The Harold Ford. Jr./Bob Corker race for the open Tennessee senate seat has put the spotlight of race on Tennessee. Two unrelated stories this week illuminate how old folks and young folks deal with racial issues.
Most every Tennessee town of decent size has a Masonic Hall. Often these are historic structures–when Franklin’s was built in 1832, it was the tallest building in the state. Dolly Parton was photographed in the Grand Lodge in Nashville for the latest issue of Vanity Fair. A widely reported story, however, shows that blacks and whites remain segregated in the South when it comes to Masonic organizations.
Grand Lodges are for whites, while Prince Hall Lodges are for blacks. Prince Hall, a black man, was admitted to the Masons in 1775, and Black masonry is named for him. While 37 state Masonic organizations grant mutual recognition to each other, the remaining organizations, all in the South plus West Virginia, do not.
It is sad to see such segregation still in place. From what I have seen of the Masons, whose average age seems to be 80, they need every member they can get, of any race.
A far more encouraging story comes from historically black Tennessee State University in Nashville, which this week named Stephen Morrison, a white student, as “Mr. TSU.” Morrison, the first white student to receive the title in the 16-year history of the competition, will go on to compete for the “Mr. HBCU“–Mr. Historically Black Colleges and University.
He probably will not give much thought to joining the Masons.
Visitors to Tennessee are sometimes surprised to see funeral processions–a hearse, vehicles bearing flowers, and a long line of mourners in cars and trucks–drive slowly through intersections, no matter whether the light is red or green, with a police escort front and rear.
This old time Southern practice is declining as cities get larger and police departments have more pressing duties. In small towns, however, the funeral procession lingers, and local motorists will to the side of the road while the caravan passes.
One high school lad in Rogersville bought a used hearse, and every day after school he and his buddies would stage a mock funeral procession, with locals dutifully pulling over, until authorities noticed that these particular processions always began at the school and ended at a local eatery.