List of Presidents Who Were Masons

President Theodore Roosevelt is among at least 14 American presidents who were Masons.
Hulton Archive

There are at least 14 presidents who were Masons, or Freemasons, according to the secretive fraternal organization and presidential historians. The list of presidents who were Masons includes the likes of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt to Harry S. Truman and Gerald Ford.

Truman was one of two presidents—the other was Andrew Jackson—to achieve the rank of grandmaster, the highest ranking position in a Masonic lodge jurisdiction. Washington, meantime, earned the highest possible position, that of "master," and has a Masonic memorial named after him in Alexandria, Virginia, whose mission is to highlight the contributions of Freemasons to the nation.

American presidents were among many of the nation's most powerful men who were members of the Freemasons. Joining the organization was seen as a rite of passage, even a civic duty, in the 1700s. It also got some presidents into trouble.

Here is a complete list of presidents who were Masons, drawn from the organization's own records as well as the historians who chronicled its importance in American life.

George Washington

Washington, the nation's first president, became a Mason in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1752. He has been quoted as saying, "The object of Freemasonry is to promote the happiness of the human race."

James Monroe

Monroe, the nation's fifth president, was initiated as a Freemason in 1775 before he was even 18 years old. He eventually became a member of the Mason's lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Andrew Jackson

Jackson, the nation's seventh president, was considered a devout Mason who defended the lodge from critics. "Andrew Jackson was loved by the Craft. He was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and presided with masterly ability. He died as a Mason should die. He met the great Masonic foe and fell calmly beneath his silent blows," it was said of Jackson at the installation of a monument on his behalf in Memphis, Tennessee.

James K. Polk

Polk, the 11th president, began as a Mason in 1820 and achieved the rank of junior warden in his jurisdiction in Columbia, Tennessee, and earned the "royal arch" degree. In 1847, he helped in a Masonic ritual of laying a cornerstone at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., according to William L. Boyden. Boyden was a historian who wrote Masonic Presidents, Vice Presidents, and signers of the Declaration of Independence.

James Buchanan

Buchanan, our 15th president and only commander-in-chief to be a bachelor in the White House, joined the Masons in 1817 and achieved the rank of district deputy grand master in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Johnson

Johnson, the 17th president of the United States, was a loyal Mason. According to Boyden, "At the cornerstone laying of the Baltimore Temple some one suggested that a chair be brought to the reviewing platform for him. Brother Johnson refused it, saying: 'We all meet on the level.'"

James A. Garfield

Garfield, the nation's 20th president, was made a Mason in 1861in Columbus, Ohio.

William McKinley

McKinley, the nation's 25th president, was made a Mason in 1865 in Winchester, Virginia. Todd E. Creason, founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog, wrote this about the understated McKinley:

He was trusted. He listened much more than he spoke. He was willing to admit when he was wrong. But McKinley’s greatest character trait was his honesty and integrity. He twice turned down the nomination for President because he felt each time that the Republican Party had violated its own rules in nominating him. He squashed the nomination both times-something a politician today would probably view as an unthinkable act. William McKinley is a very good example of what a true and upright Mason should be.

Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt, the 26th president, was made a Freemason in New York in 1901. He was known for his virtue and refusal to use his status as a Mason for political gain. Wrote Roosevelt:

If you are a mason you will of course understand that it is expressly forbidden in masonry to attempt to use the order in any way for anyone’s political advantage, and it must not be done. I should emphatically object to any effort so to use it.

William Howard Taft

Taft, the 27th president, was made a Mason in 1909, just before becoming president. He was made a Mason "at sight" by the grand master of Ohio, meaning he did not have to earn his acceptance into the lodge like most others do.

Warren G. Harding

Harding, the 29th president, first sought acceptance into the Masonic brotherhood in 1901 but was initially "blackballed." He was eventually accepted and held no grudges, wrote John R. Tester of Vermont. "While president, Harding took every opportunity to speak for Masonry and attend Lodge meetings when he could," he wrote.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Roosevelt, the 32nd president, was a 32nd Degree Mason.

Harry S. Truman

Truman, the 33rd president, was grand master and 33rd degree Mason.

Gerald R. Ford

Ford, the 38th president, is the most recent to have been a Mason. He began with the fraternity in 1949. No president since Ford has been a Freemason.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Murse, Tom. "List of Presidents Who Were Masons." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Murse, Tom. (2023, April 5). List of Presidents Who Were Masons. Retrieved from Murse, Tom. "List of Presidents Who Were Masons." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).