Top Five Masonic Presidents: William McKinley

Continuing our list of our Top Five Masonic Presidents, is the twenty-fifth man to sit in the Oval Office: Bro. William McKinley! Born in 1843 in Niles, Ohio, Bro. McKinley was the son of William and Nancy McKinley. William McKinley, Sr. operated iron foundries throughout the state of Ohio in Canton, Poland, Niles, and New Lisbon. In 1852, the McKinley family moved to Poland, Ohio where McKinley graduated in 1859. Following his schooling, Bro. McKinley enrolled in Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he studied for a year before returning home. He also studied at Mount Union College in Ohio, however he did not receive a degree from either institution.
Bro. McKinley’s Military career began in 1861 when he enlisted in the Poland Guards. The beginning of his time in the military was tumultuous, with disagreements with superior officers and issues within the unit based on uniforms and weapons. His time in the military is where he received his first exposure to Freemasonry. During the Civil War, while protecting and managing an Army Hospital in Winchester, VA, Bro. McKinley was astounded by the interaction he saw between a Union Surgeon and Confederate prisoners. The surgeon was walking amongst the Confederate soldiers talking to them and shaking their hands while handing out money. Bro. McKinley went on to question the surgeon about his motives and whether or not he knew the men or expected to be paid back. The surgeon responded “if they are able to pay me back, they will. But it makes no difference to me; they are Brother Masons in trouble and I am only doing my duty.” It is recorded that Bro. McKinley was so impressed by this showing of fellowship, the he decided “if that is Freemasonry, I will take some of it for myself.” McKinley went on to petition Hiram Lodge No. 21 in Winchester, VA, where he was initiated on May 1, 1865, passed May 2, and raised on May 3. J.B.T. Reed, a Confederate Chaplain, served in the East. Bro. McKinley went on to join Commandery and the Royal Arch Chapter.
The political career of Bro. McKinley is just as colorful as his masonic career. Serving as the U.S. Congressman from Ohio from 1876-1890. McKinley won several re-election campaigns despite serious gerrymandering, until 1890 when he was finally defeated for re-election. He served as the Ohio Governor for two successive terms from 1892-1896. Immediately following his time as Governor, he ran for President and won in 1896 and then again in 1900. Relatively free from scandal, Bro. McKinley's presidency is highlighted with rapid economic growth, the annexation of Hawaii and many other historic events. History looks at his presidency as above average and he received a positive public approval. Bro. McKinley’s Presidency and life was tragically cut short in 1901, when he was shot by Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo, NY. He was shot on September 6, and died eight days later on September 14. Bro. McKinley’s assassination lead directly to the implementation of the Secret Service.
Brother McKinley had an interesting and colorful life, full of far more than what could be fit in this one article. To read more about his life, click here. Want to see who was number 5 on the list? Follow this link. Check back on October 7, to find out who takes the #3 spot on our list!


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