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Rising to the Occasion




William Silas Whitehead of Newark, New Jersey, was our Grand Master from 1864 to 1867. I never looked at him without being struck by his resemblance to General Judson Kilpatrick, the famous Cavalry General in the War for the Union. Each had long mutton-chop whiskers, was slightly bald and wore at times a sort of grim expression. The Grand Master, however, would have made two or more of the dapper young officer, who, by-the-way was a Major General at the age of twenty-eight years, the youngest soldier in the Army who ever attained that distinction. Kilpatrick was of medium size, a natty little fellow with a very small hand and foot and a mouth of generous width and a voice that was as musical and penetrating as the notes of a bugle.

The stature of Mr. Whitehead was six feet, eight inches. This amazing height seemed still greater because of a slight stoop of the massive shoulders. He officiated at the dedication of the new Lodge Room of No.5 in Taylor Hall in 1867. I recall his towering form as he moved gravely around the large apartment, with Past Master William D. Sinclair as one of his Aides: Sinclair --peace to the memory of the good man -- was about the size of General Kilpatrick. As they turned the corner of the room where Brother Bailey, the famous railroad Conductor, was standing among the Members, he shook with silent laughter. He tried in vain to repress it, when he caught a reproving glance from Sinclair, as he was moving past him.

After the ceremonies were over, Baily sought out Sinclair to apologize.

"I couldn't help it," he said, "for you remind me of a poodle dog trotting at the side of a mastiff."

"And that's the way I felt," replied Sinclair, "pleased with the fancy."

One night Grand Master Whitehead visited a prominent theatre in New York. His seat was well toward the front and the building was crowded. His head and shoulders were so conspicuous that soon someone shouted, "Down in front!" Others joined in the cry until fully a score of voices were heard. Mr. Whitehead affected for a time not to hear the demand, but it grew so insistent that he could not ignore it. Turning his head and raising his hand for an appeal for silence, he called out:

"Gentlemen, to convince you that I am sitting down, I'll now rise."

And he came slowly to his feet until his astounding stature was fully revealed. Laughter and applause followed and he was disturbed no more.


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