On July 24th, 1898, there was born in Gilmer, Upshur County, Texas, Leo Shafter Hart, who was destined to become one of Texas’ most distinguished and best-known Masons and who, in December, 1939, would become the 99th Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas.
Brother Hart is a descendant of one of Texas’ most distinguished pioneer families; his grandfather, W. H. Hart, settled in Upshur County in 1840 and was one of Texas’ earliest and most active Freemasons. Brother Hart’s father, Sterling Carroll Hart, was born on March 5, 1856, i7 a building that at the time was used as the Court House of Upshur County, located some three miles northwest from the present location of the town of Gilmer; in 1880 he was married to Amanda Jane Horton. Our Grand Master’s mother was born in Atlanta, Georgia, May 28, 1858: her family moving to Upshur County in 1860. Brother Hart is the youngest of seven children; having three brothers and three sisters.
Brother Hart attended the Public Schools of Gilmer, graduating in 1916; later attending the University of Texas during the years 1917, 1918 and 1919 and graduating from the Law School of Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1922. He served as County Attorney of Upshur County for the years 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930, but because of a serious sinus and throat ailment, with which he still suffers, he was forced to cease the active practice of his profession and for the past ten years has served as County Auditor of his native county.
Brother Hart is a man of very deep and sincere religious convictions and has been allied with the Methodist Church since early manhood, has taken a most active interest in Sunday School and Church work and for many years teacher of the Men’s Sunday School Classes and is now serving on the Board of Stewards, having served in such capacity for several years.
Brother Hart is well-known throughout East Texas for his interested activity for that section of the State and more particularly his city and county and has always taken a lead in the activities of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce, having served it faithfully as a Director and has given unselfishly of his time and best thought in the advancement of all local civic matters.
In listing the various Masonic activities of our distinguished Brother while they present a picture of Masonic devotion unsurpassed by a man of his years, yet it does not present the full and complete story of the hours, days and nights spent by our Grand Master, not only in his local community, but throughout the State, in rendering service to the Ancient Craft; we believe we would be justified in saying that no other man in this Grand Jurisdiction has attended as many Masonic meetings in the same space of time as Leo Hart.
Brother Hart was initiated in Bethesda Lodge No. 142, of Gilmer, Texas, on September 15, 1919, passed October 11, 1919, and raised November 8, 1919; he served his Lodge as junior Warden in 1922, as Senior Warden in 1924 and Worshipful Master in the years 1925, 1926, 1930, 1931 and 1933.
In 1925 in memory of his mother, he inaugurated in Bethesda Lodge the observance of Mother’s Day, which has been observed by his Lodge on the Friday preceding the Sunday of Mother’s Day since that time. Following this custom today, many of the subordinate Lodges in Texas now hold special meetings observing Mother’s Day during the month of May.
No Degree Team in Texas is or has ever been better known, more widely travelled or had a larger demand upon its services than the wellknown Gilmer Degree Team of which Brother Hart has served as Degree Captain and has taken an active part in the conferring of the degrees for many years.
In the Grand Lodge of Texas he received his first appointment as a member of the Committee on Titles, Deeds and Properties in 1930, and as a member of the Committee on Lodges Under Dispensation in 1932, and was appointed Grand Junior Steward in 1934. He was elected by the Grand Lodge of Texas for a five-year term to the important Committee on Work in 1934 and served through 1936, but did not serve out his full term by reason of the fact that he was elected Grand Junior Warden in 1936. Brother Hart holds a life certificate for proficiency in our esoteric work. He was advanced to Grand Senior Warden in 1937, elected Deputy Grand Master in 1938, and at the 104th Grand Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Texas, in December, 1939, was installed as M.’.W.’.Grand Master of Masons in Texas. He is now the Grand Representative of the M.’.W.’.Grand Lodge of Arkansas, near the M.’.W.’.Grand Lodge of Texas.
In the other Rites of Freemasonry Brother Hart has also been active ,and received Chapter Degrees in Gilmer Chapter No. 49, being marked March 25, 1920, passed March 25, 1920, received April 1, 1920, exalted April 1, 1920, and received the Royal and Select Master’s Degrees in Gilmer Council No. 35 by being greeted on April 2, 1920. He was elected Scribe in 1922 and 1923, elected King in 1924, and served as High Priest in 1925, Thrice Illustrious Master Council same year High Priest. On November 19, 1929, he received in Ascension Commandery No. 25, at Tyler, the degrees of Red Cross, Malta and Temple, and at present is a member of Longview Commandery No. 86, having affiliated on February 21, 1938.
He is a Master of the Royal Secret Thirty-second Degree, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Dallas Consistory No. 2, Dallas, Texas, and a member of Karem Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of Waco.
Brother Hart is a member of St. Timothy Conclave, Order Red Cross of Constantine, Fort Worth.
Few men in Texas have been called to the oriental chair who have served longer, more faithfully and who desired to be of real service to their Brethren than the subject of this brief sketch. His activities down through the years throughout this Grand jurisdiction have brought to him not only a large personal acquaintanceship with his Masonic Brethren but a knowledge and keen insight into the problems daily confronting the officers of out many Lodges. During the years that he had served the Grand Lodge, prior to his installation as Grand Master, he was constantly inquiring into and zealously studying the difficulties and needs of Freemasonry in our State, and upon his installation he immediately adopted a slogan, or motto, “Masonry Day by Day,” believing that during the dark and troublesome year of his administration that the Brethren needed such a motto in the Lodges as well as in their daily contacts with their fellowman. In all of his inspirational addresses, he has dwelt upon this subject, pointing out the privilege of being a Master Mason and reminding of the responsibilities that attach to such an honor with the admonition that one must live, practice, speak, and guard his every action by constantly keeping before himself the principles and tenets of Freemasonry, never forgetting to live Masonry day by day. Coupled with this motto, which will take its place in Texas Masonic history and will be remembered down through the years to come, our beloved Grand Master has in a forceful and timely manner not neglected to bring to the more than 47,000 Masons before whom he has been privileged to appear and speak, the great principles underlying true Americanism and Patriotism.
In the Grand Master’s Report to the 105th Grand Annual Communication in December, 1940, he reported a year of activity that has never been surpassed by any preceding Grand Master and it is doubted if such has ever been equalled.
During the year he has attended one hundred sixty-two meetings and one cannot but marvel and, at the same time, admire the sacrifice and service rendered by this distinguished Brother. These visitations as reported by our Grand Master discloses that he has visited every portion of this vast jurisdiction, covering thousands of miles of travel, in all kinds of weather and all kinds of conditions and yet has allowed no letter or written communication addressed to him to be tardy in reply. Brother Leo Hart has served without any thought or desire of reward actuated only by a love for the institution he so sincerely admires and respects, yet-though the uncertainties of the time, conditions of warring Europe, which were manifest during his term, which were apparent on all sides, yet the Grand Jurisdiction of Texas has shown under his leadership the largest net increase in twelve years, an excellent and outstanding financial condition, probably the largest attendance in our subordinate Lodges, a unified and enthusiastic Masonry with complete peace and harmony prevailing throughout this Grand Jurisdiction.
Brother Leo Hart has carried to the Masons of Texas messages of cheer and inspiration, which will be remembered down through the years in this Grand jurisdiction never to be forgotten by those who have been privileged to hear him and make his acquaintance. Brother Hart is known as a man and as a Mason who has taken his Masonic obligations seriously; his life has been of the strictest integrity actuated always by high ideals and he has lived a Christian life. If there has ever been in Texas a Mason who could impress upon our more than 100,000 Brethren the necessity and duty of living “Masonry, Day by Day,” it has been by our Grand Master who has exemplified on every hand in his daily life this motto.
You, Brother Hart, have demonstrated in your life those attributes described in our Ancient Charge which “distinguishes you from the rest of the community and marks your consequence among Masons.” While you retire from the office of Grand Master with the highest esteem and congratulations of your Brother Masons, we know that such a man and Mason as you, that the Masons of Texas will down through the years continue to have your active support, your best counsel and service in all things Masonic, large or small, and, in conclusion, we but voice the sentiments of all by saying, “Well done thou good and faithful Brother.” May the days upon the land which the Lord thy God hath given thee be long, peaceful and happy.