Monday , 22 January 2018
New Sudan Potentate looks to help Shriners continue to ‘make a difference’ – Local – Sun Journal

New Sudan Potentate looks to help Shriners continue to ‘make a difference’ – Local – Sun Journal

New Sudan Potentate looks to help Shriners continue to ‘make a difference’

Jerry Tillett was inducted Saturday as the new Potentate, or leader of 5,500 Sudan Shriners in Eastern North Carolina during the Winter Ceremonial in New Bern.

Jerry Tillett first became a Mason in 1982, in part following the footsteps of his father. But, what has kept him active as a Mason and later a Sudan Shriner was more than family heritage. “It was the depth of the history and the substance of the Masonic fraternity. You can never learn it all,” said Tillett, a 21-year Superior Court judge from Manteo who was installed Saturday as the new Potentate of the 5,500-plus Shriners in Eastern North Carolina.

He said that as a history and political science major in addition to his law degree, he was a student of American history, the American Revolution and the Constitutional period. He called those developments nearly identical to the evolution of Free Masonry.

“A lot of the ideas of Masonry found their way into our Constitution and our history of government,” he said. “That was somewhat radical at the time, because power was granted by right or inheritance as opposed to men who were granted that power by their creator.”

Like many Potentates before him, one goal is to increase membership for a fraternal organization known for providing free medical care for crippled and burned children. The average age of a Shriner is more than 60.

But, what has kept him active as a Mason and later a Sudan Shriner was more than family heritage.

“It was the depth of the history and the substance of the Masonic fraternity. You can never learn it all,” said Tillett, a 21-year Superior Court judge from Manteo who was installed Saturday as the new Potentate of the 5,500-plus Shriners in Eastern North Carolina.

He said that as a history and political science major in addition to his law degree, he was a student of American history, the American Revolution and the Constitutional period.

He called those developments nearly identical to the evolution of Free Masonry.

“A lot of the ideas of Masonry found their way into our Constitution and our history of government,” he said. “That was somewhat radical at the time, because power was granted by right or inheritance as opposed to men who were granted that power by their creator.”

Like many Potentates before him, one goal is to increase membership for a fraternal organization known for providing free medical care for crippled and burned children. The average age of a Shriner is more than 60.

He said that membership rolls of the Shriners are like many other civic organizations, going through ebbs and flows.

“But, we have seen in the last two years a resurgence, especially in Masons. And it usually takes a two-year lag behind that for Shriners to catch up, because you have to be a Mason first,” he said.

One positive step came at this weekend’s Winter Ceremonial held at the Sudan headquarters in New Bern, with 40 new candidates to become Shriners.

The Sudan theme for this year is “Making a Difference Saving Lives in 2-0-1-5,” which strikes a familiar cord with the Elizabeth City native.

“It is personal to me. It says Shriners to the rescue,” he said. “We hope to make a difference by providing hope and a brighter future for those children with special needs.”

It was also his theme the first time he ran for public office in 1988.

“You hear that a lot today, but not in 1988,” he said. “I got it from a book by a great Mason and former U.S. Senator Sam Ervin — ‘Wit and Wisdom of a Country Lawyer.’”

His goals as Potentate are a mixture.

“We want to look toward the future, but be cognizant from whence we came,” he said.

That involves work with the “blue lodges” where Masons begin their journey toward being Shriners.

“That is because there are a lot of men who are coming in Masonry who are not becoming Shriners,” he said. “We want to show them what this extra step has to offer.”

He said another membership-drive goal is to do a better job at public relations.

“For years, Masons and Shriners have shied away from it, and because of that people don’t know what we do or what we are about,” he said. “And, they even have some negative thoughts about us. Part of that is our fault because we have done such a terrible job of public relations.”

He noted that Shriners International has begun to air public service announcements within the past two years, featuring support the organization has from public figures such as Justin Timberlake, who hosts a Shriners Hospitals golf tournament; along with vocal support from professional athletes and race car drivers.

The television promotions also include interviews with parents talking about the Shriners’ assistance for their sick and injured children.

“We are now beginning to tell the story,” he said. “I don’t think we are re-branding. In fact, I think we may be refocusing on what our original mission was. We appreciate the public’s support. And, when they hear what we do — the children’s stories — they will want to support us.”

(source: http://www.newbernsj.com/news/local/new-sudan-potentate-looks-to-help-shriners-continue-to-make-a-difference-1.429132)