Hattiesburg Ministers Union -
Masonic Lodge, No. 115
Narrator: Cameron Rackley
Historical Narration: Retelling by Alyece Loyd on behalf of Raylawni Branch
This building housed the Hattiesburg Ministers Union, which oversaw the arrival, lodging, meals, showers, and civil rights activities of hundreds of Protestant pastors and Jewish rabbis from across the country. From 1964 to 1966, Rev. Bob Beech, a Presbyterian minister from Illinois, headed the Hattiesburg Ministers Union and then the Delta Ministry office in Hattiesburg, both from his office in the Masonic Lodge.
The Masonic Lodge was destroyed years ago. It is now a large empty lot across the street from the Eureka School Museum.
Raylawni Branch is a Hattiesburg native and local civil rights activist. She was one of the first African Americans to attend The University of Southern Mississippi. She served as secretary of her local chapter of the NAACP; was a member of the Council for Federated Organizations, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in addition to attending the March on Washington. She was the first African American to be hired at the Big Yank factory and the telephone company to a position other than that of housekeeping personnel. She helped integrate the Greyhound and Trailway bus stations.
NOTE: The Masonic Lodge is the last stop in Hattiesburg’s museum district. Before heading to the next landmark on the trail, visit one of these free stops:
- African American Military History Museum - The African American Military History Museum aims to educate the public about African-American contributions to the United States military. It is currently the only surviving USO built exclusively for African-American soldiers and in 2003 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Eureka School Museum (opening soon) - The Historic Eureka School was designated as a Mississippi landmark in 2005 and serves as a focal point of history and heritage for African Americans in the Hattiesburg community. When it is officially opened, it will be a Civil Rights Museum with a focus on Freedom Summer 1964.
- Oseola McCarty Museum (opening soon) – Oseola McCarty, a former washerwoman, established a trust fund that dedicated a portion of her life's savings to scholarships for students needing financial assistance. Those savings, which amounted to about $150,000, were donated to Southern Miss. The museum is located inside of the home where McCarty lived. It was moved to from its original location on Miller Street to the museum district in Downtown Hattiesburg.