Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Truman, Martha Ellen, 1852-1947; Blair, James Frank; Donnell, Forrest C., 1884-1980; Davis, Manvel Humphrey, 1891-1959

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, Not dated. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.


One day in late 1908 a cousin of my mother came over to the farm to look at some stock and I noticed a Masonic pin on his coat. I told him I'd always wanted to be a member. A few days later he brought me an application for membership in Belton Lodge #450 at Belton Missouri. In February 1909-Feb. 9th 1909 I received my first degree. Frank Blair was President of the Bank of Belton where we did our banking and W. B. Garrison was cashier-or Frank was cashier and Billy was assistant cashier. Anyway both were enthusiastic Masons. Frank was Deputy Grand Master and District Lecturer for the 34th Masonic District of Missouri and Billy Garrison was Master of Belton Lodge. These two men very patiently taught me the lectures and the ritual of the various degrees. I received my 3rd degree on March 9, 1909 and shortly after that the Grand Lecturer of Missouri, James R. McLachlan of Kehoka came to Belton for a three day stay. I attended every meeting for the three days and then followed the Grand Lecturer to Holden and to St. Joseph, became letter perfect in all three degrees and would accompany Frank Blair on his official visits in the 34th District. There were nine or ten lodges in the district and during the winter months all of them were visited. At the next lodge election I was elected Jr. Warden and served during 1910.

In 1911 I organized a Lodge at Grandview-No. 618 and was made Master U. D. along in May or June. Went to the Grand Lodge meeting in St. Louis and obtained a charter for Grandview and became a regular attendant at the yearly meetings of the Grand Lodge.

The 22nd Masonic District, which was Jackson County as a whole was split into two districts and in 1924 on the death of the Deputy Grand Master for the new 59th District I was appointed Deputy Grand Master and Deputy Grand Lecturer, served five years and was appointed into the Grand Lodge Line of officers by William R. Gentry, Grand Master in 1930. At that time I was the Presiding Judge of the County Court of Jackson County and a working Democrat. Mr. Gentry is a rabid Republican! I went up the line in the usual way until I arrived at the first elective office which is the 4th one from the top. A fight was organized in St. Louis against me but I won out. That fight continued until I was elected Grand Master of Missouri in 1940. I was in the midst of the bitterest campaign of my career in that year for reelection to the Senate. I won out against the Governor for the nomination and against Manville Davis who was the Republican nominee in the general election.

Davis became very bitter in the campaign and made some awful charges against me. I had a Catholic political friend in St. Louis by the name of James E. Wade. He attended a meeting in a county north of the Mo. River and not far from St. Louis. Davis made his usual charges. Forest Donnell who afterwards became Governor and Senator was speaking from the same platform. Donnell was just behind me in the Grand Lodge Line and would be Grand Master in a year or two.

So Jim Wade went up to him after this north Missouri meeting and asked him if I could be the low sort of fellow that Davis charge and still be Grand Master of Masons of Missouri. Mr. Donnell said "No Jim, he could not." That ruined Mr. Davis-I won by 276,000 votes. I finished out my term as Grand Master, did my job as Senator and evidently came out well with both. I made more than twenty trips by air to Missouri from September 1940 to September 1941 to transact the business of the Grand Lodge, gave half my salary as Grand Master to the Missouri Service Association for the soldiers in Camps, organized the Committee for the Investigation of the Defense Program in the Senate in Feb. 28, 1941 and succeeded in getting myself into all kinds of trouble-Vice President, President etc.

I owe a great deal of my familiarity with Bible to my Masonic studies-and to the fact that I read it through twice before I was twelve years old.

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