Brother Thomas W. Jackson has traveled to all 50 states and Canadian provinces and met Masonic leaders and presidents around the world in the name of Freemasonry. He’s received numerous honors and awards for his contributions as a mediator and advisor. But this summer, at age 82, he
experienced a first: his likeness on a Brazilian stamp.
“I’ve been to Brazil about 15 times,” he said. “There are three different Masonic groups, and although they relate to each other, they don’t acknowledge each other or recognize each other, and I’ve been working for years to get that rectified,” he said. On the last day of a Masonic Conference in Brazil, on June 24, leaders presented Brother Tom with the stamp, which states in Portuguese that it is given in recognition of his service in promoting universal Freemasonry.
Brother Tom and his wife of 52 years, Linda, reside on a 30-acre farm in the Village of Middle Spring, which he bought in 1966. Displayed inside are an array of medals, signed photographs of well-known figures, numerous certificates, swords, art, hand-carved knives, historic rifles, a guitar and
much more. All are gifts of appreciation from those he has helped, both home and abroad.
In 2015, Brother Tom retired from the job that sent him on many of these ventures. The first time he was elected as the first Executive Secretary for the World Conference, he initially did not want the position. After he was unanimously elected by Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries from around the world a second time, he agreed to accept. He never expected to serve for 16 years.
His role was to coordinate and run the world conferences, held every 18 months in a different country; the most recent one was held in May in Madagascar. But Brother Tom expanded it over the years, visiting Grand Lodges in many different countries, mediating disputes, trying to reconcile
differences and serving as an adviser. “I’m supposed to be retired,” he said, with a laugh. “When I stepped down as executive secretary, I thought now I’ll be able to spend time on my farm. It hasn’t happened yet.”
Brother Tom now serves as Honorary President of the World Conference. He continues to receive calls to travel and advise on various situations. The key to the successful mediation, he says, is trying to listen to reason.
“I’m generally out of the country half the year. I’ve been to 15 countries so far this year, and quite a few more to go,” he said. “I’ve really been fortunate. I have traveled to much of the world.” He has met the presidents of Portugal, Chile, Romania, Mozambique, Mali, Gabon, Chad and Congo, as well as former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. He’s also been hosted by several prime ministers.
Brother Tom, who was born in McKeesport, moved to Shippensburg when he was 12 years old. “I grew up in a relatively poor environment,” he said. “Neither of my parents went past eighth grade.” Brother Tom graduated from Shippensburg High School in 1952, and from what is now known as Shippensburg University, where he studied biology and chemistry, in 1958. He then earned a master’s degree in zoology from Penn State University.
At age 29, just before getting married, he joined Cumberland Valley Lodge No. 315 because he admired the local men who were Freemasons. “I saw men who I wanted to be like,” he explained. “It was almost a natural progression for me, because I was active in Scouting,” having earned the
rank of Eagle Scout. He said the two organizations are similar because they both focus on patriotism, a belief in God and commitment to the betterment of mankind. “Our goal is to take good men and make them better. Then we expect those better men to lead society,” he said. “It’s not our goal to change the world; it’s our goal to change the man. It’s up to the man to change the world.” Brother Tom is a recipient of the Daniel
Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award for his service to Boy Scouts of America.
After teaching for 17 years and serving as a sales manager for a construction company, in December 1979, he was elected Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
Brother Tom said he never imagined living such an interesting life, full of travel and meetings with dignitaries. He wrote and published a book a few years ago called “Masonic Perspectives: The Thoughts of a Grand Secretary.” In addition, he has published articles in educational, scientific and
Masonic journals, as well as newspapers and publications throughout the world. Some of his papers have been translated into more than a dozen languages and printed in over two dozen countries.
In addition to having served as a master of his own Lodge, he was a representative in Grand Lodge, the Warrant Master of the Pennsylvania Lodge of Research, Grand Secretary for Foreign Relations and Chairman of the Academy of Masonic Knowledge and the Committee on Foreign Recognition.
Not only does Brother Tom hold Lodge memberships in Wyoming, England, Italy, Peru, Morocco and Cyprus, but he has been granted honorary memberships in 107 Grand Lodges. He holds grand rank in 30 of these Grand Lodges, 14 of which as honorary Grand Master.
He has received awards and medals for distinguished service from nine Grand Lodges in the United States and 19 international Grand Lodges, including Yugoslavia, Romania, South Africa and Russia. The Thomas W. Jackson Award is presented annually by the Valley of Rochester, NY, to
recognize individuals who have transformed the message of Freemasonry into an educational inspiration at a state, regional or national level. The Organization of Masonic Arts annually presents the Thomas W. Jackson Award for leadership to an outstanding Grand Master as determined by
the board of directors.
Brother Tom’s wise counsel continues to be sought, and he is by no means slowing down his mission to spread the light of Freemasonry. In so many ways, he has placed his stamp on the world.