Man of the Year 2009

John B. Williams

In the early 1970?s, the Honorable Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., presented his application for membership to the Philalethes Society, a time honored and well-seasoned International Masonic Research Society that had been founded on October 1, 1928 by the late George Imbrive; his application for membership was accepted. Later, upon discovery that Brother Walkes was an African- American, the Philalethes Society returned his check to him. He framed that check and hung in his archives, where it remained until his demise. Ironically, as things change, in 1983, he was made an honorary member of the very same society that had previously rejected his membership and he was also awarded an Honorary Fellowship.

Upon having his membership rejected, Brother Walkes was not to be denied; he accepted the rebuke as a challenge. In 1973 he founded the Phylaxis Society. The name PHYLAXIS is Greek in origin, and means ?To safeguard and preserve. Its cover emblem became the square and compasses resting on an open volume of the Sacred Laws, over the lamp of knowledge, with the number ?15 in the center. The number 15 represents Prince Hall and the 14 other men of color who were initiated with him into the Order of Freemasonry.

The first officers of the newly formed society were:

  • Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., President
  • Herbert Dailey, 1st Vice President
  • Zellus Bailey, 2nd Vice President
  • Alonzo Foote, Treasurer
  • James E. Herndon, Executive Secretary
  • Arthur H. Frederick, Editor

The philosophy of the Phylaxis Society is much like its counterpart, only it identifies itself as ?A society for Prince Hall Masons who seek more light and who have light to impart. The Society has not always been a ?hit despite the printed disclaimer relative to the content of its articles. Some Grand Masters evidenced suspicion, skepticism, cynicism and misconception regarding the publication and viewed it as a threat to their jurisdiction, while others felt that there was simply no need for a Prince Hall research society.

Grand Master Jno G. Lewis ruffled the feathers of one jurisdiction when he boldly stated in an article he authored that, ?There is no justification for the Eastern Star to be considered a foundation house for the female fraternity. The ladies are simply an adoptive rite, whose life exists at the will and pleasure of a Masonic grand body. Then came Paul Best, whose article expressed the opinion that non-tenure of office had actually stunted the growth of Masonry in some jurisdictions. Eventually the storm clouds blew over, but in some instances the shock waves reverberate still, and grant funding by some Masonic bodies that are able to lend support have sometimes been withheld. Joe Walkes has authored more than a dozen books, his first being Black Square & Compass, which is a compendium of a series of short works over the years. Some of his writings include, but are not limited to the History of the Shrine and the History of the United Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., NJ. All subjects are questionable and have room for debate, but in this writer?s opinion, few men have made a greater contribution to Prince Hall Masonry in general, than Brother Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., with his tenacious research, prolific pen and unyielding defense of our founding Father, Prince Hall. It has been my personal privilege over the years, to affectionately refer to him as the Great Black Man in Masonry.

In 1980, he designed and made available each year thereafter, a Gold Medal of Excellence, to be awarded to the Master Mason of the committee?s choice, who was felt to have made the most significant impact on Prince Hall Masonry, along with community service during the year. The concept was somewhat modeled after the coveted Gold Medal of Achievement awarded by the two United Supreme Councils.

JNO G. LEWIS MEDAL OF EXCELLENCE

  1. JOSEPH A. WALKES, JR. 1980
  2. DR. JAMES A. MINGO . 1981
  3. DR. I. H. CLAYBORN 1983
  4. BOOKER T. ALEXANDER 1983
  5. WALTER T. BRADLEY 1984
  6. DR. RUSSELL S. GIDEON 1985
  7. HERBERT DAILEY 1986
  8. SOLOMON WALLACE 1987
  9. PAUL V. BEST 1987
  10. WILLIAM CLEMONS 1988
  11. EARL L. BRADFORD 1989
  12. REV. HOWARD L. WOODS 1990
  13. WILLIAM D. GREEN 1991
  14. JAMES V. TODD 1992
  15. WILLIAM C. PARKER, JR. 1993
  16. RAYMOND T. COLEMAN 1993
  17. JAMES A. ALLEN, SR. 1994
  18. CLYDE PAYNE 1994
  19. SID BRECKENRIDGE, SR. 1995
  20. THOMAS R. VICKERS 1995
  21. OSCAR ROBERTS 1996
  22. BRIAN ABRAMS 1997
  23. CHARLES TAYLOR 1997
  24. WILLIAM CHAPMAN 1998
  25. TOMMY RIGMAIDEN 1998
  26. JAMES ?ROCKY? DALLAS 1999
  27. WILLIAM H. GROSS 2000
  28. ROBERT CAMPBELL 2000
  29. EDWARD B. DARNELL 2000
  30. LAMONT DIXON 2000
  31. RALPH McNEAL 2001
  32. CLEVELAND O. SINGLETON 2002
  33. JAMES ?BLACK? HALL 2002
  34. NICHOLAS B. LOCKER 2003
  35. DR. RALPH SLAUGHTER 2005
  36. JOHN B. WILLIAMS 2006
  37. HOWARD HARVEY 2007
  38. ULYSSES COOPER 2008
  39. RAS T. CANNADY 2009
  40. DAVID ARCHIBALD 2009

If Brother Walkes could have been accused of anything in his lifetime, it would certainly have been that of having a fertile mind that never slept. He envisioned that awarding the John G. Lewis Medal of Excellence, as not being enough in recognition of those who were committed continually to giving unstintingly of themselves in their communities, fraternities, churches and devotion to family, so he came up with an award, simply titled MAN OF THE YEAR. When the Officers of the Society collectively agreed on the concept, they also collectively agreed on the fact that none other than Joe himself, should and must, be the first recipient of the honor, which he fought, to no avail. In succeeding years, the following individuals, have been privileged to share in the distinct honor and title:

MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

  • 1. JOSEPH A. WALKES, JR. 1980
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 1981
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 1982
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 1983
  • 2. WILLIAM D. GREEN 1984
  • 3. EARL L. BRADFORD 1984
  • 4. REV. CARL L. WILSON 1985
  • 5. ESTEBAN CASTILLO 1986
  • 6. SOLOMON WALLACE 1987
  • 7. SID BRECKINRIDGE, SR. 1988
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 1989
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 1990
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 1991
  • 8. WILLIAM C. PARKER, JR. 1992
  • 9. HOWARD L. WOODS 1993
  • 10. CLYDE F. PAYNE 1994
  • 11. NICOLAS B. LOCKER 1995
  • 12. SAMUEL BROGDON, JR. 1996
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 1997
  • 13. OSCAR ROBERTS 1998
  • 14. TONY POPE 1999
  • 15. EDWARD B. DARNELL 2000
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 2001
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 2002
  • 16. WILLIAM H. GROSS 2003
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 2004
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 2005
  • 17. SOLOMON WALLACE 2006
  • 18. WILBERT CURTIS 2007
  • NO AWARD GIVEN 2008
  • 19. JOHN B. WILLIAMS 2009

Now the Society?s Officers found themselves re-discovering the wheel, that is, forcing a well deserving recipient, to accept the honor. Upon Junior Past President Tommy Rigmaiden?s announcement that he would be yielding to the call of a higher authority, he would be going into the Ministry, he would simply not be able to carry on as the Society?s President, that a new leader must be chosen, and like the ?Ram in the bushes,? THEN CAME JOHN. Almost like stepping in front of a moving train, suddenly John B. Williams, a humble, modest, but well qualified Brother, found himself bearing the mantle of being The Man, or the individual where the ?Buck Stops.

Although Brother Rigmaiden had performed admirably well while in office, very much due to the ?temper of the times, grants were down, and there was a certain amount of intrinsic decay in the air, that mandated immediate attention if the Society was to survive and go forward. Brother Williams reluctantly accepted the role of President, as well as the charge that went with the package, but without question, he hit the ground running. He immediately stepped into the breach and began to work toward restoring the lost grants, beginning a regimented printing schedule and upgrade to the magazine, both in content and physical appearance. He found the restructuring of the administrative aspects of the Society imperative, thus moving it toward a more corporate type level, with an active Board of Directors, who incidentally had to eject him from the room as they unanimously discussed his becoming the Society?s next ?MAN OF THE YEAR.?

Much in the mold of our beloved founder, Brother Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., our worthy Brother Williams, evidences a strong resistance to any ?self limelight,? but rather prefers to focus attention on what others may be doing. However, with that having been said, it becomes that much more evident that he can no longer go without the recognition deserving to those who continues to prove themselves, not only by precept and example, but by their profound dedication, commitment, leadership, high standards, hard work and promotion of our Society at every level, as well.

Therefore, the esteemed title of, ?MAN OF THE YEAR for 2009, is certainly a very small way, to say thank you President Williams, for all you do, and for the level of leadership you bring to the office, and in the vernacular of the street, ?just keep on, keeping on.