Prince Hall Grand Chapter
Holy Royal Arch Masons
Jerome Brooks, M.E.G.H.P.
Most Excellent Prince Hall Grand Chapter Holy Royal Arch Masons
Billy J. Powell started a conversation with the hopes of discovering the date the Grand Chapter was established. He believes that Knights Templar started around 1947 or 48 and that the Royal Arch should have been 1942 or 43.
The first Grand High Priest was Dr. C. C. Johnson. Robert White (the brother of J.C. White) led the Grand Chapter for a time, presiding over meetings, etc. but for some reason refused to allow the membership to elect him as Grand High Priest. Clemon H. Richardson was elected in 1965 and for the next 16 years concentrated and expanded Royal Arch Masonry in South Carolina. He served from 1965 - 1981.
During the early years, the Royal Arch, Knights Templar and Grand Lodge had a very close and personal relationship with many persons serving in all three orders. Many of the first officers were independent contractors, college professors, large farmers and property owners. They supported the Grand Chapter with there own financial resources. Gowns and other chapter furnishings were obtained. Unfortunately, most items were lost because of inadequate storage.
The Past Grand High Priest of South Carolina are:
Dr. C. C. Johnson, Sr., Aiken, SC*
Rev. T. A. McFall, Charleston SC*
J. S. Stanback, Chester, SC*
G. W. Long, Cheraw, SC*
S. J. Poinsette, Charleston, SC*
J. C. White, Chester, SC*
Clemon H. Richardson, Charleston, SC*
Odell Williams, Port Royal, SC*
Robert L. Nix, Ridgeville, SC
Billy J. Powell, Sharon, SC
Silas J. Williams, Charleston, SC
James A. L. Myers, Columbia, SC
David Wells, Alcolu, SC
William “Bill” Hendrix, Greenville, SC*
Dr. Polycarp K. Gadebegku, Kingstree, SC*
James V. Blake, Jr., Columbia, SC
Samuel L. Davis, Florence, SC
Rev. Andrew Graham, Jr., Columbia, SC
The first meetings were held at the Grand Lodge on Washington Street. They met there for some time, Comp. Powell remembers meeting there during his early years and the building was falling apart at that time.
South Carolina hosted the General Grand Conference in Charleston somewhere in the 1970’s. Companion Powell remembers driving to Charleston with several state officers with him.
Companion Clemon H. Richardson traveled the state for 16 years building Holy Royal Arch Masonry and the Heroines of Jericho. He was responsible for the growth of Royal Arch Masonry in the Palmetto State. He also continued to support the organization and became the first General Conference Grand High Priest of the US and Bahamas from South Carolina.
In 1981, Companion Odell Williams succeeded Clemon Richardson as Grand High Priest and served until 1984. Robert L. Nix succeeded Companion Odell Williams. Under the leadership, of Grand High Priest Nix, 1984 – 1986, the Grand Chapter adopted the tenure of 4 years for the office of Grand High Priest.
Companion Billy J. Powell served as Grand High Priest and Grand Eminent Commander of Knights Templar from 1986 – 1989. Under his leadership, the Grand Chapter adopted the practice of meeting with the Heroines of Jericho in April. We also began to meet for two days, Friday and Saturday.
Silas J. Williams served as Grand High Priest from 1989 – 1993. Companion Williams reestablished the Order of High Priesthood which began to meet on Thursday night. He was also responsible for obtaining the official Banners.
James A. L. Myers succeeded Grand High Priest Williams in 1993. He served until 1997 and in 1994, South Carolina hosted the General Conference on Grand Chapters Holy Royal Arch Masons and Grand Courts Heroines of Jericho in Greenville, SC. He regaled the Grand Chapters Officers in robes, started the Order of High Priest Grand Session in April. He, along with the help of Past Grand High Priest Silas J. Williams, created the Benevolence Fund. He went on to serve, as the second person from South Carolina as General Conference Grand High Priest, 2001 – 2004.
Companion David Wells was elected Grand High Priest in 1997 and served until 2001. He represented the Grand Chapter and was the pioneer in getting other jurisdictions to visit the state. He also served as Deputy of the Southern Alliance for the General Conference.
Companion Wells was succeeded by the late William “Bill” Hendrix. Companion Hendrix served from 2001 – 2003 and was succeeded by Polycarp K. Gadebegku, MD. Dr G, as he was known, served as the Medical Director for the General Conference. He won the King Contest of the General Conference in 2007 at Charlotte, NC.
Companion James V. Blake, Jr. succeeded Dr. Gadebegku and continued to promote Holy Royal Arch Masonry in South Carolina. After having the convention in difference cities throughout the state, he centralized the annual convocation along with the Heroines of Jericho to meet in Columbia. He began the health screening of the convention’s attendees. Companion Blake was the third companion from South Carolina to serve as General Conference Grand High Priest 2017 – 2019.
Samuel Davis led the Grand Chapter from 2012 -2015. Grand High Priest Davis arranged for Palmetto Grand Commandery Knights Templar and Palmetto Grand Guild, Heroines Templar Crusaders to join the Holy Royal Arch Masons and Heroines of Jericho to meet at the same times, thereby forming the York Rite Convention weekends. He also was instrumental in the formation of the York Rite of South Carolina Foundation.
Rev. Andrew Graham, Jr. followed Grand High Priest Davis and served 2016 – 2019. Under his leadership, the General Conference Grand Chapters Holy Royal Arch Masons and Heroines of Jericho returned to South Carolina. During his tenure, he was appointed General Conference Grand Chaplain.