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Harry S. Truman

Douglas MacArthur

J. Edgar Hoover


Unique Masonic membership certificate signed by

President Harry S. Truman, General Douglas MacArthur,

whom he fired, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover,

all 33rd Degree Masons

Harry S. Truman, 1884–1972, 33rd President of the United States, 1933–1945; Douglas MacArthur, 1880–1964, General of the Army; and John Edgar Hoover, 1895–1972, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1924–1972.  Masonic membership certificate signed by all three, ca. mid-1960s.

This Masonic membership certificate is an outstanding association piece—and it appears to be unique.  It is signed by three 33rd Degree Masons, among the most prominent men in 20th Century American history.  We have never seen another piece like this, and our research has found none.

The certificate is dated April 12, 1962, the 17th anniversary of Trumanʼs accession to the presidency following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  It certifies that Ben Orrin Narramore (1910–2005), a Mason in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was "a master of the royal secret of the 32 Degree of the ancient and accepted scottish rite . . . and is entitled to be received, welcomed and honoured as such everywhere." 

Truman, MacArthur, and Hoover have all signed in the upper blank margin in black fountain pen, and all three have added their rank as 33rd Degree Masons, the highest degree in Masonry.

The piece is fascinating because it juxtaposes Truman and MacArthur.  In 1951, at the height of the Korean War, President Truman relieved MacArthur of command because of MacArthurʼs vocal disagreement with American foreign policy.  Truman insisted on limiting the conflict to Korea in order, Truman said, "to prevent a third World War."  He feared that allowing MacArthur to carry the war across the Yalu River into China would provoke not only the Chinese but also the Soviet Union, which, at the time, was friendly with the Communist government, and start another generalized war that would undoubtedly result in the use of atomic weapons by both sides.  Truman was determined not to allow that to happen.  His removal of General MacArthur from command created a furor in the United States, resulting in calls for Trumanʼs impeachment, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously supported Truman.  General Omar N. Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, famously testified before a Senate investigating committee that MacArthurʼs strategy would have involved the United States in "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.”

Truman's membership in the Masonic Lodge began while he lived on the farm.  He was initiated into the lodge at Belton, Missouri, on February 9, 1909, and became a Master Mason little more than a month later.  He then helped to organize a new lodge at Grandview, Missouri, where the farm was located, in 1911, and was elected as the First Master when it was chartered. 

Throughout his life, Truman espoused Masonic principles.  He achieved the 32nd Degree as a Scottish Rite Mason in 1917 and then became a member of the Palestine Commandery No. 17, Knights Templar, in Independence, Missouri, the last step in the York Rite, in 1923.  He advanced through the hierarchy of the Grand Lodge of Missouri and became Grand Master of Missouri in 1940–1941 while he was a member of the United States Senate.  On October 19, 1945, he was coroneted with the 33rd Degree, Honorary, the first President to receive that honor.  The day after Christmas in 1946, he was inducted as a Knight Companion in the Mary Conclave No. 5 of the Red Cross of Constantine in Kansas City.

Truman has signed ≠ Harry S. Truman 33° / P.G.M. Mo, denoting his position as a Past Grand Master of the Missouri lodge.  The meaning of the symbol before his signature, which Truman usually added when signing Masonic-related items, is unclear.  Likely he intended it to represent a cross, showing that he was a member of the York Rite Knights Templar. 

MacArthur became a Freemason on January 17, 1936, in the Philippines.  He joined Manila Lodge No. 1 after being raised to the degree of Master Mason. The following year, he was elected Knight Commander Court of Honor.  He achieved the honorary 33rd Degree at the American Embassy in Tokyo on December 8, 1947, while he was the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan.

Hoover was both a York Rite Mason and a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason.  He was initiated into Masonry on September 14, 1920, in the Federal Lodge No. 1 in Washington, D.C.  He quickly became a Master Mason less than two months later.  He became a Knight Templar in Washington Commandery No. 1 on July 20, 1921.  He joined the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction in 1954 and was coroneted a 33rd Degree Inspector General Honorary in 1955.  Ten years later, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Court of Honor.  He was also a charter member of Justice Lodge No. 46, both in Washington, D.C.

This certificate is framed in a black and gilt wood frame.  This certificate has horizontal and vertical folds, none of which affects any of these signatures.  The gold foil seal is intact.  We have not examined the certificate out of the frame, but it appears to be in fine condition overall.

14½" x 17½".



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