Remarks Of The Grand Master Of Masons In West Virginia
West Virginia Masonic Heritage Day Celebration
Charleston, West Virginia
August 21, 1993
Thank you my brethren, and my fellow West Virginians. It is good to be with you on this beautiful day in Charleston, as we celebrate our Masonic heritage. I want to extend to each of you my personal welcome, as well as my appreciation that you have come to celebrate your Masonic heritage. You see before you the best of Freemasonry. I want to acknowledge the presence of illustrious brothers Kirk Bougher, Paul Carpenter and Drehl Westfall[,] potentates of the Ancient and Arabic Nobles, Order of the Mystic Shrine for West Virginia, the Beni Kedem Gold Band and the many Shrine units present. I also want to acknowledge the Right Eminent Grand Commander of Knights Templar of the State of West Virginia, Sir Knight John G. "Rick" Elam and the Knight Templar escort which he has provided. Of course you have already heard from illustrious Brother C. B. Hall, Sovereign Grand Inspector General for West Virginia for the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America. There are also a number of support staff and other Scottish Rite units present. And finally, Most Excellent H. Eugene Vitalie, The Most Excellent Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons for the State of West Virginia and members of the Royal Arch Chapter.
I also want to express my appreciation to our Governor, Gaston Caperton for taking time from his busy schedule to be with us to celebrate this very important occasion. We extend a warm welcome to him.
My brethren, we come together to celebrate our heritage as Freemasons, a heritage that is closely linked to that of the state itself. I cannot help observing the relationship of state government and Freemasonry here today. Of course you know that the Knight Templar escort, under the command of Sir Knight Poston Drake, is made up of Master Masons, but the State Police escort, under the command of Trooper Charlie Bidwell is also made up of Master Masons. The Governor and I had the privilege of being presented by Sam Cole, the ranking official of the State Treasurer's office. He is also a Master Mason, and later today, you will see the ultimate in public service and Freemasonry when the senior Senator from West Virginia, the Honorable Robert C. Byrd receives the "Legion of Honor" from the Order of Demolay.
My brethren, you know that West Virginia was born during the terrible period following the War Between the States. It was a difficult time. There were bitter feelings all around. Even among West Virginians there was not a clear agreement about how the state should look, or about the direction in which it should proceed. Fortunately, the state was blessed with leaders who could guide it through the difficult period of obtaining statehood. You remember them. Men like Governors Arthur Boreman of Wood County, Daniel Farnsworth of Upshire [sic] County, William Stevenson of Wood County, and John Jacob of Hampshire County.
At the same time my brethren, the Masonic Lodges of the new state had to sever their ties to the old, the Grand Lodge of Virginia. A new Grand Lodge had to be formed, also in the most difficult of times. As in the case of the state, the new Grand Lodge was blessed with leaders who could guide it through the difficult period. You remember them, men like Grand Masters Bates, Logan, White and Walker.
Today, we assemble as Freemasons to celebrate our heritage. We do so by honoring the memory of a Brother who took advantage of a most unique opportunity to play an active role in the development of our state, and in the development of our Grand Lodge. The Brother is our former Governor George Wesley Atkinson. Atkinson was born at a most propitious time, June 29, 1845, right here in Charleston. His whole life was devoted to public service and the development of this state and its people. He was involved in Freemasonry from its very beginning in West Virginia, and provided leadership to the craft during a difficult period in its development. Atkinson helped to lay a proper foundation so that Ancient Craft Masonry could assume a prominent role as a leading institution, even to this day, just as our state has assumed its rightful place of honor among the United States of America.
It is therefore, with great pleasure and pride, that I present to Freemasons everywhere, and to the people of West Virginia, through their Governor, the Honorable Gaston Caperton, this resolution honoring the memory of our Brother and former Governor, George Wesley Atkinson.
I now present it to you, Governor Caperton, with the thanks of all Freemasons in this Grand Jurisdiction for your assistance in making this day possible and for your service to the people of our state.
Montani Semper Liberi
Mountaineers Are Always Free
And This My Brethren Will Always Be
God bless you my brethren, God bless Freemasonry, and God bless Governor Caperton and the great state of West Virginia.