ROBERT SOUTH BARRETT
98th Grand Master of Masons in Virginia
Dr. Robert South Barrett was born in Richmond, Virginia, on March 30, 1877, the son of an eminent Episcopal clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Robert S. Barrett, and Kate Waller Barrett, one of the first women medical doctors in the South and one of the founders and president for many years of the Florence Crittenton Mission, a national institution for the rehabilitation of unmarried mothers. He was a direct descendant of John Waller who landed at Jamestown with Captain John Smith.
Brother Barrett was graduated from the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, which later awarded him the degree of Doctor of Civil Laws. He also attended The George Washington University and Columbia University.
After graduation from the University of the South, Dr. Barrett began his career as a cub reporter on a New York paper. Then followed ten years of newspaper work in Mexico, where he edited and published the Mexico City Daily Record. It was during this period of time that he wrote and published two tourist guides to Mexico- Standard Guide to Mexico and Blue Book of Mexico.
On his return to the United States in the early 1900's, Dr. Barrett settled in Alexandria, Virginia; became Washington correspondent for various Latin-American publications, and conducted a weekly column for a chain of American newspapers. In 1911 he bought the Alexandria Gazette, which he edited and published for five years. He was president of the Virginia Press Association in 1916.
When World War I became imminent Dr. Barrett offered his services to the nation and was appointed Trade Commissioner of the Department of Commerce for Argentina, and commercial attaché of the American Legations at Paraguay and Uruguay. During the war he represented the United States Shipping Board at Buenos Aires. When hostilities ended he became first vice president of Portalis and Company, a great international banking and commercial company. Based on these foreign experiences, he wrote many monographs on South American trade.
Dr. Barrett retired from business in 1924, hoping to devote his time to travel and to philanthropic enterprises. While making a tour of the world in 1925, he was recalled by the death of his mother and induced to take her place as head of the Florence Crittenton organization. This assignment, which he then considered temporary, continued through the years, much to the financial advantage and the operation of this splendid institution. For more than twenty-five years he served as president and then became chairman of the board of trustees, which position he held at the time of his death. His book, The Care of the Unmarried Mother, and another on which he collaborated, Fifty Years' Work With Girls, tell the story of his work with that organization.
At the time he returned to Alexandria, Dr. Barrett founded the Alexandria Improvement Corporation, a real estate development and investment business. He was vice president and director of this firm at the time of his death.
The Barrett home at 404 Duke Street in Alexandria, where he lived for about fifty years, was built in 1780. It was in its living room that Representative Bland Lee of Virginia prepared the bill establishing the District of Columbia in 1786.
In 1930 Brother Barrett was elected to membership in the Royal Geographic Society of Great Britain, and in 1933 to the Virginia Academy of Science. He was a world traveler, having traveled more than two million miles in virtually every country. He was a member of the National Press Club of Washington, D. C., the American Club of Buenos Aires, and the Jockey Club.
In his church activities, Brother Barrett was closely associated with St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, of which he was a vestryman for a number of years. From 1931 to 1939 he served as treasurer of the Commission on Faith and Order of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
Dr. Barrett was well known for his generous gifts to charitable organizations and public institutions, particularly those in Virginia. With Mrs. Barrett, he contributed the funds to build the Kate Waller Barrett building for the Alexandria Library, the Alexandria Boys' Club, the Harper Memorial Auditorium at the Elks National Home at Bedford, the infirmary at the Children's Masonic Home in Richmond, which in 1957 was converted to the Robert South Barrett Hospital, and the Kate Waller Barrett Dormitory at William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia. They also established scholarships and loan funds at the University of the South and the College of William and Mary. Their philanthropic efforts were crowned in 1947 when they created and conveyed to the Barrett Foundation approximately a million dollars for charitable and educational purposes. This foundation was the major contributor to the Alexandria Public Health Center.
Brother Barrett's philanthropic philosophy may be summed up in his statement that "When money doesn't really belong to you, you should try to do the most good possible with it."
Dr. Barrett was a member of many organizations, but a substantial part of his fraternal interests centered in the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. He was a trustee, vice chairman, and benefactor of the Elks National Foundation, a charitable organization, and also a former Grand Treasurer. In 1944 he was elected Grand Exalted Ruler of the Order of the Elks.
The Masonic career of Brother Barrett was comprehensive and outstanding. He was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in Puritan Ledge No. 7 of Mexico City in 1902, and when he returned to Alexandria to make it his home he affiliated with Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 on May 28, 1908. In 1928 he was appointed Junior Steward and advanced step by step until his election as Worshipful Master on December 27, 1932.
In 1931 Brother Barrett received his first Grand Lodge appointment as chairman of its committee to arrange for the bicentennial celebration of the birth of George Washington. In 1932 he was named chairman of the Grand Lodge committee on the dedication of the George Washington Masonic Memorial on Shooter's Hill in Alexandria, Virginia. He had been one of the organizers and provisional secretary in 1911 of the George Washington Masonic Memorial Association. Again in 1934 he was asked by the president of that Association to assist in raising additional funds.
From 1934 until 1953 Dr. Barrett served as chairman of the Endowment Committee of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. In 1937 he was elected Grand Junior Deacon of the Grand Lodge and advanced through the chairs until his election as Grand Master in 1942. During his term of office as Grand Master he inaugurated a program of services to Masons in the Armed Forces and established Masonic Service Centers throughout the state. He and Mrs. Barrett donated the use of their residence in Alexandria for that purpose.
Some of the honors that were conferred upon Brother Barrett while he was serving in the official line of the Grand Lodge of Virginia were his appointment in 1938 by the Duke of Connaught as Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of England to the Grand Lodge of Virginia; his election to honorary membership in the Grand Lodge of North Dakota in 1939; and his election in 1957 as Honorary Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida, the second time in the history of that Grand Lodge that such an honor has been conferred by it, the other recipient being former President Harry S. Truman, 33°, a Past Grand Master of Masons in Missouri.
Brother Barrett's service to the Grand Lodge of Virginia was most outstanding, particularly in the field of finance, and it was through his efforts as chairman of the Grand Lodge committee on Endowment that the Golden Anniversary appeal was instituted. The Endowment Fund at the time of the Golden Anniversary appeal amounted to less than One Hundred Thousand Dollars. In the years following this event, the fund reached a total of more than One Million Dollars and is now well on the way toward a Million and One Half Dollars. It has largely been through his untiring efforts and keen knowledge of financial affairs that the Grand Lodge of Virginia today enjoys its strong financial position.
Brother Barrett became active in York Rite Masonry in the early 1900's and was a member of the Chapter, Council, and Commandery at Alexandria.
His other Masonic activities included participation in organizing Anezeh Temple of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine in 1907 in Mexico City. After his return to Virginia, he was elected to Honorary Membership by Kazim Shrine Temple of Roanoke and Kena Shrine Temple of Alexandria. In 1940 he served as Sovereign of St. Polycarp Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine, of Richmond. While in Argentina he served as Provincial Grand Master of the Royal Order of Scotland in that country. He was also one of the organizers of the George Washington Chapter of the Order DeMolay.
The highlight of Dr. Barrett's Masonic career was in his activities in the Scottish Rite. He became a member of the Scottish Rite Bodies in Mexico City, having received the Thirty-second Degree on December 23, 1906. Upon his return to Alexandria in 1910, he helped organize the Lodge of Perfection of the Ancient and A Scottish Rite in that Valley and served as its first Senior Warden. Brother Barrett took an active part in the degree work of the Alexandria Bodies and also in their educational programs. He was honored by the Supreme Council in October 1923 by elevation to the Rank and Decoration of Knight Commander of the Court of Honour and on December 16, 1927, was coroneted a Thirty-third Degree Honorary Member of the Supreme Council. His interest and activities in the Scottish Rite continued through the years, and in December 1949, after the death of Sovereign Grand Inspector General Robert S. Crump, 33°, Brother Barrett was appointed Deputy of Supreme Council in Virginia. On October 19, 1951, he was crowned an Active Member of the Supreme Council and Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Virginia. At this same Session of the Supreme Council he was elected to the office of Grand Almoner which he continued to hold until his death. By appointment of the Grand Commander he served on several of the Standing Committees of Supreme Council.
Illustrious Brother Luther A., Smith, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, had this to say concerning Brother Barrett: "Dr. Barrett was a distinguished and well-known Mason and philanthropist. He had many friends who held him in high esteem for his kindly acts and generous service to humanity, to God, his country, Freemasonry, and other charitable and benevolent causes and organizations. Until recent years Dr. Barrett was strong in body and mind, with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, and always happily engaged in the discharge of the manifold duties connected with his widespread business and fraternal affairs. Long experience and training in financial affairs and investments made him a valuable member of the Finance Committee of the Supreme Council. He manifested deep interest in its Education Programs and was constant in his support and encouragement as they were developed. Dr. Barrett was a leading spirit in the establishment of the Scottish Rite Foundation, Southern Jurisdiction, U. S. A., Inc., for the promotion of charity, education and benevolence, and he was one of the trustees from its inception until his death. When his physical strength would permit, he was regular visitor to the House of the Temple, where everyone was always glad to see him. He was a man of vision, had ideas and imagination, was ambitious for Masonry and wanted the Supreme Council to do great things."
On February 24, 1959, Most Worshipful, Doctor, Robert South Barrett, Past Grand Master and noted philanthropist, died in Bedford, Virginia. Funeral Services were conducted in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Alexandria, Virginia, by The Reverend Leon N. Laylor, Rector, on Thursday, February 26, 1959. Interment was in the family plot at Aquia Church, Stafford County, Virginia.
Memorials were requested to be sent to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, in which Brother Barrett maintained a continuing interest.
At the services, the Supreme Council of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite was represented by Illustrious Luther A. Smith, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander, Dr. Claud F. Young, 33°, Grand Secretary General and Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Kansas, William E. Schooley, 33°, Grand Treasurer General and Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the District of Columbia, Thomas C. Law, 33°, Grand Minister of State and Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Georgia, and Frank H. Thompson, 33°, Grand Herald and Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Florida. Among those attending from other jurisdictions were Illustrious Brothers George E. Bushnell, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Claude L. Allen, 33°, Deputy for Massachusetts, and Clarence MacLeod Pitts, 33°, Past Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for Canada.
The following from the Grand Lodge of Virginia were in attendance:
Brother Barrett is survived by his wife, Mrs. Viola Tupper Barrett; three sons, Robert Tupper Barrett of Paris, France; Clifton Waller Barrett of New York City; and Rear Admiral John P. B. Barrett, U.S.N. ret., of Mt. Vernon, Virginia; a daughter, Mrs. Milton R. Greenland, of Alexandria; 17 grandchildren and three great grandchildren; a brother, John Barrett of Clifton, Virginia; and three sisters, Mrs. Edward Alfriend and Mrs. Rathbone Smith, both of Alexandria, and Mrs. Charles Pozer of Fairfax, Virginia. Another brother, Maj. Gen. Charles D. Barrett, U.S.M.C., made the supreme sacrifice in the South Pacific area during World War II.
(Proceedings of G.L.V. 1959 - pages 51 - 56)