Masonic Service Association
Bro. Robert I. Clegg's paragraph on the formation of the Masonic Service Association on page 648 had to go to press before the full facts had become available to him, therefore his account calls for some amplification. It also must be revised at one point, because he leaves the impression that the Association was a continuation of the Overseas Mission of which Judge Townsend Scudder, P. G. M., of New York, had been chairman.
The account given herewith can be recommended ax completely reliable to future historians because its writer was with Grand Master George L. Schoonover, Grand Lodge of Iowa, then living at Anamosa, la., on the day when he was first inspired with the idea; discussed it with him at length a number of times during some three months before the Grand Masters' Conference convened at Cedar Rapids, la., November 26, 1918, worked with him and Bro. Scudder to lay out the blue-print for the form of organization which was adopted the next day; was author of the educational plank which was incorporated in the plan; for some four or five weeks after the formation of the Association gave his full time to working out details for the Association's educational work; and co-operated with Prof. William Russell, then of the University of Iowa, afterwards Dean of the School of Education in Columbia University, in writing the first Short Talk Bulletins. Grand Master Schoonover's idea was not to perpetuate the Overseas Mission of the Grand Lodge of New York. It was almost the opposite of that. He believed that the Grand Lodges had not supported the Conference which had been held at New York in April, 1917, partly because the Grand Lodges had not received notice sufficiently in advance, partly because he did not believe that the forty-nine Grand Lodges would ever work through a Committee, and more largely because he believed that the War Relief plan carried out by the Committee (to which he gave his whole-hearted support) was too narrow a basis on which to build a concerted national Masonic activity
He believed that just as the Government of the United States sets up independent, staffed organizations arr special governmental purposes which are self-managed and yet are owned and controlled by the Government, so should the American Grand Lodges set up a permanent and continuously active association which though staffed by salaried men and directed by an Executive Secretary, would be owned, controlled, and used by the Grand Lodges, and used by them both individually and collectively, at any time and for any good purpose. At a period of emergency the whole of American Masonry could act as a unit, employing such an Association as its instrument. How would a salaried staff be kept busy? The writer's contribution to the theory of the proposed Association was to recommend that they be given a program of nation-wide Masonic educational services to carry on.
The Masonic Service Association came into existence when the Grand Masters, Conference adopted the Constitution, of which a copy is included in a booklet published by the Association entitled "The Masonic Service Association of the United States: Origin, Purpose, Activity." The Grand Lodges were divided into ten geographical Divisions; the Association was to meet annually, and each year was to elect an Executive Commission consisting of a Chairman and a member from each Division. This Committee was to administer activities; and salaried staff members were to be under its directions. Membership was by Grand Lodges, each acting to join or not join at one of its regular Grand Communications; and finances were to be pro-rated among member Grand Lodges according to their membership. In the Session held immediately after adoption of the Association, Bro. Schoonover was elected the first Executive Secretary.
During its formative period the Association encountered two difficulties. One was the ever- lurking fear of a National Grand Lodge; this was overcome by patient correspondence and personal visits to Grand Communications The other was a prejudiced and unwarranted rumor teethe effect that the Association was created to "support" the National Masonic Research Society which Bro. Schoonover had founded in January, 1915, which published a journal called The Builder, and for which he had erected a headquarters building at Anamosa, Iowa (later he erected a second and larger one at Cedar --Rapids, Iowa, to which the Society moved its offices). The facts were the opposite of the rumor. The Research Society was in no need of support. During the first months it supported the new Association, furnished it with office space, gave it the use of its mailing room and its library, gave wide publicity to it in The Builder, and its own Executive Secretary, already over-burdened, gave his time as Executive Secretary to the Association without salary.
But the rumor persisted, and to free both the Research Society and the Association from it, headquarters of the latter were set up in an office building in downtown Cedar Rapids. Bro. Schoonover resigned as Executive Secretary, and Bro. A. L. Randell, P.G.M., Texas, was employed at an adequate salary to take his place. From then on the two organizations went their own ways independently, the M.S.A. moving to Washington, D.C., which Btill is its headquarters city. M.-. W. . Carl H. Claudy succeeded Bro. Randell after the latter's death. A complete dossier of minutes, reports, and other original documents are in the vault of the Iowa Masonic Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.--H.L.H.
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