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I heartily congratulate Shades Valley Lodge #829 in Birmingham, Alabama, for on May 5th, 2016, they took a step that I wish Tennessee Masons could or would take.

On that day, they raised Brother Ronald King to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. While they have been integrated for some time, Brother King is the first Black man to go through the degrees in an Alabama Lodge.

During my year as Master of my Lodge, I tried several times to integrate a Lodge that was recognized throughout Tennessee as one of the best Lodges in the state. In 2014, when our Grand Master was from another Memphis Lodge, when he toured the state, he didn't talk about his lodge, he talked about Bartlett #211 as the standard all Lodges should strive for. We could perform all the degrees without the help of visitors (although all parts were offered to visitors first) and we had more Pins of Excellence than any other Lodge in the state. However, each time a Black man visited us, a cold shoulder was given to him.

As Masons, we are taught to judge a man by his internal qualifications (honor, integrity and character) rather than the external (riches, appearance or skin color). To see men denied solely because of their skin color has always upset me. I am glad to see this advancement in Masonry.