JTMAT: This is John T. Mathews. Today I am interviewing Past Master Willie Lawson. He is the visionary who set the stage for regular visitations between members of Russell S. Gideon Lodge #78 under the Jurisdiction of Prince Hall Freemasonry in Washington State, USA and members of The United Engineers' Lodge #3862, under the Jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England.
JTMAT: Sir, who are you and what degrees do you hold.
PM Lawson: Hello, my name is Willie Lawson. I am a Past Master of Russell S. Gideon Lodge #78. A member of W.E.B Dubois consistory #116 as well as Shrine Temple #191 in Mildenhall, UK.
JTMAT: From what I understand you were the WM of Russell S. Gideon Lodge #78?
PM Lawson: Yes. I was the WM from the 97 to 98.
JTMAT: What did you get accomplished during that year?
PM Lawson: As well as various fundraisers, my senior warden started a web page, and many other accomplishments. One of our best accomplishments was our Lodge visitation to the Grand Lodge of England, which was the first Lodge visitation by Prince Hall Masons, during a regular communication.
JTMAT: Okay, specifically, on the Grand Lodge visitation. How did you get the idea of visiting the Grand Lodge of England?
PM Lawson: Well, when I became WM of Russell S. Gideon, I wanted to do something that would make us stand out and make people remember us always. So I figured visiting the Grand Lodge would be the perfect thing to do because it had not been done.
JTMAT: You decided this while you were WM or before you were WM -- what was the time line?
PM Lawson: Well, basically while I was WM. I wanted to do something to make us stand out and make us special in Prince Hall Freemasonry.
JTMAT: Whom did you contact in order to do that?
PM Lawson: By the grace of God I happen to contact a member of the Grand Lodge. On day while at work I happened to run into Eddie Edhouse. We discussed it and everything and had a long discussion about it. Back and forth I was communicating with him about it for about two months. Trying to get everything together and trying to verify everything.
JTMAT: When did you contact Brother Edhouse?
PM Lawson: I contact Mr. Edhouse in Feb of 98. He is a part of Engineers lodge. He was the Senior Deacon then.
JTMAT: Do you know whom Brother Edhouse contact or did you contact someone else besides brother Edhouse?
PM Lawson: Yes, he contacted the secretary. The secretary contacted me one day and we spoke on the phone. He wanted to make sure that we all had our dues cards to make sure that we would be able to visit the Grand Lodge.
JTMAT: How did you feel when you first walked up to the Grand Lodge?
PM Lawson: To be honest when I first walked up I was nervous. But Brother Edhouse met me along with the brothers of my lodge and the brothers of our sister lodge, Pride of Great Britain. Brother Edhouse took us to the room to change. After we got in and got dressed all the brothers there treated us with nothing but respect. They made us feel welcome.
JTMAT: How was the visitation different from your regular lodge meeting?
PM Lawson: There were numerous things that were different but we did understand everything that went on because we do the same things. I cannot get into detail about the lodge meeting it self for self-explaining reasons that Master Masons should understand.
JTMAT: How would you describe the Grand lodge of England?
PM Lawson: It is Glorious. It has a number of lodges inside the Grand Lodge. We were not able to see all of them. It had a Masonic Library, paintings. They have tours there as well; I would suggest anyone visiting London to take a tour of the Grand Lodge of England. You do not have to be a Master Mason to go on a tour.
JTMAT: Do you think it is important for Prince Hall Masons to fellowship with our other companions around the world?
PM Lawson: I think it is very important. Considering we are all suppose to be brothers I think is just a way for us to united to cause harmony in this world.
JTMAT: After your initial visit with the Grand Lodge of England, what happened? Did you keep in contact with the Grand Lodge?
PM Lawson: A lot happened. The Senior Deacon Eddie Edhouse as well as other brothers from the Engineers Lodge visited our lodge as well. They kept in touch. UnfortunatelyI was leaving the country a short time after my visitation, but they are honorary member in Russell S. Gideon.
JTMAT: In the year of 98 to 99 members of The United Engineers' Lodge #3862 have became honorary members of Russell S. Gideon Lodge #78?
PM Lawson: Yes. Worshipful Brother Brian Gilbertson - Senior London Grand Rank, Worshipful Brother Keith Purcell - Provincial Grand Lodge Officer, Worshipful Brother Peter Haining , Worshipful Brother Victor Bishop, and Brother Edward Edhouse.
JTMAT: Did anyone from your Grand Lodge visit the United Grand Lodge of England as a direct result of you taking the initiative and going forth to initiate the visitation between Russell S. Gideon?
PM Lawson: Well, from me getting that contact in with the Grand Lodge my District Deputy Morgan, of District #9 as well as Most Worshipful Grand Master Rubottom, came over to vist with the Grand Lodge of England.
JTMAT: Since your initial contacts both your District deputy and your Grand master has been over to visit the Grand Lodge of England?
PM Lawson: Yes.
JTMAT: Sir, I'm sure you have other duties to attend to at this time.
PM Lawson: Yes, I do.
JTMAT: Thank you for allowing this interview.