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masonic matters

Brother Alfred Paul Murrah

by Ed Halpaus Grand Lodge Education Officer Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

"The day you were born, I ceased being my father's boy and became my child's father. That day I began a new life." Henry Gregor Felsen [paraphrased]  

"The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil." Cicero  

Brother Alfred Paul Murrah  

On April 19, 1995 a name came into the forefront of all of our minds; the name was Alfred P. Murrah,i after whom the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was named. As we all remember, this is the building that was bombed by criminals who killed 168 innocent people and changed the lives of all of their loved ones, and the rest of us, forever.  

While Alfred P. Murrah's name has been used countless times in the news programs around the world many don't really know who he was, and why he had a building named after him. It is sad to note that today after the criminal act against the people visiting and working in the building named for him, that when you perform a search of his name on the computer very little comes up about the man; most of the information is about the building and events of April 19, 1995.  

Alfred P. Murrah was a Freemason,ii and the story of his life is an interesting one. Brother Murrah was born in Tishomingo, Oklahoma October 27, 1904. I know very little about his youth, but I can surmise that it might have been a rocky one as he at the age of 13 ran away from home, and to get away as well as to travel easily he rode freight trains.iii He eventually stopped in Tuttle, Oklahoma. It was in Tuttle that a local family took him in and housed him, in exchange for labor on their farm. Brother Murrah worked his way through high school and college, and ultimately earned a law degree from the University of Oklahoma graduating from the College of Law in 1928.  

Our Brother practiced Law in Seminole and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for a number of years earning a good solid reputation as an attorney by which we was appointed to the position of United States District Judge in 1937 at the age of 32, which made him one of the youngest Federal Judges in American history. "Three years later he was elevated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He then became its chief judge in 1959 and led the court for 11 years until his appointment as director of the Federal Judicial Center, [which he helped to establish in 1968,] on May 1, 1970."iv  

Brother and Judge Murrah retired at age 70, but had a working retirement, as he still heard cases and wrote opinions. He died in Oklahoma City October 30, 1975 just 3 days past his 71st birthday.  

When Brother Warren Burger, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, heard of the death of Brother Murrah he said, "I speak for all the members of the Supreme Court and all the Federal Judges in expressing sadness at the death of Judge Alfred P. Murrah. For nearly forty years he has been one of the foremost figures in the American Judiciary. He was a dynamic leader for judicial improvement. Few men will equal his contributions to the improvement of justice."  

In 1977 when a new Federal Building was completed in Oklahoma City it was thought that naming that building for our Brother would be a permanent memorial to honor Judge Murrah. In September 1980 the University of Oklahoma honored the memory of our Brother by establishing the Alfred P. Murrah Professorship in Law. This Professorship was intended to promote excellence through teaching, research, and public service. "In a broader sense it serves as an ongoing memorial to Judge Murrah's commitment to the improvement of the administration of justice through the preparation of students for public service as lawyers, as judges or as public servants in other capacities."v  

When we read about the life and accomplishments of Alfred P. Murrah, a Brother of the Craft, we can see that he was a remarkable man. A man who rose to all he was capable of being despite a rough and disadvantaged start. In addition to all his other activities he took the time to teach Sunday School classes at Oklahoma City's Crown Heights Methodist Church, of which he was a major financial supporter. Our Brother is someone who deserves to be remembered, along with all those who were the victims of the criminals who blew up his building, much more so than to think only of the criminals who destroyed so many lives.  

"To be sure, working - that is, earning a living - is one aspect of fathering. It's one means that a father has of extending protection to his family. But it's just one. If he concentrates on this to the exclusion of other aspects, it becomes not a form of fathering, but an escape." Myron Brenton  

Every once in a while I will mention in the endnotes to Masonic Matters or T.F.S. that I have used Brother Ray V. Denslow's book 10,000 Famous Freemasons as a reference. That book, which is really in 4 volumes, is a great resource for the Masonic student. I am very pleased to own a set of those books, and I use them a lot more than you might think. Today to find a set of these books for sale is difficult, and when you do they are quite expensive. But there is good news for those of us who enjoy this sort of information and use the information in the books.  

Anchor communications, which is owned and operated by our Brothers Ken Roberts and Michael Poll, has put the book 10,000 Famous Freemasons on a CD Rom and they are selling the disk for $24.95. This is about the best bargain in Masonic Literature to come along in a long time. The CD has all 1455 pages that the four volume set has, and it can be viewed and read right on the computer. It's not the same as having the books in your library, but it is the next best thing because all the information is there, and it's at a much more affordable I now have the actual books and the CD Rom of the books and I use them both, but for ease of travel, or to use when I don't have the books with me, I think having the information on a CD Rom makes a lot of sense. I can't say enough about having Denslow's 10,000 Famous Freemasons available for so reasonable a price. It is my opinion that every Masonic student will get a lot of good use out of it. The contact information for Anchor communications is: 1.888.231.8506  

"What's done to children, they will do to society." Karl Augustus Menninger  

Early in May of this year I traveled to Wichita Kansas for the Midwest Conference on Masonic Education. This conference is always well worth attending, and I always learn something about Masonry from the Brothers at the conference. This year I stopped off at a couple of communities in Iowa to meet and greet some of the Brothers I e-mail with through some of the Masonic Research list servers I'm a member of, as well as personally. There are so many knowledgeable and enthusiastic Masons, and I always enjoy spending time with them.  

When I met with Brother Gerald Edgar of Bethel Lodge #319 of Garner Iowa he asked me if I knew about the origin of Mason City Iowa, and I did but it had been out of my mind for a long time I forgot that I did, so he refreshed my memory by telling me about it again. I asked him if he would send me some of the information so that I could share it with the readers of Masonic Matters, or some other publication I put Masonic information in. He said he would, so thanks to Brother Gerald Edgar, and the computer, I have some information on Mason City Iowa for you.  

Many years ago I attended Auction School in Mason City, Iowa and until this past May I don't believe I had been back since the winter of 1961. That was quite a winter, and I was in one of the biggest snow storms I had ever seen up to that point in my life. It was on that trip I first heard the story of the founding of Mason City from an old Auctioneer in that area.  

In 1853 three settlers, John B. Long, George Brentner and Joseph Hewitt came from Illinois to claim timber and prairie land along the Winnebago River. These three men, who happened to be Freemasons, laid out a town on the banks of Lime Creek in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, and named the densely wooded area Masonic Grove in honor of the Masonic Fraternity. Masonic Grove was a town laid out for the purpose of residences. The name Masonic Grove caused some confusion for the postal authorities at the time because there was a town named Mason's Grove in Crawford County Iowa. But, be that as it may, the name Masonic Grove was to stay for the time being. In the same year our three Brothers laid out another town site adjoining Masonic Grove for the purpose of business and trade and they named this community Shibboleth. Our Brother John Long had a son who was named Mason Long, and when Mason Long was on route from Illinois to join his family in Iowa he died.  

After Mason Long's death, in 1854 Brother Long bought out his partners and fellow Masons, and he renamed the town of Shibboleth to Masonville after his son. His son never got to live in Iowa, but he wanted the town he founded to memorialize his son. When the first post office was erected, it was discovered that there were two towns in Iowa named Masonville, so in 1855 the towns of Masonville, (Shibboleth,) and Masonic Grove were renamed and joined into one community named Mason City, Iowa. With an area of only one square mile, Mason City, Iowa became incorporated in 1870 with Darius B. Mason elected as the first mayor. Mason City Iowa is the County Seat for Cerro Gordo County, which in turn was named for the famous battle of the Mexican-American War where the opposing generals were both Masons: Winfield Scott and Santa Ana.  

There you have a lot of influence and references to Masons in Mason City Iowa and the surrounding area. If you're like me, you had no idea there was a connection to the Mexican War and Santa Ana to Iowa. Thanks Brother Gerald for the information. Iowa is a great state and I am looking forward to my next visit there. By the way, Mason City Iowa is the original River City.  

"In 1951, Meredith Willson began working on a fun-filled musical story of "River City." The story was about a salesman trying to convince the citizens of River City to start a boys' band. The musical played several theaters in the East until Warner Brothers bought the movie rights and began production in 1961. On June 19, 1962 at the Palace Theater in Mason City, Iowa, Meredith Willson's hometown, "The Music Man" premiered. Mason City hosts the Mason City Band Festival in tribute to the rich musical and cultural history the city is known for."vii  

"If men do not keep on speaking terms with children, they cease to be men, and become merely machines for eating and for earning money." John Updike  

From "The Great Light of Freemasonry": "And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men." 1 Samuel 2:26 NIV

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Last modified: March 22, 2014