizations not known at the time to have black members. The Council was considering removing the real estate tax exemption from organizations that did not reflect the multiracial make up of the District. Mr. Kleinknecht was a witness there and described what he was doing to work with the black Masonic group to find unity. Two years later my aunt Lena Santos Ferguson was rejected for membership in the DAR. Only after a four year battle did she finally gain membership. Today, thanks to her, perhaps as many as 30 black women have joined the organization.

    Maurice Barboza

  4. Like taper, votive, pillar, or tea light? I would like to read by the light, and am fine with using more than one, but would rather burn like 3 tapers as opposed to 5 tea lights. So which type is brightest?


    hvac schools AL

  5. Excellent submit. Remember, We value your own udates about this issue.

    Incidentally, would the thing is the actual correspondence Russ and also Dee submitted online the other day? This is a short revise, however they declare that a lot provides occurred they are desperate to go over. Therefore, I'm uneasily waiting for to listen to much more of their particular tale.

    phlebotomy training in albama


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.