Sul Ross Lodge No. 1300 was formed in 1947 at the direction of Gibb Gilchrist, President of the A. & M. College of Texas.
There had always been members of the Masonic fraternity associated with Texas A. & M. – men like Harvey Mitchell, Thomas Gathright, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, Professor Edwin J. Kyle, Bernard Sbisa, G. Rollie White, W. A. Duncan, Charlie Deware, E. King Gill, C. E. Pat Olsen, Robert J. Kleberg Jr., MGen Earl Rudder, LTGen James Hollingsworth, and many others.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the A. & M. Masonic Club, composed of students, faculty and staff, was active on the campus, and met in the Y.M.C.A. It was especially active during the 1920s, when a number of veterans on campus were members of the Masonic fraternity. During those years, the club built a respectable library of Masonic books, a sizeable building fund, and purchased a half-acre lot at North Gate for a lodge building.
But, during the 1930s, the Great Depression took its toll on membership, and the Masonic Club became dormant. In 1941, the Grand Lodge of Texas ruled that Masonic clubs were incompatible with Masonic Law, and so, on December 18 that year, the remaining membership of the club, consisting primarily of faculty and staff, met in the Lecture Room of the Chemistry Building for the purpose of reactivating the club, and dispensing its assets. Harry L. Boyer, Class of ’31, was elected the last president of the club, and the nine members present voted to sell the lot at North Gate to the Methodist Church for $10,000. The club was then officially closed, and its financial assets “invested in government securities and held for the purpose for which it was donated. (To purchase a lot and erect a building.)”
After the war ended, in the Fall of 1946, College President Gibb Gilchrist, Harry Boyer, Joe Woolket, and Howard Badgett began planning for a Masonic lodge on the Texas A. & M. campus. Six months later, in May 1947, in a ceremony held in Sbisa Dining Hall, the Grand Master of Masons in Texas installed Gibb Gilchrist as Worshipful Master of the newly created Sul Ross Lodge. Gilchrist was originally a member of Tucker Lodge No. 297 at Galveston, and previously served as head of the Texas Highway Department, and Dean of the Texas A. & M. School of Engineering. He later became the first Chancellor of the Texas A. & M. System.
Joseph J. Woolket, professor of modern languages, founder of the Singing Cadets, was installed as Senior Warden. He later became Secretary of the lodge, and was elected for 19 consecutive terms – from 1957 to his death in 1975. Woolket was a native of England, and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 14.
Harry L. Boyer, professor of entomology, the last President of the A. & M. Masonic Club was installed as the first Junior Warden of Sul Ross Lodge. He was a native of Brown County, Texas, and was a member of the Order of DeMolay Legion of Honor.
After working for over six months “under dispensation,” Sul Ross Lodge No. 1300 was chartered on December 4, 1947. It is a point of pride for the lodge that all the college Deans and almost all the Department Heads were charter members of the new lodge. It is worth noting that, in December 1948, Gilchrist, who had been a Past Master for only six months, was elected Grand Junior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Texas. In December 1951, he was installed as the 114th Grand Master of Masons in Texas.
The first home of Sul Ross Lodge was the top floor of the old American Legion Hall on campus, just west of the intersection of Houston Street and Jersey Street (now George Bush Drive). It became the first lodge in Texas established on a college campus. The new lodge room had bookshelves to hold the books from the old A. & M. Masonic Club’s library.
After a few years, the lodge purchased the Dan Russell Building at 312 Jersey Street in the South Gate Shopping Center. The building was converted into a lodge, with a meeting room, dining room, kitchen, and a library cabinet. There, the lodge remained for almost 50 years. The lodge was very busy during the 1950s, at times conferring degrees all day, every day of the week but Sunday.
In the spring of 1984, with the approval of the lodge membership, the Brazos Valley Masonic Library & Museum Assn. was created. Pete Normand, Worshipful Master of the lodge, was elected chairman of the board of trustees, and led the fund-raising efforts for the next 15 years. Local land developer, William D. Fitch, a long-time member of the lodge, donated a two-acre tract of land on the south side of town. In 1999, the building fund received a sizeable bequest from the estate of Edward Madeley, an early Past Master of the lodge.
With the two gifts from Fitch and Madeley, and the financial support of the lodge and its members, the Brazos Valley Masonic Library & Museum, the third home of Sul Ross Lodge, became a reality. The cornerstone for the new building was leveled on June 18, 2001, and the first meeting in the new building was held in January 2002.
Throughout its history, Sul Ross Lodge has produced hundreds of Master Masons – some soldiers, a few statesmen, but all knightly gentlemen.
– By P. G. Pete Normand, Jr. PM and Librarian