From U.S. presidents to top athletes, Founding Fathers to legendary writers, Freemasons can be found in almost every field. Here are some of the most notable members, representing a wide variety of professions.
More than a dozen U.S. presidents were members of this fraternal organization, including George Washington (pictured), who earned the distinguished title of master Mason. James Monroe and Andrew Jackson also were Masons, and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are said to have had connections to the organization. Presidents of the 20th century that were members: William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford. Lyndon B. Johnson was initiated but completed only the first of the three Masonic degrees and thus was not a true member.
FOUNDING FATHERS AND PATRIOTS
Benjamin Franklin (pictured) became a grand master in 1734 and edited and published the first Masonic book in America that same year. Thomas Paine wrote An Essay on the Origin of Free-Masonry in the early 19th century and was suspected of being a Mason. Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Francis Scott Key are also believed to have been Masons or at the very least to have had Masonic connections. Other Founding Fathers and Patriots who were Masons: John Hancock, Paul Revere, Elbridge Gerry, Josiah Bartlett, and George Clinton.
Many Masons have walked the halls of Congress or resided in governor's mansions. Congressmen Henry Clay, Nelson Aldrich, and William Jennings Bryan were members. More recently, Sens. Birch Bayh, Lloyd Bentsen, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, and Sam Ervin were Masons. So were the father and grandfather of Sen. John McCain. Former senators Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Conrad Burns, and Sam Nunn are Masons, as are Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Charles Rangel. Famous Masonic governors include DeWitt Clinton, Thomas Dewey, George Wallace, George Ryan, Ed Rendell, and David Paterson (pictured). Longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover also was a member.
Many Masons made their names on the battlefield. Some of the earliest were John Paul Jones and the Marquis de Lafayette, heroes of the American Revolution. Benedict Arnold was a noted Mason (he was expelled because of his treason during the war). Many generals who fought on opposite sides in the Civil War were members of the same fraternal order, including the Confederacy's George Pickett and the Union's Joshua Chamberlain, both of whom fought at Gettysburg. World War II generals Omar Bradley and Douglas MacArthur (pictured) and Adm. Arleigh Burke also were prominent Masons.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICES
The organization attracted many powerful figures from the field of justice, including John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court. Other chief justices who were members: Oliver Ellsworth, John Marshall, and Earl Warren. William O. Douglas, who served longer as an associate justice than anyone in history (36 years, 209 days), was a member, as were Hugo L. Black, Potter Stewart, and Thurgood Marshall (pictured).
ACTORS AND ENTERTAINERS
The organization has had its fair share of comedic talent over the years, including Bud Abbot, W. C. Fields, Harpo Marx, Oliver Hardy, Will Rogers, Red Skelton, Peter Sellers, Richard Pryor, Don Rickles, and Michael Richards. Classic screen stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Clark Gable (pictured), and Ernest Borgnine and directors Cecille B. DeMille and Billy Wilder were Masons. Western film stars Gene Autry, John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Tex Ritter, and Roy Rogers also were members. Magician Harry Houdini, Wild West showman "Buffalo Bill" Cody, and all seven of the Ringling brothers (founders of the circus bearing their name) were Masons, as was Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and many other Looney Tunes characters.
MUSICIANS, COMPOSERS, AND SONGWRITERS
The Masons were fairly prominent during the jazz age; the many musicians and singers who joined included Louis Armstrong (pictured), Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole. Songwriters George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, and W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan (better known as Gilbert & Sullivan) were members, as were classical composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, and Johann Christian Bach (son of Johann Sebastian Bach). John Philip Sousa, who composed "Stars and Stripes Forever," also was a Mason. There is no definitive answer as to whether Ludwig von Beethoven was a member, but many experts believe several of his compositions contain Masonic references.
ASTRONAUTS, AVIATORS, EXPLORERS, AND PIONEERS
Throughout the years, the Masons have attracted many adventurers. Davy Crockett was a Mason, as was James Bowie, who met his end at the Alamo on the same day as Crockett. Daniel Boone was a member as well. So were Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Kit Carson, and Moses Cleaveland, who all have major U.S. cities named after them (Austin and Houston in Texas; Carson City, Nev.; and Cleveland, though the name of the Ohio city is spelled differently). Both Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were members. Richard Evelyn Byrd, who claimed to be the first to fly over the North Pole, called himself a member, as did Charles Lindbergh (pictured). Many astronauts are also members, including John Glenn and Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, who brought a Masonic flag to the moon in 1969.
Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey was a Mason, as was fellow boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Golf legend (and beverage inventor) Arnold Palmer (pictured) has been a member since 1958. Baseball is heavily represented in the organization; members include Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Bob Feller, Willie Mays, and Cy Young. Hockey great Tim Horton, who founded Canada's largest fast-food restaurant chain, was part of the organization. So was basketball coach Red Auerbach and basketball's inventor, James Naismith.
ENTREPRENEURS, INVENTORS, AND INDUSTRIAL TYCOONS
Tim Horton was not the only fast-food maven among the Masons. Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy's), Bob Evans, and Harland Sanders ("the colonel," founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken) also were members. In fact, Sanders's gravestone bears the Masonic square and compasses. Fur trader John Jacob Astor and oilman Edwin Drake were members. Other Masons include Samuel Colt, who popularized the revolver; safety razor inventor King Camp Gillette; Frank Hoover of Hoover vacuums; penicillin inventor Alexander Fleming; Daniel Carter Beard, who helped establish the Boy Scouts of America; Red Cross founder Henry Dunant; James Cash Penney, who started J.C. Penney; and automotive pioneers Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, and André Citroën.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain (pictured), is one of many esteemed writers who were members of the organization. Another famous man who wrote under a pen name—François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire—was a member, as were Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Jonathan Swift, the poet Robert Burns, and the playwright Oscar Wilde.
ARTISTS, SCULPTORS, AND ARCHITECTS
The Masons are known for their interest in architecture, so it's no surprise that many renowned artists are members, including Frederic Bartholdi, the French sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty; Gustav Eiffel, the designer of the tower that bears his name; and father and son sculptors Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum, who carved Mount Rushmore. Painters Marc Chagall and Charles Willson Peale also were Masons.
Freemasons can be found almost anywhere. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was once a member of a Masonic Lodge known as P2. The lodge's charter was revoked in 1976, but it continued to operate illegally until 1981, when it was dissolved by the Italian Parliament. Similarly secretive groups were then declared to be illegal. Latin American politicians Simón Bolívar and Salvador Allende were Masons, as was Winston Churchill (pictured). Napoleon is generally believed to have been a member. Others suspected of having Masonic ties include Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, King Hussein of Jordan, Binyamin Netanyahu, Tony Blair, and Prince Philip, husband of England's Queen Elizabeth II.