The Seventh Masonic District Square and Compass Club is working to make sure students are aware of the historical significance of the nation's first president with the donation of a portrait of George Washington to a local school.
The Square and Compass Club consists of 11 Masonic lodges in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. Worshipful Brother Lawrence Fogle is president of the club, which donated a replica of the iconic Lansdowne portrait of Washington to Orangeburg Preparatory School during the halftime portion of Friday’s varsity girls basketball game.
Fogle said the portrait will be displayed in the library of the OPS Upper Campus.
"This is an effort by the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina. A gentleman in the Upstate, Right Worshipful Brother Sam Turner, put together this plan of putting George Washington back in schools and proposed it to our Grand Lodge. They thought it was a good idea," Fogle said.
The 44-inch by 33-inch portrait is a replica of the oil-on-canvas portrait of Washington which was done by American artist Gilbert Stuart in 1796. The portrait is currently on permanent display at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.
Replicas painted by Stuart are on display in the East Room of the White House, the Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum.
"Any Masonic organization such as a particular lodge of the Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina can purchase one of these from the Grand Lodge and donate it to a school of their choice. We chose Orangeburg Prep. It's right here in Orangeburg, and I'm an alumnus of Orangeburg Prep," Fogle said. "It would mean a lot to have one there."
"Each one of these portraits is purchased for $150. There have been 160 of these portraits donated throughout the state. All the proceeds go to juvenile diabetes research," Fogle said.
Each of the large, framed portraits come with a double mat, custom frame and engraved name plate.
"We'd love to put one in another school. I think we have plans to put one at Carver-Edisto Middle School from another lodge in the Seventh District," Fogle said.
Fogle noted that Washington, who was a Freemason himself, needs to be recognized for his role in history, including helping shape the presidential office's future role and powers in politics, the military and economics.
"He's our Founding Father as well as a revered statesman and brother Mason. We have the utmost respect for him, what he did for us and bringing Freemasonry to the new country," Fogle said.
He added, "In order to honor him, we want to make sure he's well known to our youth and also give back to the community."
Right Worshipful Brother Joseph Wells, district deputy grand master of the Seventh Masonic District, said, "I'm from the older generation and back when we were in school, all the classrooms had a picture of George Washington. He was our first president, and he was a Mason.”
The Square and Compass Club participates in several other community service projects, including the state's Adopt-A-Highway program and a food drive for the Hebron Grace Girls Home in Santee. The club also provides support for the Veterans Victory House in Walterboro.