Third Degree

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First known African American Vigil Honor

On October 24th and 25th, 1936 the Owasippe Lodge held a Fellowship Conference. The conference is remarkable for two things. The first was that Owasippe invited other lodges to attend their fellowship. Ay-Ashe Lodge from Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Tomkita Chara Lodge from Wausau, Wisconsin attended. Later, after National Chief Joseph Brinton read of the Fellowship Conference he was eager to share the concept of multi-lodge events in the National Bulletin.

The second noteworthy event of the Fellowship weekend was Emerson James was elected and kept his Vigil the night of October 24 through the morning of October 25th. In so keeping, Emerson James became the earliest known and presumptively the first African American Vigil Honor member.

Emerson James

Emerson James was presumptively the first African American Vigil Honor member. He was from Woodlawn, located on the South Side of the City of Chicago.

Change in Vigil Honor Totem

At the 1931 Grand Lodge Meeting the delegates unanimously passed a motion to change the Third Degree (Vigil Honor) symbol from a triangle to an arrowhead with arrow superimposed on it, upon which was placed the totem of the local lodge. There is no evidence that the new Vigil Honor totem was ever used or produced and this action was reversed at the next Grand Lodge Meeting in 1933. Nine years later this design concept became the basis of the design of the Distinguished Service Award.

First Vigil Honor Sash

The only known photograph of the original sash for Third Degree (Vigil Honor) members is from the rededication council fire at Camp Biddle during the 1921 first meeting of the Grand Lodge. The photo shows the three part “bib” type sash around both E. Urner Goodman’s and Carroll A. Edson’s necks. One side of the triangle had an arrow pointing over the right shoulder signifying the First Degree. One side of the triangle had an arrow pointing over the left shoulder signifying the Second Degree. The third side of the triangle had an arrow pointing to Goodman’s left as he wore it. The third arrow and side completed the triangle, which was the sign of the Third Degree. There are no other known pictures showing this bib; nor are there any known bib type sashes in collections or displays. There is also no evidence that anyone other than Goodman and Edson ever wore this sash.

First Modern Vigil Honor Ceremony

According to Edson, he recalled returning to Treasure Island at the end of camp in 1916 where he and Goodman wrote the ritual for the Second Degree (then equivalent to Vigil Honor). Edson further recalled that Goodman was put through that ritual. It is presumed that this is the ceremony that Edson experienced when he kept his vigil.

There is no known copy of this ritual. Presumably the Second Degree ceremony was evolving just like both parts of the First Degree ceremonies were evolving.

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