Brother Rogers Kelley was born at Henrietta, Clay County, Texas, on December 11, 1902, the son of Luther A. Kelley and Ethel R. Kelley. His father, Luther A. Kelley, was born in Saline County, Missouri, near the town of Cambridge, moving to Clay County, Texas, with his father in 1890, and was one of the pioneer merchants of Henrietta, residing there until 1925, when he moved to Mercedes in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where he still resides.
Ethel R. Goodenough (Kelley) was born in Litchfield, Montgomery County, Illinois, and moved to Galveston, Texas, in 1894, and from there to Henrietta in 1895, where she met the Grand Master’s father and married him in 1901. Her father, A. D. Goodenough, was one of the pioneer settlers and residents of Henrietta, Texas.
Brother Kelley attended the public schools at Henrietta, Texas, through the tenth grade and in September, 1918, entered St. John’s Military Academy at Delafield, Wisconsin, graduating therefrom in June, 1920. In September, 1920, he entered the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, remaining there for one school year, taking pre-law work. In January, 1923, he entered the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he completed one school year of pre-law work and three school years of study in the law school. He graduated and received an LL.B. degree in June, 1926. Shortly thereafter he commenced the active practice of his chosen profession at Edinburg, Hidalgo County (in the Magic Valley), Texas.
In May, 1927, Brother Kelley was appointed Assistant District Attorney of Hidalgo County, serving in that capacity until January 1, 1931. In 1934 he was elected to the combined offices of County and District Attorney of Hidalgo County, known and designated as the office of Criminal District Attorney.
Brother Kelley was elected in 1938 to the important office of State Senator from the large 27th Senatorial District of Texas and was re-elected in 1942.
Brother Kelley’s well-known law firm was composed of himself, judge J. C. Looney and Judge J. R. Norvell, which firm is still engaged in the practice of law at Edinburg under the name of Kelley & Looney.
On May 17, 1931, Brother Kelley married Miss Lorene Morrow of Mercedes, Texas, and they have maintained their home at Edinburg, Texas, and are both devout members of the Episcopal Church.
Few men of the age of our Brother have more distinguished themselves in the history of Texas before the courts and in the legislative halls than our distinguished Brother and Past Grand Master. He has appeared as counsel in many important and far-reaching causes in Texas and as State Senator has served on most of the important committees of the Senate and his courage, leadership and oratorical ability are well known and respected in the Lone Star State.
In February, 1927, he petitioned Hidalgo Lodge No. 1036 and was raised on April 20, 1927, and served as Worshipful Master in 1932. He served as District Deputy Grand Master of the 40th Masonic District in 1934 and received his first committee appointment in the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1933 and 1934, serving on the By-Laws Committee. He thereafter was given a five-year appointment on the Committee on Masonic Education and Service, serving from 1935 to 1938, and was at the conclusion of his year as Grand Master reappointed to this committee for a term of seven years.
In 1940 Brother Kelley was elected Right Worshipful Grand Junior Warden and each year thereafter was advanced and was installed as Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas in December, 1942, and served until December, 1943.
In the Royal Arch he holds membership in Hidalgo Chapter No. 434 at Edinburg, was marked in January, 1928, passed January, 1928, received February, 1928, and exalted in February, 1928, and greeted in the Council of Royal and Select Masters, Hidalgo No. 353, in March, 1928.
Brother Kelley holds membership in Hidalgo Commandery No. 94.
He is a member of the San Antonio Consistory, A. & A. S. R. of F. M., a member of Alzafar Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of San Antonio, and a member of St. Timothy’s Conclave, Red Cross of Constantine, at Fort Worth, Texas.
Almost immediately after the attack upon this nation by Japan, Brother Kelley, though by virtue of his position as a State Senator was deferred from Selective Service, offered his services to the United States Government in whatever capacity he might be of the most benefit. He was accepted and commissioned in the Intelligence Division of the Army Air Forces and during his service has graduated from the Army Air School at Miami, Florida, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. During his entire year as Grand Master Brother Kelley was in the uniform of the armed forces of our nation. Brother Kelley by his unselfish and patriotic service has added another glorious and imperishable page to the unsurpassed and romantic history of our Grand Lodge. He holds the unique position in Texas of being the only Grand Master who has served as such and at the same time been a member of the armed forces of our nation.
The Masons of Texas have marveled at the service Brother Kelley rendered to the Masons of Texas during the some seven months that he was stationed in Texas while Grand Master. During this period of time he carried on an exceedingly large and laborious correspondence, talked to many officers of our Lodges over the telephone and made several visitations throughout the State, again demonstrating by his actions his love and devotion to the Ancient Craft.
There is nothing that we can add to the eloquent and stirring conclusion of the report of our distinguished Committee on Grand Officers’ Reports, which we take the liberty of quoting:
“Most Worshipful Grand Master (Rogers Kelley), your Committee believes that this Grand Lodge, speaking for 112,000 good and true Master Masons in this Grand jurisdiction, will accept your stirring challenge and unite with you in the petitions that you have so eloquently enjoined . Surely, while our sons and brothers are fighting and dying for freedom, Texas Masons will join our Grand Master, who wears the uniform of our country, and supplicate divine grace and divine intervention on civilization’s `darkest night.’ The Grand Master’s final sentence of benediction implored for the Craft `that peace which surpasseth all human understanding.’ Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brother Rogers Kelley, your Committee on Grand Officers’ Reports congratulates you on the outstanding service which, notwithstanding many handicaps, you have performed. This Grand Lodge knows, and Texas Masons believe, that you will step down into the ranks and continue to do with your might what your hands find to do. We welcome you into the ranks of Past Grand Masters with the assurance of our affectionate esteem and good will and that you will always remain enshrined in the hearts of the Masons of Texas, whom you have served with such fidelity and distinction.”
Following this beautiful tribute and upon motion of the Chairman of the Committee, this report was adopted by the Grand Lodge as a whole by a rising vote in honor and in tribute to Brother Rogers Kelley, our then Grand Master, who was unable to be at Grand Lodge by reason of his military duties.
Surely no Grand Master was or is entitled to a greater tribute than you, our beloved Past Grand Master, Rogers Kelley.