Groundbreaking for the Elks National Shrine

Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Four photos, each measuring 5 x 3.5 inches.

What I know about it:

See below.


I felt like visiting the Baums again.  Included among the photo albums that came from their estate was a freezer bag full of loose photos.  Included in those were fourteen that seemed to go together, of which these are four.  A photo nearly identical to the one shown here in the upper left was the only one of the fourteen that was labeled, but it gave enough information for me to plunge into researching the story.  There was a man named Hobson R. Reynolds who, though from a humble background in North Carolina, became a successful funeral director in Philadelphia, and became such a respected figure in local politics that he was selected to give the seconding speech when Dwight Eisenhower was nominated at the Republican National Convention in 1952.  But some of his greatest pride came from the years he devoted to the fraternal organization the I.B.P.O.E.W. (the “Negro Elks”), joining in the 1930s and ultimately rising to the position of Grand Exalted Ruler.  He eventually retired back to his hometown of Winton, NC (a town of only about 900 people), and donated 77 acres of land for the creation of the “Elks National Shrine”, to include everything from vocational training to a motel and campground.  (He died in 1991 at age 92.)  These photos are from the groundbreaking ceremonies for that site.  I haven’t been able to pin down an exact date, but it seems they recently celebrated their 40th anniversary, something the clues (clothing, cars) in the photos would bear out.  So in the upper left photo we have our William H. Baum in his role as Grand Commissioner, standing with Fannie Green, Assistant Grand Commissioner.  They are holding the handle of what I assume is the ceremonial groundbreaking shovel.  In the lower right corner, Mr. Baum is speaking while a portrait of Hobson Reynolds is presented.  Mr. Reynolds himself is seated below his portrait in the plaid jacket, listening to Mr. Baum.  (If some of the hands along the top seem white, that’s because they are, as can be better seen in other photos from this batch.  Although the black Elks were started in 1898 as a separate organization because blacks were banned from the regular Elks, by the time these photos were taken it was common for local white politicians and other dignitaries to attend the more high-profile black Elks ceremonies as honored guests, as other photos and news clippings in the Baum set show.)  I haven’t spotted our Dorothy Baum in any of these pictures, though she might be in the lower left photo, in the white coat with her back to us.  Otherwise, perhaps she was wielding the camera that day?

4 comments on “Groundbreaking for the Elks National Shrine”

  1. what a great find!

  2. Thanks for more of the Baums – I enjoy seeing the pomp and pageantry that was such a part of their lives.

    • I enjoy it, too. I sometimes wonder what their lives were like away from all the ceremony. But who knows, maybe they were like this all the time. 🙂

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