If this is your first exposure to the writings of Brother Walkes, you are in for a treat.
Some of the original essays on this site were personally selected by Brother Walkes to be featured on his personal site. We will add content to the site in time, focusing primarily on notable writings of Brother Walkes.
When one reads the works of Brother Walkes, there can be no mistaking his passion. You see it in his biography, in the genealogy of his family, in his essays on bogus organizations claiming to be Masonic. You see it when he writes about the French Incident and about the National Compact. Some of his articles chosen by Brother Walkes to be included here are intended to be of help to aspiring Masonic historians. Example are the Louisiana Journals, Part One and Part Two, and the Black Square and Compass. Study them well if you aspire to carry on the work begun by this giant of a Mason.
Second President of The Phylaxis Society
Without a doubt, Brother Walkes and the Society he founded have provided the factual basis and the impetus for mainstream recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry, and America is a better place because of it.
As we reflect upon an awesome legend of the man and Mason, the Honorable Joseph A Walkes, Jr., we quickly learn that his ambition of becoming a writer began in his early childhood back home in Brooklyn. He delighted in reading, with high expectations of one day becoming a published author. And, indeed, a great Masonic author he became.
The driving forced behind Brother Walkes' desire to become a Masonic writer and author was based upon the injustices he witnessed as they related to Masonic recognition, and the unfounded accusation that Prince Hall Masonry was looked upon as “clandestine.” His mother lodge was a military lodge organized in Germany in 1963 under the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland. Many years later he wrote in Prince Hall's Mission: The Rise of the Phylaxis Society on page 2:
The first Caucasian petitioned the Lodge on the first of February, 1964, and up to that point and beyond, race has never been an issue or debated in Lodge. However, I was in for a rude awakening and it wasn't long before the realization hit me that I was considered “clandestine” by my Caucasian fellow soldiers, who were Freemasons and would not talk with me on Masonic subjects, and as I continued to explore more works on Freemasonry, I quickly learned that most of the masonic writers who were white, looked on Prince Hall as being irregular. I was devastated, and perhaps it was then that subconsciously I decided that I would do something about this cancer on American Freemasonry.
I believe here lies the cornerstone that Brother Walkes used to mount his research efforts to prove that Prince Hall Freemasonry was of legitimate origin. His exact words were: “Until we free ourselves from dependence on other people, we will never be free.” With this in mind, the Phylaxis Society was born under his able leadership. As a direct result of his thirty-plus years of dedication, we can appreciate what an awesome Society he has left us. In addition to the respect our Phylaxis magazine enjoys on an international Masonic platform, we can also pride ourselves on the many Phylaxis and Phyllis Chapters established across our great nation, not to mention the fact that we have membership in 21 other countries. Along with this, we can also pride ourselves in presenting some of the most outstanding Masonic workshops at our annual sessions found anywhere around the globe.
Without a doubt, Brother Walkes and the Society he founded have provided the factual basis and the impetus for mainstream recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry, and America is a better place because of it.
Brother Walkes retired as President in 2003, and since then the Society has accepted the challenge to present Prince Hall to the general public as a long-forgotten American hero, entitled to his place beside the founding fathers of our nation. We are supporting a major documentary production, “Prince Hall: The Untold Story,” quite an achievement for Masons who were once referred to as “clandestine.” And, in memory of Joe, we plan to chart a bigger and brighter course in Masonic research than ever before.
Third President of the Phylaxis Society
Masonry made me a better person; the Phylaxis Society made me a better Mason.
In 1992 I submitted a paper to brother Walkes for publication “at the usual rate.” It took a while for me to realize that the usual rate in the Society is zero. Walkes accepted my paper and invited me to attend the annual session to receive the Certificate of Literature. The invitation did not include an airline ticket, but by now the message was clear. I traveled to Oklahoma in March of the following year on a trip that would change my life. Masonry made me a better person; the Phylaxis Society made me a better Mason. The workings of the Society are compelling, the associations are rewarding, and the annual sessions are addictively fulfilling. Joe Walkes made this happen because, for thirty years, he was the primary mover and shaker in the Society.
I have not missed an annual session since, and at each session, Joe continued to amaze and bedazzle the members. In 2003 when the annual session came to my home State of California, everything changed. Joe’s health had been failing for years, and for the first time ever, he was unable to attend the annual meeting of the Society he founded and loved. He gave up leadership of the Society that year, but was strong enough to attend the annual session the following year.
I called and spoke to Joe the day after I became president of the Society. I did not recognize his voice at first; he had become so weak. We spoke for less that a minute before he was out of breath and we had to end the call. His wife, Jeanette, informed me that he smiled when he learned that I was at the helm of his “baby.”
My phone rang during the last workshop of the 2006 session—it was Saturday, March 4th and we were preparing to have a banquet that night honoring Joe—and when I saw the caller ID “Walkes,” I knew what the call would be about. Sister Jeanette informed me that he had passed quietly and peacefully.
Joe was protective of the things he loved—his church, his beloved Jeanette, his Phylaxis Society, and his passion, Freemasonry. He would take on any foe, without regard to status or stature, and he would fight for what he believed with all the passion he could muster. You see his passion in his writings. If you have not read Joe’s books, you are missing a treat. We will try to get copies of as many of his book as we can find and we will offer them for resale to the membership. You have got to get this stuff. After reading his books, you will have a good idea about who he was.
Second Vice President of the Phylaxis Society
It is impossible to translate into words the respect and admiration that I had for Brother Joseph Walkes, a widely respected Masonic journalist. I met Brother Walkes in 1968 when he was the editor of The Masonic Light, the official organ of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri. At that time, I was a newly made Master Mason in D. L. White Lodge #44 UD (PHA), Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
Brother Walkes visited our lodge to discuss problems that were occurring in Centennial Lodge #59 of Sedalia, Missouri. The problems revolved around lack of growth and inactivity. The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri was on the verge of pulling the Charter from Centennial Lodge. Brother Walkes was concerned because Centennial was one of the oldest lodges in Missouri and was on the verge of collapsing. D. L. White Lodge, UD F&AM, PHA, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri was composed of young military Masons. Brother Walkes recommended merging D. L. White Lodge with Centennial Lodge in order to preserve the longevity of the former lodge. The members of D. L. White #44, UD, after long consideration, decided to go forward with the merger. Because of the foresight of Brother Walkes, Centennial Lodge #59 continues its existence today.
Brother Walkes wrote impressive, provocative, and enlightening articles for The Masonic Light. For example, in the March-June 1971 edition, he wrote in “Walkes Talks” of the important role that individual Masons played throughout the history of Prince Hall Masonry and that as we judge them (Masons of the past) we should do so by the “square...with honesty and fairness.” He further states that as we shine light on the past, “we should remember another generation will likewise judge us.”
In addition to his writing, Brother Walkes was interested in helping others develop their research and writing skills. It was for that reason that he founded the Phylaxis Society to provide an opportunity for Prince Hall Masons to engage in “an expansive, networking facilitation of Prince Hall intellectualism.”
As a member of the Phylaxis Society, not only did I receive an array of Masonic knowledge by my association with scholars, I was inspired to research and write about brothers and incidents of the past that sharpened and expanded my knowledge of the true and in-depth nature of Masonry.
35th Past Imperial Potentate AEAONMS
On Saturday, March 4, 2006, God called the Honorable Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., President Emeritus and Founder of the PHYLAXIS Society, home to rest. God said unto him, like he said to John in the Book of Revelations, knowing Joe to be the prolific researcher I writer that he was, “Lay down your pen, write no more, and come unto me in my kingdom.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Brother Walkes in 1978. We immediately bonded, and we remained friends through the years. Both of our names having appeared in the book written by the late Dr. Andrew Mason Cox, titled Great Black Men In Masonry, I always affectionately referred to him as a “GREAT BLACK MAN IN MASONRY.”
The accolades heaped upon him throughout his Masonic career are far too numerous for me to attempt to mention here, but aside from having written the Histories of North Carolina; Louisiana; The Shrine; The United Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction; along with the Black Square & Compass and the Masonic Quiz Book, just to name a few of his works, in his own quiet but formidable manner, armed only with his pen, which is said to be mightier than the sword, I feel that single handily, he did more toward making the recognition we enjoy today between the two Masonic bodies a reality, than any other individual. There are very probably others who will no doubt vie for and accept the credit, but hands down, Joe Walkes would get my vote.
I am proud to have practiced my Masonry during his life and time, and to have called him my friend and Brother. He will be sorely missed, and we pray our blessings upon his loving and devoted widow, Dr. Jeanette Walkes, whom he relied upon greatly and was never far from his side. May God in His infinite wisdom, ease her sorrows, permitting the fond memories of their years together, forever sustain her until they meet again.
President, Commission on Bogus Masonic Practices
I am honoured to write a few words about my mentor and Masonic father, the late Brother Joseph A Walkes Jr. Brother Joe had been sick off and on for many years, but it was during that time that we had great conversations concerning Prince Hall Masonry, mainstream Masonry, bogus Masonry, and life in general. We were both from the East Coast, Joe from Brooklyn, New York and me from Newark, New Jersey; we shared the same interest in jazz music and also this passion we had for the history of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Brother Joe was the father for this generation of historians and writers, and boy, did he bring back the voices from the past.
I first met Brother Joe at a Phylaxis Society session in St Louis, Missouri back in 1993. I was raised in a military lodge overseas and, like most military Masons who return to the US, I had a hard time adjusting to civilian Prince Hall lodges. I got my feelings hurt and could not believe how I was treated in my lodge, so I wrote Brother Walkes a personal letter about a project I was considering. He telephoned me and we talked, but I had no idea that our relationship would take off and end up as close as it did.
I attended the meeting in St Louis and was appointed to a position in the Society, Director of its Welfare and Social Services Fund. I knew that this would be a test for me, and I worked hard, raising quite a few dollars for the fund by selling Phylaxis tee-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and watches. I was also introduced to some of the giants in Prince Hall Masonry, including Grand Master Howard Woods of Arkansas, chairman of the Conference of Grand Masters of Prince Hall Affiliation.
The next Conference of Grand Masters happened to be held in my home jurisdiction of New Jersey in 1994, and these same “giants” attended. So did I. You should have seen the faces of the leaders of my jurisdiction when they saw me laughing and joking with the conference chairman!
From that day on, I made a point of attending the Phylaxis sessions, taking on responsibilities that my Grand Lodge would never consider giving me. As a result, my name was plastered all over the Phylaxis magazine—unwanted publicity that eventually led me to being appointed Grand Historian of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New Jersey.
Also in 1994, there was a mid-year session in Boston, Massachusetts and Brother Joe arranged for all who attended to see the Charter of African Lodge 459 issued to Prince Hall in 1784. Many Prince Hall Masons see the charter, but do not touch this parchment. Because of Brother Joe, I can say that I am one of only 700 Prince Hall Masons that have touched the actual charter.
In 1996, Joe was researching his book on the United Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction, PHA, and he invited me and another brother (the late George Green) to come and research with him. That was quite an experience!
In 1997, I was elected Master of my lodge in New Jersey, and the installation was in June. Early in the ceremony, while I was making my acceptance speech, there was a knock at the outer door. The Junior Deacon announced that “Right Worshipful Joseph Walkes Jr. from the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri, and Right Worshipful Lamont Dixon of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania crave admission.” Brother Walkes had travelled from Kansas City to Philadelphia, and my good friend Brother Dixon had driven him from Philadelphia to attend my installation. I just hung my head and let the tears flow. This Masonic icon had traveled all that way to see his Masonic son get installed as Master of his lodge.
Over the years, Brother Joe developed me into a Masonic historian, looking over papers I had written, giving comments about certain issues. We had our debates, and they got heated where we would not talk for a few days, but we always got on the phone a few days later and laughed. Laughed because he stated that I reminded him of how he was when he was young.
Those who know me and have seen me post on the various email forums are aware that I have always guarded the reputation of Prince Hall Masonry. It was a road that Brother Walkes assured me would not be pleasant. He told me that I would make many enemies, as he did, from Prince Hall Masonry, mainstream Masonry and also bogus Masonry. But he said that as long as I told the truth and was satisfied with the references that I had given, then those who were angry would eventually get the message. He would always joke about how he had gotten more accolades from mainstream Masonry than from his Prince Hall brethren. The running joke between us was that he was eventually appointed the Grand Historian for his jurisdiction of Missouri a few years back. After he had written seven books on the subject of Prince Hall Masonry, a Grand Master finally recognized his talents.
The last conversation that we had was a week before his death. I always made it a point of checking with him twice a week, to inform him about what was going on in Prince Hall or mainstream Masonry. The mainstream Conference of Grand Masters in North America (COGMINA) had its annual session and an email came out that they were going to let the PHA Grand Masters attend their conference. I called Brother Joe and told him that, only to find out later the same day that the vote had been rescinded because of some technicality. I was a little perturbed that the last conversation I had with my mentor was a bit of “misinformation.”
There is a large void in PHA Masonry since Brother Joe has passed. He had two books that were going to be printed: one on the history of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina (long delayed by quibbles from that jurisdiction), and the other a revised edition of the late Harry Williamson's Prince Hall Primer.
Papa Joe, my Masonic father and mentor, will be missed. If I may be permitted to adapt what was once written about GM Thomas W. Stringer:
To many of his Masonic children, Joseph Walkes was a comet, for his trail has left such a milky way that his books, his personal comments, and his kindness will always show the brilliance of his Masonic light.
Director of Public Communications
MASONIC MENTOR AND FRIEND
During the course of a lifetime, everyone is influenced by many people. However, everyone can note special people whose influence on them has been profound indeed. These people are often called “mentors.” For over 20 years, I have been writing on the subject of Freemasonry. On March 4, 2006, my Masonic mentor and friend, Joseph A. Walkes, Jr., died at Cushing Memorial Hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas. I am saddened by this great loss but am thankful for the help and inspiration he provided to me and to so many others.
Bro. Walkes was born on November 12, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were Joseph A. Walkes, Sr. of the Canal Zone and Unitha Lawrence of St. Lucia, West Indies. His grandfather, Cyril C. Walkes, was born in Barbados, West Indies. My friend served in the U. S. Army from 1951 to 1973 and worked at the U. S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth from 1973 to 1993. He received a degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Park College in Parkville, Missouri.
A 33rd degree Prince Hall Freemason, Walkes was the most prolific African American Masonic author of all time. His books include Black Square and Compass: 200 Years of Prince Hall Freemasonry (1979); A Prince Hall Masonic Quiz Book (1981); Jno. G. Lewis, Jr.—End of an Era: The History of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Louisiana, 1842-1979 (1986); History of the Shrine: Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Inc., Prince Hall Affiliated, A Pillar of Black Society, 1893-1993 (1993); Prince Hall’s Mission: The Rise of the Phylaxis Society (1995); and History of the Supreme Council, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Prince Hall Affiliated, Northern Jurisdiction, USA, Inc. (1998). In all of these works, he presented his viewpoint that, “The history of Prince Hall Freemasonry is in reality the history of the Black Experience in America.” I echoed such sentiments in my 2004 book Prince Hall Freemasonry in Lone Star State: From Cuney to Curtis, 1875-2003.
In 1973, Walkes established the Phylaxis Society to promote research and writing on Prince Hall Freemasonry. I joined this organization in 1982 and met him for the first time in 1984, when he visited the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas in Fort Worth and spoke at Macedonia AME Church in Kaufman, where I was then serving as pastor. At his request, I wrote an article entitled “The Moorish Science Temple: A Religion Influenced by Prince Hall Freemasonry,” in which I described the Masonic influences on the African American Islamic tradition. For this I received two awards at the 1985 Phylaxis Convention in Dallas. Again, at his request, I updated the article and it was reprinted in 2003. I enjoyed his fellowship at conventions in Dallas; Albuquerque; Washington, D. C.; New Orleans; Little Rock; and Houston. We exchanged many letters and phone calls over the years. He served as a mentor not only to me but also to many other Masonic authors.
I extend my sympathy to Sis. Jeannette Walkes and to all of the family and friends whose lives have been touched by this great and good man!
Grand Lodge of South Australia
...he devoted his life to restoring and defending the reputation of Prince Hall and the fraternity which honoured him.
Joseph Walkes was never a slave, but neither was he entirely free. He discovered early in his Masonic career that Prince Hall Masonry was considered irregular by mainstream US Masonry, and widely throughout the Masonic world. His research proved otherwise, and he devoted his life to restoring and defending the reputation of Prince Hall and the fraternity which honoured him. Through his writing, particularly the Macoy edition of Black Square & Compass (1979), A Prince Hall Masonic Quiz Book (1983, 1989), and the Phylaxis magazine (1974 onwards), he made well-documented information available to his own fraternity and to mainstream researchers who questioned the verdict of irregularity. His dream was that every PH Mason should be free to visit every “regular” lodge in the world. That dream has yet to be realized, but he stands tall among those who have worked toward achieving the dream.
I never met Brother Walkes in person, never had the opportunity to shake his hand, or to sit in lodge with him, but from 1993 I corresponded with him, at first by snailmail, then by email, and we became firm friends. We found more in common than just Freemasonry—both were born in 1933, both were soldiers in our youth and then in law enforcement, both stamp collectors and jazz fans—and we found things to argue about, sometimes vigorously. I joined the Phylaxis Society, first as a subscriber, and then as a full member; Joe enrolled the Phylaxis Society as an associate member of ANZMRC, and then asked the Council to present an award to me on behalf of the Society; I wrote a couple of pieces for Phylaxis and he wrote an article for Harashim, and he contributed to the discussions on the ANZMRC e-List.
Joe was well aware of his mortality, and several years ago deeded much of his vast research material to the mainstream Iowa Masonic Library for the benefit of his successors. Similarly, three years ago he stepped down from the presidency of the Phylaxis Society and editorship of its magazine. But Joe still had things to do, and some of them have been left undone by his passing. Among the books as yet unpublished was a history of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri. Joe asked me if I would copy-edit the manuscript when he finished it, prior to submission to a publisher, and I replied: “Bro Joe, I'd be honoured. I'm fully booked until late next year, but that sounds as if it will fit right in, provided the Great Architect doesn't call either of us home before then.” Sadly, the call came far too soon.
Corinthian Lodge #38 F&AM PHA, Detroit, MI
My Experience With a Great & Mighty Walkes
When a man makes his final transition and we review his sunrise and sunset (1933-2006), the important symbol in that timeline is the “dash” that alludes to the man’s life.
There’s an old sentiment that states, “Give me my roses while I’m still alive.” This sentiment holds true when thoughts come to mind about the late Ill. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. Some years ago, I purchased his famous history book, Black Square & Compass—200 Years of Prince Hall Masonry. Being an avid reader of African-American literature, I felt compelled to read the works of those within the Prince Hall Order. I discovered that most of what I had read about Prince Hall Masonry prior to Bro. Walkes’ works was mostly erroneous historical information. I then began to ask brothers around me, had they heard of Bro. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. and the answers tended to be in the non-affirmative. Having grown, over the years, to appreciate African-American literature, I often would contemplate why this great Prince Hall Mason was unknown to so many within the Order. In addition, I found through my surveys with Prince Hall brothers in my immediate circle that most have never taken the due diligence in researching the very fraternal order to which they belong.
In 2003, I transferred from St. Mary’s Lodge #4 in Ann Arbor, MI to Corinthian Lodge #38 in Detroit. A big issue in Corinthian #38 was creating means by which the lodge might begin orchestrating events and/or programs to assist in raising the name of the lodge back into the Michigan Prince Hall Jurisdiction.
One night I was reading a chapter out of Black Square & Compass—200 Years of Prince Hall Masonry when the thought generated in my mind to bring Bro. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. to Detroit, MI for a lecture. I thought, what better way to bring Corinthian Lodge #38 back from a dismal existence into a more positive light by inviting Bro. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. for, what I considered, a true Masonic event.
Coincidentally Bro. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. was a member of the popular Internet discussion list called Blue-Lite. I used that as an opportunity to pose the idea to him. To my surprise, he instantly accepted the idea and invitation.
After giving a presentation to my lodge as well as a history lesson on Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. The lodge voted in the affirmative to begin organizing what was eventually themed “A Great and Mighty Walk Through Prince Hall Masonry – featuring Bro. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr.”
After receiving the positive vote, I contacted Bro. Walkes to inform him of the decision and to state how excited I was to bring such a Great Prince Hall Mason to Detroit, MI. Bro. Walkes quickly informed me that he doesn’t consider himself “great” but rather a P.H. Brother who saw a need and fulfilled it. Ironically, he wasn’t surprised that many, often young Brothers within the Order, hadn’t a clue of his works because, as he stated, overall, Prince Hall Masonry is not instilling the simple practice of reading and research. I, too, wondered why one would join Prince Hall Masonry and not have a desire or thirst for the rich legacy / history of what they have committed to both time-wise as well as financially. This made my efforts in promoting his lecture that much more imperative.
To see the many Brothers, even our P.H. Canadian brethren, walk through the doors just to see Bro. Walkes and to convey to him how appreciative they were of his works and to give due respect was very humbling to witness.
The vendor at the event brought a little over 300 copies of Black Square & Compass – 200 years of Prince Hall Masonry as well as The Prince Hall Masonic Quiz Book and by the time the lecture had ended, all of the books were sold and a very long line ensued in the lobby of Brothers awaiting to have their books signed, to shake Brother Walkes’ hand, and to THANK HIM for his many years of dedicated research, preservation, and proper defense of our legacy as Prince Hall Masons.
Prince Hall Masons must research and study their 200-plus-year-old fraternal institution. In my opinion, men and Masons such as the late Bro. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. should not transcend to that undiscovered country without first being shown, while living among us, how important their unselfish works have been to the progression of our Order. If the proper history is incorporated within our various lodges along with disseminating book lists, and having constant moments of historical presentations to our members, we may cease from quarreling about why we aren’t as communal as we once were, we may inspire Brothers to not just being a mere dues payer and title seeker, we may begin cultivating better leaders within our communities, and better examples of men.
Bro. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. represented the African Sankofa–that symbol illustrated by a bird moving forward while its head looks back to the past. This symbol reminds us that as we stand at the crossroads of direction and purpose, if we fail to uphold our legacy, unapologetically, to ourselves and to the world, then we shall forever remain stagnant. History serves as the best teacher and Bro. Walkes was one of the many beacons of light in our sojourn as Prince Hall Masons who refused to allow our story to die. Let’s not allow his works to dissipate into thin air.
When a man makes his final transition and we review his sunrise and sunset (1933-2006), the important symbol in that timeline is the “dash” that alludes to the man’s life. Brother Walkes, spiritually, has not left us. In his life’s works—the dash—he left us many stones in the continuum of Prince Hall Masonry. It is up to us to continue to build upon what he so tirelessly contributed on our behalf as Prince Hall Masons.