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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Grand Lodge of Arkansas' Yezhovshchina

The Soviets called it the Yezhovshchina. 

The Great Purge. Named after and personified by the photo of Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the Soviet secret police, who was suddenly erased from the public record when he and his fellow Bolsheviks fell out of favor with Stalin.

The ongoing drama within the Grand Lodge of Arkansas continues unabated. This is one of those "inside baseball" stories, and one could be forgiven for thinking that it was a discussion of backstabbing within a Middle School debating club, instead of the world's oldest gentlemen's fraternity dedicated to meeting and acting upon the level.

The widely circulated rumor is true, that former Deputy Grand Master, Patrick Carr has indeed been suspended for a period of 25 years, and Past Grand Master Jarrod Adkisson has as well, for 30 years. My understanding is that by giving them definite sentences instead of expelling them outright, they are precluded under Arkansas' Constitutions from appealing their sentences before the delegates at the annual communication. The assembled members of grand lodge merely are to vote up or down on the entire sentence, with no presentation by or on behalf of the accused.

Now this past week, the Grand Senior Warden, Aaron South, has been removed from his office and has been charged with violating his Masonic obligations on two counts, without specificity as to just what those violations were (thereby severely hamstringing any possible hope of defending himself intelligently in his Masonic trial).

Both Carr's and South's photographs have been purged from the GL officer's webpage.

In Arkansas, the concept of being forbidden to communicate "Masonically" to a suspended or expelled (or clandestine) Mason extends to any and all subjects concerning one's membership status in the fraternity - or anything else about it. Their Jurisprudence philosophy is very different from most other jurisdictions, where the concept is generally taken to forbid Masons merely from discussing ritual information, or at most, private lodge business.

In addition, Arkansas has an extraordinarily strict policy about electronic communications, and the situation has gotten so petty that their members are monitored for their comments and even "likes" on Facebook, and noting whether they are daring to comment on the Facebook accounts of suspended or expelled Masons. The policy was put into place by MW Ronnie Hedge, current Grand Treasurer, who was the Grand Master of Arkansas when the infamous license plate flap erupted in 2010 (which ultimately resulted in the entire grand lodge website being removed and shuttered for at least two years, making Arkansas effectively invisible to the online world). Online comparisons with Asia's "Hermit Kingdom" have abounded all week.

The current situation regarding Aaron South has become problematic in the wake of DGM Carr's removal because it was the Grand Master's expressed desire to advance the Grand Junior Warden around South to become the next GM next February. When South balked at the arrangement, a different tactic was apparently needed, and charges were then filed to get the him out of the way.

As a sideline to this episode, South was allegedly told that he would not be allowed to serve as Grand Master because he is also currently sitting as Grand Commander of the Arkansas Grand Commandery. The Grand Master informed his officers earlier in the month that he intended to issue a Recommendation in his report at next February's annual communication, specifically proposing that no presiding Grand York Rite officer could be elected to the office of Grand Master. This would be read and voted on the day before the election for Grand Lodge officers. The recommendation was clearly aimed at South. 

(South would go out of office in the Grand Commandery line about a month after the GL's annual communication - although he could of course simply resign the position. It is perhaps useful to note the precedent of onetime Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Arkansas Grand Council of Cryptic Masons, Sam Lattin, who was serving in that position at the time he was elected and installed as Grand Master of Arkansas last year.)

One bizarre development in this situation is a rumor that was suddenly being widely whispered around the state, that South had an undisclosed felony on his record. Last Saturday, before being informed of any Masonic charges against him, he posted the following message on his Facebook page:
"My only "criminal" record was a speeding ticket in Little Rock in 1979. Brethren, I went directly from high school into the Navy Nuclear Power Program where I became a submarine nuclear operator. Then directly from the Navy into the civilian nuclear industry where I maintained a Senior Reactor Operator license throughout my career. None of this would have been possible with a felony record."
A subsequent criminal background check this week has dispensed with this nonsensical allegation. Nevertheless, he discovered his suspension on Monday somewhat accidentally, as his name appeared on the annual report of expulsions, suspensions, and reinstatements issued to secretaries, before he actually received his official notice on Wednesday.

In most internal situations like this, I usually pass up reporting gory details. I generally feel that it is the business of a grand lodge to conduct its affairs as it sees fit. But this differs a little bit from others that I've passed over in the past. 

First, Arkansas Masons are being intentionally kept in the dark regarding the elected leadership of their own organization and the activities occurring in Little Rock. Two of the top three officers in the grand line who have been properly elected more than once to advance have been purged. As reported last week, the GL Facebook pages have been shut down, not merely converted to "secret," and conversations online are being monitored. Somewhat ironically, if you go to the GL website, there is a prominent button on the home page to "like us on Facebook." Clicking it yields a message informing that the content is not available "right now." 

Second, what is happening in Arkansas is affecting other states.  Neighboring Oklahoma, in particular, is failing to receive letters in good standing from the Grand Secretary of Arkansas when Masons attempt to transfer their memberships into OK lodges. There is a specific reason for that, and it's a disgrace. There is more on that coming.

Third, it cannot fail to be noticed that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas has been the center of controversies for quite some time. Simply an internal search of this blog alone will yield a series of stories from just the last ten years showing a disturbing number of unfortunate episodes involving the grand lodge. 

Grand lodges that attempt to screw down the lids on information leaks and chain the exits shut are fighting a losing battle. The current situation in the grand line in Arkansas is motivated almost solely out of fear of their own members who might think differently than themselves. Masons are like any other large group that has an elected governing body. Sooner or later, the group with one point of view will be outnumbered and unelected by the other side. It is the ebb and flow of society. I suspect that if the men at the top of Arkansas' leadership would be brutally honest with themselves, they would admit that they were sitting in a lodge somewhere 20 or 30 years ago muttering the age old chestnut, "What this fraternity needs is a few more Masonic funerals."  And what they fail to understand now is that they have probably become the very men they once felt that way about. 

Transparency is no longer merely an optional management policy these days. Whether anybody likes it or not, it's being forced on organizations from every walk of life. Masonic secrecy is just like everything else we teach in the fraternity - a symbol. It is a symbol of our honor, NOT a mechanism to cover up dishonorable behavior. In the past, Masons who were tossed aside over private, petty piques and grudges were simply expected to walk away and find a new hobby. Now, more and more rank and file members expect better from their elected leaders. And Masonic secrecy is a pretty skinny tree to try to hide an elephant behind.

There's more going on in Arkansas right now than just a childish Machiavellian chess game in the grand officer's line. If it was just a few good Masons being sacrificed on an altar of protecting the status quo, I'd shake my head, offer my sympathy privately, and hit delete. "The politics of personal destruction" that popped up in election politics several years ago as a discussion topic is not new to Masonry, unfortunately. This fraternity has been spitting out good men from its ranks over petty politics for a couple of centuries, and men who have spent dozens of years in dedication to the service of the Craft have had their lives destroyed by events not dissimilar to what is playing out now. But the problems in Arkansas are deeper than just this. 

It should be noted by all that the state motto of Arkansas is, "Regnat populus" - the people rule. 

More is, tragically, yet to come. And I take no pleasure in typing that.


  1. One burning question is who is next on the hit list? Likely suspects are known associates of the former DGM, with any defense witnesses in his trial a top priority.

    But remember, Billy Joe loves you!

  2. Good heavens!
    I had hoped there was no longer any remnant of a cracker contingency anywhere in American Masonry.....but nooooooooooo.

  3. This is a fluster-cluck. Oklahoma should charter a few lodges spread around Arkansas, ha!

    1. We would love to see that in Arkansas. We have been waiting patiently for that to happen for 5 years!

  4. Of course, the other Grand Lodges could declare the GL of Arkansas clandestine and move to start a new Grand Lodge in the state....

  5. Unfortunately this is one of several grand lodges - note West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia among them - where brethren who have served the fraternity for many years have been brutally ousted for indefensible reasons. Withdrawal of recognition and offering membership to these shabbily treated brothers, and to all who find the "Southern Nine" with racism is what should happen if we have any sense of decency. Look at how stained and putrid we are becoming. no more exclusive jurisdiction nonsense. Which grand lodge will do the right thing and charter lodges in these excuses for fraternity?

  6. Inquiring minds in Oklahoma would like to know, what is that 'specific reason'?

  7. Can it be any wonder why our ranks are falling precipitously when we are committing fratricide??

    1. Yeah, it is not as if we have enough problems with membership, simply due to the times we live in, with all the other things competing for our attention... we need these sort of self-inflicted wounds on top of it all.

  8. Once again, the postings here is about how to destroy a Grand Lodge without giving the brethren within the jurisdiction an opportunity to change it. Give Arkansas Masons the opportunity to fix their Grand Lodge and support them as you are able, but to punish without being part of the equation is just as bad. Let our brethren fix this problem, encourage them to fix this problem, show them how embarrassing this problem is that they should fix this problem, but give them a chance to act before burning the innocent at the stake. Let them fix the problem so that they can prove that they are not part of the problem; that is how you support your brethren in Arkansas. This is respectfully stated my brothers and I wish to thank Brother Chris for shining a light on this tragedy.

  9. Chris- may be worth creating a post on using anonymous browser tools in the hopes that one of our brothers in AR can fill us in without risking his own neck. Just a thought.

    1. Well, all they need to do is use TOR and they would be fine. https://www.torproject.org/

    2. You and I know that, but I'd guess we make up a relatively small portion of the population. I'd also doubt someone in their position would be browsing the comments on this post looking for tips on whistle-blowing.

  10. I wonder if I'll live long enough to see the Good Guys in the fraternity win one.


  11. I remember the license plate days both with a visitation to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas and with helping Brother Derek Gordon get through the desire of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to expel him. At that time when the GL closed down its webiste it forbid any E-Mialing between Masons of the Grand Lodge. My reports in the past of Rogue Grand Lodges expelling without trials and closing down Lodges on a whim were met with much disbelief at the time. What you see in the GL of Arkansas is what has been going on now for at least 10 years. My advice has been for years for Mainstream Grand Lodges to declare these Rogue Grand Lodges clandestine and unrecognize them.

    1. How the heck do these GL officers keep getting elected?

  12. YIKES! Welcome to yet one more episode of: As The Stomach Turns!

  13. I'm just glad this is recorded for historical posterity. Hopefully something good will come from knowing how and what to avoid. The facts are that with the advent of digital communication has come an expectation that there can be no true secrets. So behave your selves brothers.. Its not just the all seeing eye that watches you. Its every one.

  14. I want to personally thank you for shining the light on this, as I am one being affected by the Stalinist type current policies!

  15. I am a dimited mason here in Tennessee. I am in good standing for one year. I can be affiliated with another lodge at any time. Being in Tennessee I have no real choice. The only real state around me that has no restrictions on where you live is Alabama. I live to far to join a lodge there. I wish some grand lodge would give Masons who do not like what is going on here in the South a choice to apply for affiliation with a Grand Lodge that has thought about the good of the craft and the masons that do not agreed with their Grand Lodge workings.

    1. Sam, if you have a proper demit (or are still an existing member of a lodge, for that matter), you do have a couple of options. See this link:


  16. It is not just Oklahoma who has had this problem. We encountered the same in Missouri when we had a number of brothers try to transfer up here.

  17. Those who suggest that the Masons of Arkansas should "vote the bums out," clearly have no understanding of the level of depravity and corruption that pervades. How do the corrupt leaders keep getting elected and reelected? By the presiding officers at the annual Grand Lodge meetings refusing to accept alternative nominations, declaring "out of order" all motions and resolutions designed to curb corrupt power, etc. Without rehashing the details, suffice it to say that the old adage holds true: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," and the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is a prime case in point.

    Above, Chris basically said: "If only a few good men were being wronged, I wouldn't worry about it." Sentiments of exactly THAT sort are what's brought us to the sitation that exists today. Someone once famously said: "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing," and THIS is a sad example of that very thing.

    I was among the first to suffer at the corrupt hands of Arkansas' Masonic leadership in the mid 2000s. I protested as loudly as I could, but virtually every "brother" I ever knew, turned his back on me. They all felt that their membership card was more important than the principles upon which the fraternity was founded, without realizing the obvious flaw in that "logic." Perhaps if enough people had stood up for what they knew was RIGHT when they had a chance, all the needless suffering that's happened in subsequent years might have been (actually WOULD have been) prudently averted.

    Believe me, no one has greater sympathy for the men recently victimized by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas than *I* have, but some of those men had a CHANCE to right the very same wrongs that have now been heaped upon them, but they turned a blind eye. Past Grand Master Dr. Jarrod Atkisson is a good case in point. Jarrod was a friend of a good friend of mine (now deceased), and he KNEW of countless wrongs that had been committed by his predecessors, yet he did nothing to right those and punish their offenders when HE held supreme power and had a chance. Clearly, that was an error, and now he himself has become yet another victim.

    For those who ask: "What will it take to rectify this mess," there really is just ONE possibility from within, which is for *some* brother with **HUGE** balls, to advance to the office of Grand Master, and while he holds that supreme power, EXPEL every single one of the corrupt PGMs and all their henchmen. THAT is the ONLY way the situation can be corrected from within, and everyone here knows it -- most especially the corrupt PGMs and their cronies, who carefully vet all up-and-comers in the Grand Line to ensure it never has ANY chance of happening. That's the reason Carr and South were kicked out -- they were perceived to have too much honor and integrity for that chance to be taken with them!

    Short of an internal coup, the ONLY other reasonable hope is that IF there are any Grand Lodges left with leaders who take their obligations seriously, for those Masonic leaders to unite and say: "Enough is enough! Effective immediately, WE are withdrawing recognition of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, until and unless the wrongs committed in the last 15 years are righted, the perpetrators purged, and the leadership of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is again returned to TRUE men of honor and integrity.

    Sadly, if nothing changes, nothing changes, and we ALL have seen the result of that. I've seen it since it started in the late 1990s, and it's gonna continue unless enough good men finally realize that the fraternity can't survive if they continue allowing evil to reign supreme and absolute power to continue corrupting absolutely.

    Steven E. Maddox
    Worshipful Master of Mt. Sinai Lodge #749, 2005
    North Little Rock, Arkansas
    Sentenced to FIFTY (50) YEARS "Definite Suspension" in 2006, by a Grand Master's Trial Committee appointed by my accuser.


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