The General Grand Encampment of Knights Templar
U.S.A. and All Dependencies
General Grand Encampment History
The General Grand Encampment of Knights Templar was originated in the early years of the United Supreme Council and for many years was headed by the late John G. Jones, at various conclaves. From the tenure of Dr. B.H. Stillyard, who was a titular leader, to C.L. Mitchell, who served as the Sovereign Grand Commander and Most Eminent Grand Commander.
At the beginning of Mitchell’s administration, Ill. G.C. Williams was elected head of the General Commandery where he remained in office until July 1926 in Detroit.
In 1926, Ill. Nelson N. Boozer of Texas was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master.
There is limited documentation from 1926 to 1952
In 1952, Sir Knight John H. Miller of Detroit, Michigan was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master, where he served until 1958.
At the Conclave in Brooklyn, New York in 1958, Sir Knight Earl G. Brown of Chicago, Illinois was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master until 1966.
In 1966, Sir Knight Edwin Stirrup of New York was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master until 1984.
In 1984, Sir Knight Frank White of Indiana was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master until 1988.
In 1988 in Detroit, Michigan, Sir Knight Julius Griffin was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master until his death in May 2004.
Sir Knight McKenzie Campbell of Chicago, Illinois served until the 2004 Conclave in Los Angeles, California.
In 2004, Sir Knight Wilfred W. Heyward of Danville, Virginia was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master at the 2004 Conclave in Los Angeles, California until his death in May 2008.
Sir Knight Anthony R. Pugh of Chicago, Illinois served until the 2008 Conclave in Chicago, Illinois.
In 2008, Sir Knight Anthony R. Pugh was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master in Chicago, Illinois.
In 2015 Sir Knight Kirk Washington of New York was elected Supreme Most Eminent Grand Master in Atlanta Georgia.
The Knights Templar was a large organization of devout Christians during the medieval era who carried out an important mission: to protect European travelers visiting sites in the Holy Land while also carrying out military operations. A wealthy, powerful and mysterious order that has fascinated historians and the public for centuries, tales of the Knights Templar, their financial acumen, their military prowess and their work on behalf of Christianity during the Crusades still circulate throughout modern culture.
Who Were the Knights Templar?
After Christian armies in 1099 captured Jerusalem from Muslim control during the Crusades, groups of pilgrims from across Western Europe started visiting the Holy Land. Many of them, however, were robbed and killed as they crossed through Muslim-controlled territories during their journey.
Around 1118, a French knight named Hugues de Payens created a military order along with eight relatives and acquaintances, calling it the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon – later known simply as the Knights Templar. With the support of Baldwin II, the ruler of Jerusalem, they set up headquarters on that city’s sacred Temple Mount – from which they took their name – and pledged to protect Christian visitors to Jerusalem.
The Pope’s Endorsement
Initially, the Knights Templar faced criticism from some religious leaders. But in 1129, the group received the formal endorsement of the Catholic Church and support from Bernard of Clairvaux, a prominent French abbot. Bernard authored In Praise of the New Knighthood, a text that supported the Knights Templar and bolstered their growth. In 1139, Pope Innocent II issued a Papal Bull that allowed the Knights Templar special rights. Among them, the Templars were exempt from paying taxes, permitted to build their own oratories, and held to no one’s authority, except the Pope’s.
The Knights Templars at Work
The Knights Templar set up a prosperous network of banks and gained enormous financial influence. Their banking system allowed religious pilgrims to deposit assets in their home countries and withdraw funds in the Holy Land. The order became known for its austere code of conduct and signature style of dress, which featured a white habit emblazoned with a simple red cross.
Members swore an oath of poverty, chastity and obedience. They weren’t allowed to drink, gamble or swear. Prayer was essential to their daily life, and the Templars expressed particular adoration for the Virgin Mary. As the Knights Templar grew in size and status, it established new chapters throughout Western Europe.
At the height of their influence, the Templars boasted a sizable fleet of ships, owned the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, and served as a primary bank and lending institution to European monarchs and nobles.
Expanded Duties of the Knights
Though its original purpose was to protect pilgrims from danger, the Knights Templar progressively expanded its duties. They became defenders of the Crusader states in the Holy Land and were known as brave, highly skilled warriors.
The group developed a reputation as fierce fighters during the Crusades, driven by religious fervor and forbidden from retreating unless significantly outnumbered.
The Templars built numerous castles and fought – and often won – battles against Islamic armies. Their fearless style of fighting became a model for other military orders.
Islamic Templar history
The Templars were also shrewd tacticians, following the dream of Saint Bernard who had declared that a small force, under the right conditions, could defeat a much larger enemy. One of the key battles in which this was demonstrated was in 1177, at the Battle of Mongiardo. The famous Muslim military leader Saladin was attempting to push toward Jerusalem from the south, with a force of 26,000 soldiers. He had pinned the forces of Jerusalem’s King Baldwin IV, about 500 knights and their supporters, near the coast, at Ascalon. Eighty Templar knights and their own entourage attempted to reinforce. They met Saladin’s troops at Gaza but were considered too small a force to be worth fighting, so Saladin turned his back on them and headed with his army towards Jerusalem.
Once Saladin and his army had moved on, the Templars were able to join King Baldwin’s forces, and together they proceeded north along the coast. Saladin had made a key mistake at that point – instead of keeping his forces together, he permitted his army to temporarily spread out and pillage various villages on their way to Jerusalem. The Templars took advantage of this low state of readiness to launch a surprise ambush directly against Saladin and his bodyguard, at Mongiardo near Ramla. Saladin’s army was spread too thin to adequately defend themselves, and he and his forces were forced to fight a losing battle as they retreated back to the south, ending up with only a tenth of their original number. The battle was not the final one with Saladin, but it bought a year of peace for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the victory became a heroic legend.
Another key tactic of the Templars was that of the “squadron charge”. A small group of knights and their heavily armed warhorses would gather into a tight unit which would gallop full speed at the enemy lines, with a determination and force of will that made it clear that they would rather commit suicide than fall back. This terrifying onslaught would frequently have the desired result of breaking a hole in the enemy lines, thereby giving the other Crusader forces an advantage.
The Templars, though relatively small in number, routinely joined other armies in key battles. They would be the force that would ram through the enemy’s front lines at the beginning of a battle, or the fighters that would protect the army from the rear. They fought alongside King Louis VII of France, and King Richard I of England. In addition to battles in Palestine, members of the Order also fought in the Spanish and Portuguese Reconquista.
The Fall of the Knights Templar
In the late 12th century, Muslim armies retook Jerusalem and turned the tide of the Crusades, forcing the Knights Templar to relocate several times. The Fall of Acre in 1291 marked the destruction of the last remaining Crusader refuge in the Holy Land.
European support of the military campaigns in the Holy Land began to erode over the decades that followed. Additionally, many secular and religious leaders became increasingly critical of the Templar’s’ wealth and power.
By 1303, the Knights Templar lost its foothold in the Muslim world and established a base of operations in Paris. There, King Philip IV of France resolved to bring down the order, perhaps because the Templar’s had denied the indebted ruler additional loans.
Arrests and Executions
On Friday, October 13, 1307, scores of French Templar’s were arrested, including the order’s grand master Jacques de Molay.
Many of the knights were brutally tortured until they confessed to false charges, which included heresy, homosexuality, financial corruption, devil worshipping, fraud, spitting on the cross and more.
A few years later, dozens of Templar’s were burned at the stake in Paris for their confessions. De Molay was executed in 1314. Under pressure from King Philip, Pope Clement V reluctantly dissolved the Knights Templar in 1312. The group’s property and monetary assets were given to a rival order, the Knights Hospitallers. However, it’s thought that King Philip and King Edward II of England seized most of the Knights Templar’s wealth.
The Knights Templar Today
The Catholic Church has acknowledged that the persecution of the Knights Templar was unjustified. The church claims that Pope Clement was pressured by secular rulers to destroy the order. While most historians agree that the Knights Templar fully disbanded 700 years ago, there are some people who believe the order went underground and remains in existence in some form to this day. In the 18th century, some groups, most notably the Freemasons, revived several of the medieval knights’ symbols, rituals and traditions.
Currently, there are several international organizations styled after the Knights Templar that the public can join. These groups have representatives around the world and aim to uphold the values and traditions of the original medieval order. Throughout the years, various tales have surfaced about the knights’ mysterious work. More recently, stories about the legendary Templars have found their way into popular books and movies.
Some historians have claimed that the Knights Templar may have secretly guarded the Shroud of Turin (a linen cloth believed to be placed on Jesus Christ’s body before burial) for hundreds of years after the Crusades ended. Another widespread belief is that the knights discovered and kept religious artifacts and relics, such as the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant and parts of the cross from Christ’s crucifixion.
Various other ideas and myths exist about the Knights Templar’s secret operations. The popular novel and film The Da Vinci Code presents a theory that the Templars were involved in a conspiracy to preserve the bloodline of Jesus Christ. Although much of these speculations are considered fictional, there’s no question that the Knights Templar have provoked intrigue and fascination and will likely continue to do so for years to come.
The Crusades and the Knights Templar
The Knights Templar were the elite fighting force of their day, highly trained, well-equipped and highly motivated; one of the tenets of their religious order was that they were forbidden from retreating in battle, unless outnumbered three to one, and even then only by order of their commander, or if the Templar flag went down. Not all Knights Templar were warriors. The mission of most of the members was one of support – to acquire resources which could be used to fund and equip the small percentage of members who were fighting on the front lines. There were actually three classes within the orders. The highest class was the knight. When a candidate was sworn into the order, they made the knight a monk. They wore white robes. The knights could hold no property and receive no private letters. He could not be married or betrothed and cannot have any vow in any other Order. He could not have debt more than he could pay, and no infirmities. The Templar priest class was similar to the modern day military chaplain. Wearing green robes, they conducted religious services, led prayers, and were assigned record keeping and letter writing. They always wore gloves, unless they were giving Holy Communion. The mounted men-at-arms represented the most common class, and they were called “brothers”. They were usually assigned two horses each and held many positions, including guard, steward, squire or other support vocations. As the main support staff, they wore black or brown robes and were partially garbed in chain mail or plate mail. The armor was not as complete as the knights. Because of this infrastructure, the warriors were well-trained and very well armed. Even their horses were trained to fight in combat, fully armored. The combination of soldier and monk was also a powerful one, as to the Templar knights, martyrdom in battle was one of the most glorious ways to die.
The state Honor Guard has several functions and in this jurisdiction additional security for the Grand Master/Grand Matron. Generally the honor guard will preside over Fallen Knights funerals, Crowd control at all masonic funerals, procession for Grand Master/Grand Matron entry and exits to/from official events, Installation of grand officers, etc.
Outlined below, in this jurisdiction, the Honor Guard provides additional security at grand sessions for the Grand Master/Grand Matron.