NOTE: This story has been updated with Tom Jackson's funeral information at the end of the post, along with his official obituary.
Illus. Thomas W. Jackson, 33° has passed away. Known throughout the entire Masonic world, Tom served for twenty years as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and as the Executive Secretary and Honorary President of the World Conference on Freemasonry. Tom Jackson was one of the most well-traveled Masons of this or any other century, and he was a powerful advocate for the highest standards in every Masonic jurisdiction.
He had been hospitalized last week at Lancaster General hospital with a severe case of Covid. He died early Thursday morning.
Tom's international travels are legendary, along with his reputation as a fisherman and big game hunter in exotic locales. (That's right - I said big game hunter.) In addition to the Scottish Rite and the York Rite appendant bodies, he belonged to scores of other Masonic-related organizations. In addition to his Pennsylvania lodges, he held memberships in Wyoming, England, Italy, Peru, Morocco and Cyprus, and was granted honorary memberships in 107 different Grand Lodges. He holds grand rank in thirty of these Grand Lodges, and fourteen as honorary Grand Master.
In 2017, Tom estimated that he was out of the country six months a year, acting as an international representative of the fraternity. In his travels, he met the presidents of Portugal, Chile, Romania, Mozambique, Mali, Gabon, Chad and Congo, as well as former U.S. President George H. W. Bush, along with several prime ministers.
Tom Jackson displaying a small sample of his countless awards.
(Photo: Shippensburg News-Chronicle)
Tom received countless awards and medals for distinguished service from at least nine Grand Lodges in the United States and nineteen international Grand Lodges, including Yugoslavia, Romania, South Africa and Russia. The Thomas W. Jackson Award is presented annually by the Valley of Rochester, NY, to recognize individuals who have transformed the message of Freemasonry into an educational inspiration at a state, regional or national level. The Organization of Masonic Arts annually presents the Thomas W. Jackson Award for leadership to a worthy, outstanding Grand Master. In 2017, the nation of Brazil even issued a postage stamp in recognition of his service in promoting universal Freemasonry.
Tom Jackson was one of the most well-read Masons in the country, and for many years he was the book reviewer for the Scottish Rite NMJ magazine, the Northern Light. In his younger days, Tom taught biology for seventeen years at Penn Hall - he had a degree in the subject (and like P.G. Wodehouse's character Gussie Fink-Nottle, it's a little-known fact he shared a fascination with newts). He briefly served as a manager for a construction company before being named as Grand Secretary of Pennsylvania in 1979, a position he held until 1999. He brought his devotion to education to Freemasonry, and was a staunch advocate for taking a scholarly approach to Masonic research and education. He was an early proponent and leader for the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge. His book, Masonic Perspectives: Thoughts of a Grand Secretary, was published in 2015 and contains forty-four thought-provoking essays about the fraternity. As a Masonic author, in 2004 he was a named as Friar 93 of the Society of Blue Friars. Tom was an early advocate for the Masonic Restoration Foundation and its promotion of what has been variously called 'traditional observance', best practices, European-style, or observant styled lodges. He was part of the group that established the first T.O. lodge in Pennsylvania. One of the most common themes in Tom's countless speeches and writings was to decry the lowering of quality in lodges, poor understanding and execution of ritual, and the gradual loss of its prestigious reputation that was once so common throughout North American Masonry. Tom saw firsthand the enormous difference in attitude and perception of Freemasonry in South America, Africa and Europe where lodges continue to attract leaders in academia, business, science, medicine, government, and more. He believed that North American Masonry lost its prestige and longtime reputation for excellence after World War II when grand lodges ballooned in size of membership. Or to paraphrase Dwight L. Smith some sixty years ago, perhaps the age of the common man became a little too common. Tom believed that Masonry here in America lost its way when it stopped attracting the very sort of successful men and community leaders who used to act as mentors and examples to our wider membership. He was always of the firm belief that elitism isn't a bad word, and consistently exhorted lodges and Masons to demand higher standards of themselves, because you can't 'make good men better' if you don't have the best of men to admire, emulate and learn from.
Masonic Week 2009 - A Dummy, Tom Jackson, Brent Morris,
Robert Davis and Glen Cook
It will be difficult to imagine a Masonic world without Tom Jackson in it – a true giant in the fraternity. I shared speaking engagements with him many times, and he was an early positive reviewer of my first book when it was fist published (although he cringed at the For Dummies title, and suggested Masonic readers should rip the cover off the book to avoid embarrassment). When we were first forming the Masonic Society, Tom was one of the earliest supporters, and he was named as a Founding Fellow. He was a fixture at Masonic Week each year in the Washington, DC area, and despite his diminutive height, you always knew he was in the room because of his rich, deep baritone voice that carried far. That resonant voice has now been stilled, and I will miss his friendship, his thoughtfulness, and his insights.
Tom is survived by his wife, Linda. The couple lived on their farm in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and have been married for fifty-six years. Please keep her in your prayers.
When I receive info about his funeral arrangements and services, I will post it on the blog.
His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.
Requiescat in pace.
H/T to John Bizzack for passing me the news this morning.
JANUARY 2nd 12:15PM - Tom Jackson's funeral information and obituary.
Funeral services for Thomas W. Jackson will be held Thursday, January 6, 2022, at 2:00 PM in the Fogelsanger-Bricker Funeral Home and Crematorium, Inc. Shippensburg. Masonic services will be conducted Wednesday, January 6, 2022, at 6:00 PM with a viewing following from 6:30 till 8:00 PM in the funeral home.
Thomas W. “Tom” Jackson, formerly of Shippensburg, 87, died on Thursday, December 30, 2021, at Lancaster General Hospital. Tom was born in McKeesport, PA, on September 14, 1934, a son of Duane T. and Roseazella Maley Jackson, along with a twin sister, Donna. At eleven years of age he moved to Shippensburg.
Tom was a 1952 graduate of Shippensburg High School, a 1958 graduate of Shippensburg State Teachers College (now Shippensburg University) with a B.S. degree in Chemistry and Biology and a 1966 graduate of Penn State University with an M.S. degree in Zoology. He taught chemistry, physics, and biology in a public school for three years and followed with 14 years as a professor of biology at Penn Hall Preparatory School and Junior College.
An active Freemason, Tom was a Past Master of Cumberland Valley Lodge #315 F. & A.M. of Shippensburg. He served as Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Pennsylvania for 20 years and was elected as the first Executive Secretary of the World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges serving for 16 years. He was a member of over 50 Masonic organizations. He holds honorary memberships in 111 grand lodges around the world and was honored by the country of Brazil with his image on a postage stamp for his contributions to Universal Freemasonry and has a lodge consecrated and named for him in Brazil. He was also honored by being made a chief of the village of Niigua-Saff in the Ivory Coast.
He was active in civic affairs serving amongst others, on the board of advisors for the College of Arts and Sciences at Shippensburg University, volunteer fireman, Pennsylvania State forest fire crew, Deputy Sheriff of Cumberland County, Special Deputy Sheriff of Franklin County, Franklin County Correctional Committee, Board of Directors for the National Collegiate Weightlifting Association, Advisory Council for Freedoms Foundation, President of Shippensburg area Jaycees, the Philadelphia Prevention Partnership Project, served on the Bicentennial Commission, and a member of the Pennsylvania State Grange. He was an Eagle Scout and served as a scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster of four troops.
He was a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Wildlife Disease Association, the American Chemical Society, Pennsylvania Realtors Association, the Pennsylvania Farmers Association, life member of the National Rifle Association, the Institute for Legislative Action and was a charter founder of the Second Amendment Task Force.
He was named outstanding young man of the year in 1963, received the Legion of Honor from Mexico, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Shippensburg University, Defender of Freedom award from Freedoms Foundation, and the Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion from the Chapel of Four Chaplains.
He was listed in Outstanding Young Men in America, Who’s Who in American Education-Leaders in American Science, Community Leaders and Noteworthy Americans, Directory of International Biography, National Register of Scientific and Technical Personnel, Who’s Who in Freemasonry, and was named a Fellow of the American Biographical Institute.
Tom played football and wrestled in high school, competed in wrestling and weightlifting in college. He was an AAU weightlifting champion in 1957, placed second nationally and was named to the All-American weightlifting team in 1958. He was an ardent hunter and fisherman.
He was a former member of the Memorial Lutheran Church in Shippensburg, where he served as a Sunday school teacher for many years and was a member of the Lutheran Church in Rainsburg, PA where he served as a supply pastor when needed.
He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Linda and many nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by two sisters and brothers-in law; Donna and Harry Schenk and Sandra and Harold Weaver.
Funeral services will be held Thursday January 6, 2022 at 2:00 PM in the Fogelsanger-Bricker Funeral Home and Crematorium, Inc., Shippensburg. The Rev. Preston Van Deursen and the Rev. William Hartman will officiate. Burial will be in Spring Hill Cemetery. A Masonic Service will be conducted Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 6:00 PM with a viewing following from 6:30 until 8:00 PM in the funeral home.
Memorial contribution may be made to Cumberland Vally Lodge #315 F. & A.M., 41 Stewart Place, Shippensburg, PA 17257 or The Masonic Homes at Elizabethtown, 1 Masonic Drive, Elizabethtown, PA 17022.
The Family requests that masks be worn and all Covid guidelines be followed.