By Caleb Slinkard
CADDO MILLS —
Fifty years is a long-term commitment.
Just ask Caddo Mills’ Garland Clemons, who recently celebrated 50 years of service to both the Masons and the Elks.
A native of Brownwood, Texas, Garland worked as a supervisor at MCI Communications. In 1998 he moved to Caddo Mills where he lives with his wife, Betty. His house sits off of FM 3211, quiet piece of northeast Texas land.
“Sometimes it’s too quiet,” he said with a laugh. That’s when he heads down to the Elks Lodge in Greenville.
Both the Masons and the Elks are about helping people, Garland said, which is why he joined them.
“I’ve enjoyed helping children the most,” he said, mentioning the Shriners Hospitals for Children located across the country and Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas. “It’s a pleasure to know that we do what we do.”
Garland’s father and uncle were both Masons, which inspired him to join.
“I wanted to be one so bad,” he said. “Finally, I made it. I’ve been fairly active in one branch or the other ever since.”
According to Garland, the Masons have changed over the years. Membership has declined, and entrance requirements are less stringent.
“It has changed a lot over the years,” he said. “We had to memorize 33,000 words to get into the masons back when. And the membership has gone down.”
“We blame it mostly on television,” he added, laughing.
Throughout his 50 years with the organization, Garland has moved up various degrees. He recently received numerous plaques and corresponding pins for his decades of service from his council, chapter and commandry. Garland also worked a good deal with the Shriners, a branch of the Masons.
“In the Shriners, I was a greeter, and I became the state president of the greeters twice,” he said.
According to Garland, working in both service organizations for the past half-century has been beneficial, both for himself and the people around him.
“I highly recommend it,” he said. “It’s made a better man out of me.”
Garland also spent a good deal of his time as a ham radio operator, talking with thousands of people across the world well before the cell phone age. He and other ham radio operators helped communicate news and coordinate emergency response crews during natural disasters. Garland has a picture of himself with then Texas Gov. John Connally, who came to Brownwood to issue a proclamation declaring national amateur radio day.
While he was heavily involved in these organizations, Garland has also focused on other pursuits. He is a chief in the Cherokee Nation and had a friend who worked as a DJ at Panther Hall when Garland lived in Fort Worth. He said he was able to meet many of the performers, including George Jones and Ray Price, and became friends with Willie Nelson.
“He’s something else,” Garland said with a smile.