Become a Shriner
History Of The Oasis Shriners
Oasis Shriners trace their history back to 1894, when Walter Scott "Daddy" Liddell and eight Knights Templer of the Charlotte Commandery No.2 petitioned Acca Temple in Richmond, Va., to organize a Shrine Temple in North Carolina, actually the first in the Carolinas, North and South. Those joining with Liddell were Belk department store founder William Henry Belk, Dr. J.F. Robertson, B. Swift Davis, John Farrier, C.L. Hopkins, W.B. Summersett, D.E. Allen and George Merideth. The Charter was granted on Oct. 10, 1894, by Imperial Potentate William B. Melish of Cincinnati.
Liddell, a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, Knight Templer, and past Master of his lodge, Phalanx No.31 in Charlotte, served as Potentate of Oasis for four years and was Grand Master of Masons in 1904 and 1905. He was the Oasis Imperial representative and had Emeritus status until his death in 1940. In addition to Illustrious Sir Walter, the original Divan of the newly-formed temple were: Chief Rabban W.B. Summersett, Assistant Rabban E.E. Allen, High Priest and Profit D.S. Davis, Oriental Guide J.F. Robertson, Recorder John Farrier, Treasurer C.L. Hopkins, First Ceremonial Master J.T. Barron, Second Ceremonial Master J.W. Courtland, Captain of the Guard William Henry Belk, Outer Guard George Merideth and Marshall C.L. Hoffman. Initially, there was no director, but later D.G. Maxwell was named to the post and all the original Divan was appointed by Imperial Potentate Melish.
The first meeting was held at what was called Shrine Hall in downtown Charlotte on January 18, 1895. The next day, with the assistance of Acca Temple repersentatives, 18 new nobles were initiated into the newly-formed Oasis Temple. That first ceremonial ended with a dinner in the Masonic Hall (A place thought to be the same structure as Shrine Hall)
One of the first applications received after the initial charter membership was formed came from J.M. Belk, W. Henry's brother, and the first Oasis affiliation was F.L. Jacobs, who demitted from Jerusalem Temple in New Orleans. As the Membership grew, it spread across North and South Carolina, with initiates coming from Asheville, Raleigh, and Charleston. The first honorary memberships went to George Street of Acca Temple and Past Acca Potentate Louis Ecken.
The first Oasis Shrine parade occurred on May 17, 1898, at the Spring ceremonial in Raleigh. Oasis was 173 members strong and representation stretched across both Carolinas. In the minutes of the ceremonial, it was noted that initiates "crossed the hot sands." Oasis continued to grow as the Shrine of North America grew, with 82 temples and more than 55,000 members by the turn of the century, all represented at the 1900 Imperial Session in Washington D.C., where President William McKinley stood on the parade viewing stand.
In the 18 years following, the Shrine organization expanded into Mexico and the Republic of Panama and many of the organization's traditions began, such as the first Shrine Circus in Detroit in1906 and the expansion of philanthropy. Shriners contributed $25,000 to earthquake victims in San Francisco in 1906 and gave $10,000 for the relief of European war victims, both considered enormous sums at the time. But what would be known as "The World's Greatest Philanthropy," the Shriners Hospitals for Children, emerged as the organization's number one cause in 1920 when the Imperial resolution established the "Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children," supported by a $2 per member assessment.
The Cornerstone was laid for the first hospital in 1922 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Five years later, the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Greenville, S.C., opened, and by 1997 a network of 22 hospitals made up the system, now known as Shriners Hospitals for Children, providing orthopedic, burn and spinal care for children around the world.
Oasis Shriners were also vigilant during wartime, and celebrated with the rest of the world at the end of each conflict. In the October 1945 issue of the Desert Dust, Imperial Potentate William H. Woodfield Jr. said of World War II Shrine veterans: "More than 50,000 fellow Nobles of the Mystic Shrine served their country in the military forces during this worst of wars. Many will not return. Their names are marked by a gold star on our rolls of honor". "To these men whom we all knew and to all who made the supreme sacrifice, and to their families and friends, there are no words to express our humble gratitude and thanks for their deeds," Imperial Sir William said.
Also during the growth of Shrinedom in the 20th Century came expansion of the organization in the Carolinas. Omar Temple was chartered in Charleston, S.C., in 1907, Sudan Temple in New Burn, N.C., in 1917, Greenville's Hejaz in 1920, Columbia's Jamil in 1974 and Raleigh's Amran in 1976.
One of the most significant modern milestones for Oasis came in 1987, with the construction of its new headquarters mosque in the University City area of north Charlotte after spending virtually all of its first 90-odd years in downtown Charlotte. Ground was broken at the new building on March 20, 1987, in a ceremony attended by local government, civic and political leaders along with representation fro the nobility throughout the Carolinas and on the Imperial level. A week later a commemorative plaque was installed by the Grand Lodge of AF & AM of N.C. by Grand Master Bud McCall and Oasis Potentate Tommy Arakas.
The completed 55,000 square-foot building, complete with it enormous auditorium, practice area, meeting rooms, offices and restaurant, was dedicated in June 1988. Oasis, with some 9,000 members, still stands as the second-largest of all the 191 temples in North America. A combined membership of more than 550,000 is governed by the Imperial Council, the chief executive officer is the Imperial Potentate, elected each year in July for a one-year term. The Shrine of North America's general offices are in Tampa, Fla.
The Crescent was adopted as the Jewel of the Order. Although any materials can be used in forming the crescent, the most valuable are the claws of a Royal Bengal Tiger, unified at their base in a gold setting. In the center is the head of a sphinx, and on the back are a pyramid, an urn and a star. Today the Shrine emblem includes a scimitar from which means the crescent hangs, and a five pointed star beneath the head of the sphinx.
The red fez with the black tassel, the Shrine’s official headgear, has been handed down through the ages. It derives its name from the place where it was first manufactured – the holy city of Fez, Morocco. The fez was chosen as part of the Shrine’s Arabic (Near-Eastern) theme, around which the color and pageantry of the Shrine are developed.
Shriners believe in God and that He created man to serve His purposes, among which is service to others in His name.
We believe that care for the less fortunate, especially children who suffer from burns and crippling diseases, is our institutional calling.
We are patriots, each willing to serve his country with fidelity and courage. We cherish independence under law and freedom with responsibility.
We honor family. We respect our parents, wives and children. We should instill in our children the tenets of this creed and the heritage from which it emanates.
As individuals we pledge ourselves to integrity, virtue and nobility of character. Our intentions will be honorable, our relations will be trustworthy and our spirits forgiving of each other.
As brothers we offer each other fraternal affection and respect. Together we will support each other in adherence to this creed, so that we and our communities will be the better because
of our fraternity and its principles.
As Shriners we look beyond ourselves to serve the needs of others, especially children who cannot help themselves. We believe Shriners Hospitals for Children to be the world’s greatest
philanthropy, and we covenant with each other to support its “temples of mercy” with spirit, time, talent and means.