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Sudan Shriners

Centennial Celebration

1917 – 2017

By ~ Steve Norris, PP


     In 1870, there were several thousand Masons in Manhattan, many of whom lunched at the Knickerbocker Cottage at a special table on the second floor.  There, the idea of a new fraternity for “Masons” stressing fun and fellowship was discussed. Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. Florence took the idea seriously enough to act upon it.  Florence, a world-renowned actor, while on tour in Marseille was invited to a party given by an Arabian diplomat. At its conclusion, the guests became members of a secret society. Florence took copious notes and drawings at his initial viewing and on two other occasions. When he returned to New York in 1870, he showed his

material to Fleming.  Fleming 

took the ideas supplied by 

Florence and converted them into

what would become the

"Ancient Arabic Order of the

Nobles of the Mystic Shrine


Walter M. Fleming, MD                                             William J. Florence

     Fleming created the emblem and costumes and along with Charles T. McClenachan, lawyer and expert on Masonic Ritual; William Sleigh Paterson, printer, linguist and ritualist; and Albert L. Rawson, prominent scholar and Mason, wrote the initial ritual for the Shrine.  Florence and Fleming were initiated August 13, 1870, and initiated 11 other men on June 16, 1871.  The first temple, Mecca, was established at the New York City “Masonic Hall” on September 26, 1872. Fleming was the first Potentate.  

     In 1875, there were only 43 Shriners in the organization. In an effort to spur membership, at the June 6, 1876 meeting of Mecca Temple, the Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America was created.  Fleming was elected the first Imperial Potentate.

     By 1888, there were 7,210 members in 48 temples in the United States and Canada, one of which was Acca Temple in Richmond, VA chartered June 9th, 1886. By the Imperial Session held in Washington, DC in 1900, there were 82 Temples and 55,000 members all of which were Master Masons and Scottish or York Rite masons.  




 Walter Scott Liddel

     In 1894, Walter Scott Liddel and eight other Knights Templar of Charlotte Commandry No.2, one of which was William Henry Belk, the founder of Belk’s Department Stores, petitioned Acca Temple to create a shrine temple in the Carolinas.  Liddel was a 33rd Degree Mason and served as potentate for four years after the charter for Oasis Temple was granted on October 10, 1894. Liddel would go on to serve as Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina in 1903 and 1904 and would play an integral role in the formation of Sudan Temple.









             Joseph F. Rhem

     Quite frequently great movements can be traced to a brilliant idea in the mind of one man, a dreamer perhaps, who possessed an innate desire for a better environment, for better opportunities to cement fraternal relationships.  To create the new and to preserve the best of the old have been the genius of America.  Such a genius was the heart of one of New Bern’s most beloved citizens, Noble Joseph F. Rhem.

     In the second decade of the twentieth century he initiated steps to have a Shrine Temple located in New Bern to serve the eastern half of North Carolina.  He was a member and Past Potentate of Oasis Temple of Charlotte.  The Rhem House was built by his father in 1850, remodeled in 1914 and is located at 701 Broad Street.

     Dispensation for the establishment of Sudan was received July 13, 1916, and formal institution ceremonies were held four months later on November 22, 1916, at 2:30 pm.  Tremendous interest had already been manifested, evidenced by the fact that on the day of institution there were 106 candidates and 30 affiliates received into membership.  The Special Deputy of the Imperial Potentate, W. S. Lydell, Past Potentate of Oasis and Past Grand Master of NC, installed the first officers, administering to them the obligations and oath of their office.

     Among those installed and obligated with the vows of their office were the first Potentate, Noble Alexander B. Andrews, Jr., of Raleigh; who was currently serving as Grand Master of NC, Chief Rabban J. C. Braswell, GM 1920; Assistant Rabban W. A. French; High Priest and Prophet W. G. Branham; Oriental Guide W. R. Smith; Treasurer C. D. Bradham (founder of the original Pepsi Cola Company); the first Recorder of Sudan Temple Joe F. Rhem, Past Potentate of Oasis; First Ceremonial Master J. H. Anderson; Second Ceremonial Master R. C. Dunn, GM 1920; Marshall J. T. Lassister; Captain of the Guard F. N. Bridgers; and Outer Guard E. C. Toepleman.

     On May 24, 1917, Sudan held its first Spring Ceremonial in Rocky Mount, with 125 candidates crossing the “Hot Sands” and created Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and 14 affiliates were elected.

     Then came the great day, the day of presentation of the Charter, which had been granted at Minneapolis by the Imperial Council at its Session on June 26, 1917.  On September 26, 1917, Sudan Temple, UD, was opened in form with all officers filling their respective stations.  Potentate A. B. Andrews stated that the meeting was called to receive the Charter from the Imperial Council, Past Potentate R. S. Rhineheart of Oasis Temple, Special Representative of Imperial Potentate Charles E. Devonshire, presented the Charter and constituted Sudan Temple.

     Now, at last, Sudan was in business for itself, Joe Rhem’s dream had come true.  The first order of business was election of officers, with the original Divan elected and appointed.  Knowing that the Recorder’s job would be a fulltime position, Noble L. I. Moore made a motion that Recorder Joe Rhem be paid an annual salary of $750.00.

     Activity must be the keynote of success for any worthwhile organization, and Sudan, even before it was chartered, was busily engaged in determining what units it might create for the stimulation of interest among the Nobility, and for its popular recognition and acceptance by the general public.  In 1917, the Sudan Patrol was organized as the first Uniformed Unit under Potentate Andrews with Noble William T. Hill as its first Captain, and it consisted of 33 members.  In the early days, the Patrol performed many duties, such as exhibition drills as well as responsibilities that are now absorbed by the Provost Guard, to say nothing of conducting the initiation work in the second section.  



   Also in 1917, it was realized that no Shrine Temple could hold a parade without a Band, and Sudan wanted to parade.  It also wanted another unit to challenge the interest of its members.  The Sudan Brass Band was organized in New Bern.  The membership was growing, interest and enthusiasm was reaching new heights, and there was new talent and ability to be used. On February 7, 1919, Sudan was opened for the express purpose of receiving its first official visitation from the Imperial Potentate Elias J. Jacoby.

     At a meeting held in Wrightsville Beach, NC on September 1, 1919, the committee appointed to investigate the purchase of a home for Sudan recommended purchasing the property offered Sudan by Margaret D. Nelson.  It was voted to purchase the property for the sum of $42,500.00, (around $600,000 today)  The first Temple Home was of colonial design located on the beautiful Neuse River and at the site of the temple, and

remained the

official home

of Sudan

until the year




     The annual Business Meeting of the Temple held in New Bern on December 5, 1917, showed that even then Sudan had a great interest in the welfare of those less fortunate than themselves.  The Temple voted to make a donation to Oxford Orphanage and the Masonic and Eastern Star Home.  At the same meeting in 1919 the Widows’ Fund was officially organized.  At the next meeting in Goldsboro on May 20, 1920, a motion was made for the initiation fee to be increased to $100.00, ($1250 in today's dollars) and this was adopted.

      In 1923, Potentate R. C. Dunn organized the third Unit, the Drum and Bugle Corps in the City of Wilmington. 


      World War I had ended in Europe.  Sudan was really beginning to take its place in the activity of Shrinedom in eastern North Carolina.  Indicative of the interest and enthusiasm was one of the largest Ceremonials ever held in Sudan, this being on May 18, 1919, in Wilson, when Noble W. H. French of Wilmington was Potentate.  Initiated were 458 candidates, the largest class in the history of Sudan.  The initiation fee was $75 or $1075 in today's money and generated the 2017 equivalent of $492,000.  Illustrious Potentate C. C. Hunt of Mecca Temple, New York City, the Mother Temple of all Shrinedom, conferred the ritualistic work.

      It is interesting to note that in the year 1921, Sudan showed a total net gain of 310 members.  Annual dues during the year 1924 were $7.00, ($100 today) of which $2.00 was an assessment for the Crippled Children Hospitals.  In the early days, many of those attending Ceremonials away from New Bern would travel by pullman train, leaving from New Bern for the city of the Ceremonial and returning.




     Sudan suffered a great loss when on March 21, 1924, its first and beloved Recorder Dr. Joseph Franklin Rhem passed away at his home, in the midst of a life of usefulness and activity.  Noble Rhem had served as Master of his Lodge, held virtually every office in the York and the Scottish Rite, was honored in 1915 with the 33rd Degree, and was also Junior Grand Deacon of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. He was the unanimous choice for Recorder and filled the position well as attested to the growth of Sudan, with its membership near the 3,000 mark at his death.  The vacancy created by the death of Noble Rhem was filled by election of Noble Caleb D. Bradham of New Bern. (Pepsi-Cola Inventor)

      As the Temple continued to grow, candidates were flocking to each Ceremonial and it was becoming evident that more Uniformed Units must be organized if the enthusiasm was to be utilized; the Temple was conscious that the Patrol was serving in too many different capacities and that a new Unit should be created to relieve the Patrol of some of its responsibilities.

     Consequently, in 1925, under Potentate F. N. Bridgers, Sudan gave birth to a new Unit known as the Wrecking Crew, years passed and Sudan continued to grow. 

     In the year 1946, under Potentate N. E. Edgerton, the Chanters were organized as the fifth Unit. 

      The year 1947 was a banner year for when Noble William J. Bundy of Greenville was not only Potentate, but also Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina.  Two more Units were added to Sudan in that year, the first being the Provost Guard, to assume some of the duties originally assigned to the Patrol.   The second Unit to be organized that year was the Oriental Band, created in Fayetteville.











     The new temple was constructed adjacent to the old one and dedicated in 1951 under Potentate Marcus G. Carpenter.  The office suite and dormitory addition to the facility was completed and dedicated in 1956 under Potentate Clarence H. Parker. The original shrine home was sold for $400 and demolished to make room for the office addition.  This building is one of the most unique in the City of New Bern, the colonial capital of North Carolina.






     Hubert McNeill Poteat, a Past Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina, was installed as Imperial Potentate of the Shrine of North America.  This was in Los Angeles and Sudan made its greatest pilgrimage for this occasion, the pilgrimage consisted of 257 members making the trip by a special train of 17 pullman cars, at a cost to the Temple of $87,000.00. (Equivalent to $872,000.00 today)

     The Clowns were organized in 1957 with the town of Dunn as the center of its membership.  Also in 1957, the Chef Crew became an official unit of Sudan, beginning with 14 men under the director of Noble Alfred A. Kafer, Jr., who served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina in 1967.  In 1962, the Motor Patrol was organized in Kinston, also the Legion of Honor was formed. In 1963, a group of Nobles from Wilson made application to form Sudan’s Horse Patrol. 

     Originally, the members of the Temple Divan were assuming their respective stations in the First Section of the initiation, the ritualistic work.  Due to many other duties and responsibilities invoked on the Divan members, it was necessary to organize a Ceremonial Cast to do this work. 

     The Turtle Patrol was organized in 1970 in the City of Washington, followed by the String Band which organized in 1971. The Motor Escort of Fayetteville was organized in 1973.  In 1975, the Thunderbolts from Brunswick County and the Keystone Kops from Onslow County were formed.  During 1976, the Animated Animals was added from the Johnston County Shrine Club.  Numerous other units have formed over the years and sadly some have disbanded including two of the original five, the Chanters and Brass Band.

     Sudan’s Uniformed Units are recognized far and wide for their color, their dedication to duties and their performances.  Ceremonials and parades are now covered by diversified units in varied capacities.   This all goes to make Sudan’s Ceremonials outstanding in Shrinedom.

      This history of Sudan would be incomplete were no mention made for the justification of its very existence, its participation in every worthwhile enterprise to provide income for Shriners Hospitals for Children.  In 1948, Potentate Eric Bell of Wilson started the Sudan Bowl Game, first played for the benefit of Methodist and Oxford Orphanages.  In 1953, Sudan changed from the high school teams of the Orphanages to the freshmen teams of State College and the University of North Carolina, played for the benefit of Shriners Hospitals.  The nobility enthusiastically supported the Bowl Game as well as the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in Charlotte, sponsored by the five temples in North and South Carolina.  In 1968, Sudan entered into the Senior College All-Star Football Game, with players selected from seniors in the 19 major colleges in the State.  In 1955, the total contributions amounted to more than $19,000.00, where in 1965 under Potentate Harvey Smith the figure reached the amazing sum of over $102,000.00.  Sudan was recognized in all Shrinedom as the FISH FRY CAPITOL OF THE WORLD.  Sponsored by the various shrine clubs, thousands of pounds of fish are prepared and served annually, realizing thousands of dollars for Shriners Hospitals.

     In 1967, under Potentate Arthur T. Moore of Fayetteville, was an outstanding year in our history.  The All Star Football Game was played in Carter Stadium in Raleigh, $121,000.00 was raised for our Hospitals, and Sudan was honored as the “Number 1” temple in all Shrinedom for having the largest net membership gain. 









     The dream of Joe Rhem many years ago had become a real happening.  Sudan again made an intensive effort later to place another of its favorite sons on the Imperial Divan, and in 1968 Past Potentate Harvey Ward Smith was elected to the office of Imperial Outer Guard, to eventually become Imperial Potentate of the Shrine of North America.  Unfortunately, while serving as Imperial Chief Rabban, Imperial Sir Smith passed away in 1976 just two years shy of serving the Shrine fraternity in this illustrious capacity.   

     The sons of Sudan have also established an outstanding record in demonstrating the close relationship between the Shrine and ancient Craft Masonry.  Many of Sudan’s Potentates have served as Grand Masters of Masons in North Carolina.  Our first potentate, Alexander B. Andrews was currently serving as Grand Master upon his installation in 1917, Dr. J.C. Braswell, our first chief rabban served as potentate 1918 and GM in 1920; Dr. Hubert Poteat, potentate1930 had served as GM in 1923; R. C. Dunn, potentate 1923, served as GM in 1928; Edward Allen, potentate 1945, had served as GM in 1939; Judge William J. Bundy served as GM and potentate in 1946; Robert Pugh, potentate 1974, had served as GM 1954; Charles A. Harris, potentate 1963, served as GM in 1957 and also served as Grand Secretary; Harvey Ward Smith, potentate 1965, GM 1960; Robert N. Bass, potentate 1973, had served as GM 1968; James Brewer, potentate 1982, served as GM 1961; Berl M. Kahn, potentate 1980, GM 1972; L. R. “Pete” Thomas, potentate 1987, GM 1988; Jerry Tillett, potentate 2015, GM 2002.  Also, Nelson Banks, recorder 1960-1982, GM 1981.  Sudan is indeed proud of the prominent sons who have done so much for Shrine Masonry Relations.

     SESA (Southeastern Shrine Association) - William C. Woodard of Rocky Mount, Sudan potentate 1941 and president of the Southeastern Shrine Association at the same time; Sam S. Toler, Jr., of Rocky Mount, potentate 1950, was elected as president 1962; T Bruce Boyette, potentate 1966, president 1979 and L. R. “Pete” Thomas, potentate 1987, president in 2001.

     SASA (South Atlantic Shrine Association) - In February 1973, a group of nobles met in Greensboro, NC, with the idea of forming a new shrine association. These Nobles represented the nine temples of NC, SC and VA.  Sudan’s Representatives were Illustrious Sirs Bruce Boyette and W. R. Redding. Illustrious Sir Boyette was appointed to develop the bylaws.  The bylaws were submitted and approved and the charter granted for the South Atlantic Shrine Association at the Imperial Session in Atlantic City, NJ in July of 1974.

     SASA’s first convention was held in Myrtle Beach, SC. On Saturday, September 22, 1974, at the President’s Banquet, the first elected officers included 4th vice president, Luther M. Cromartie, PP, (Sudan) and president 1978-1979; John Godwin 1984-1985; C. E. “Mack” Carpenter 1991-1992; Albert H. Parker 2003-2004 and Steve Norris 2017-2018.

     The dream that began in the fertile mind of Dr. Joseph Rhem over one hundred years ago has had a glorious history in service to all mankind.  That torch was lit at the sacred altar of the shrine, and it has been nurtured with care.  Its flame has been fed by the universal demand for fellowship on a common ground associated with the divine inspiration to extend a helping hand to the suffering, physically challenged children of humanity

     May the Nobility of Sudan continue to look to the Supreme Architect of the Universe  for divine guidance and direction as they continue their efforts in dedication to the fundamental principles which have led them through such experiences of progress and which have brought them so gloriously to this point in history.   May this divine wisdom continue to lead, direct and inspire the Nobles of Sudan as they now march forward to even greater success in the next 100 Years!  So Mote It Be!

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