HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE COMMANDERS OF THE RITE IN MARYLAND
The originator and creator of the Commanders of the Rite (C.O.T.R.) was the late Illustrious John (Jno) Gideon Lewis, Jr., 33˚, Sovereign Grand Commander (S.G.C.) of the United Supreme Council, 33˚, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (A.A.S.R.), Southern Jurisdiction, Prince Hall Affiliation, United States of America. It was during the 1969 Annual Session of the United Supreme Council held in New Orleans, Louisiana that S.G.C. Lewis announced authorization for the formulation of such a unit in the various Orients of the Southern Jurisdiction. As part of his vision, S.G.C. Lewis stressed that the C.O.T.R. is not meant to be a masonic degree but, only persons holding the rank of Active or Honorary thirty-third degree could affiliate with it. Membership is voluntary, not compulsive. The organization is not meant to displace the Consistories or the Councils of Deliberation. It was S.G.C. Lewis’ intentions that these brethren would not only involve themselves in actively serving to promote the Scottish Rite but also to delve into all masonic history.
The thirty-third degree masons in Maryland began work immediately and concluded their efforts with the organization of the “Commanders of the Rite in Maryland.” This endeavor was guided by the late S.G.I.G. John H. Jones, Jr., Deputy for the United Supreme Council, Orient of Maryland. It was by his recommendation that the unit was approved and sanctioned by the late Most Worshipful Grand Master (S.G.I.G.) Samuel T. Daniels, 33˚ and S.G.C. Lewis in May of 1970. The first president was Illustrious Leon D. Holsey, 33˚. The organization slowly prospered until 1975 when, for cause, Grand Master Samuel T. Daniels suspended its operation. The suspension lasted until 1992 when S.G.I.G. Shelton D. Redden who was then Deputy for the Orient of Maryland and now our Most Worshipful Grand Master, received permission from Grand Master Daniels to reestablish the unit.
By design, the object and purpose of the C.O.T.R. as declared by S.G.I.G. Redden, are to provide a forum for the enlightenment and development of the Illustrious Grand Inspectors General through lectures, workshops and research assignments. It prepares and stimulates them for greater usefulness in the causes of human freedom and dignity of individuals. It promotes programs and activities that enhance the image of Prince Hall and Scottish Rite masonry within our communities. The peculiar duties of their mission is to teach and enlighten the brothers; to preserve charity, union, and fraternal love among them; to maintain regularity in the work of each degree; to take care that it is preserved by others; to cause the dogma, doctrines, institutes and regulations of the order to be reverently regarded, preserved, defended and enriched on every occasion; and finally, everywhere, to occupy themselves in the work of peace and mercy.
During a regular meeting on June 26, 1993, the membership voted unanimously to rename the organization “William Arthur Jones Commanders of the Rite, 33˚.” This action was taken to honor the late G.I.G. William A. Jones for his faithful, dedicated and outstanding service to masonry.
Today, the works of the unit are directly under the direction of Illustrious Garnett Hall, Deputy for the United Supreme Council in Maryland. Down through the years G.I.G. Bernard Smith, G.I.G. Edward V. DeShields, Sr. , G.I.G. Charles S. Baxtrom, G.I.G. William P. Thomas, G.I.G. Frank Daley, G.I.G. C.A. Turner and G.I.G Emanuel J. Stanley have served as president.