By Den Ardinger 32° KCCH
Throughout the course of history there have been certain brothers who have stood head and shoulders above others and written about the principles, morals, and history of our Masonic Fraternity. This month we will look at the biography of one of those prolific writers and scholars of the 19th century, Brother Albert G. Mackey.
Albert Gallatin Mackey was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on March 13, 1807. He was the son of Doctor John Mackey and his wife, Abigail. A strong believer in life-long education, Albert Mackey taught school in order to raise money to attend medical school. He graduated with honors from the College of South Carolina in 1832 and for the next twelve years he worked there while he studied and practiced medicine. In 1838 he was appointed the demonstrator of anatomy.
In 1841, Doctor Mackey was Initiated, Passed and Raised a Master Mason in Saint Andrews Lodge No. 10, in Charleston. Shortly thereafter he affiliated with Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, also of Charleston, and was elected Worshipful Master in December, 1842.
By 1844, however, he gave up the practice of medicine and concentrated on a variety of subjects including a study of languages, the Middle Ages, and Freemasonry. In 1845 he authored the first edition of, “A Lexicon of Freemasonry.” In 1849 he began writing “The Southern and Western Masonic Miscellany” which he maintained for three years. From 1858 to 1860 he published a “Quarterly” writing on the same topics.
He studied intensely and focused on a traditional classical education including Greek, Latin and Hebrew as well as the modern European languages. In time, he concentrated on the study of symbolism and the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).
In his Masonic work, he was the Grand Lecturer and Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of South Carolina. He also served as the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States.
Although he was from South Carolina, he was a Union sympathizer during the Civil War. In
1865 he was appointed by the President as the Collector of the Port of Charleston. In 1867 he wrote, “The Mystic Tie.” In 1868 he was president of the South Carolina Constitutional Convention. Later that year he was a candidate for the United States Senate but was narrowly defeated.
In 1870, Mackey moved to Washington, D.C and affiliated with Lafayette Lodge No. 19, Lafayette Chapter No. 5, and Washington Commandery No. 1. Here he wrote his most important Masonic work titled, “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry” in 1873 which was reprinted in 1878. After his death it was revised and expanded by others and is an important reference book for Masonic scholars even today.
He died in Fortress Monroe, Virginia on June 21, 1881 at the age of 74. He was buried with full Masonic honors and Masonic Bodies were instructed to “drape in black the altars and working tools and the Brethren will wear the proper badge of mourning during the space of sixty days.”
He is buried in a well-marked grave in Glenwood Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Marker on the grave of Albert Mackey in Glenwood Cemetery