Earley Winfred Bridges 33° (1894 – 1974)Earley Winfred Bridges 33° (1894 – 1974)

Earley Winfred Bridges

One of twelve siblings, Earley Winfred Bridges was born on August 18, 1894 in Franklin County, North Carolina. In 1909 his family moved to Wakefield, North Carolina, where he attended Wakelon Graded and High School.

In 1917, Bridges enlisted as a private in the North Carolina Regiment, National Guard and was called to active duty two months later. He sailed to France and was wounded twice within ten minutes during the Battle of The Hindenburg Line. Several months later, his right leg was amputated as a result of his injuries.

For his military service during the First World War, Bridges was presented several medals. The following is taken from the Greensboro Daily News for December 4, 1932:

This North Carolina soldier was in three major battles, namely, the Somme offensive, Ypres-Lys, and the Hindenburg line breaking.  He has received four medals: (1) Purple Heart; (2) Victory medal with bars showing participation in three battles; (3) North Carolina medal, presented by the state for honorable service for the United States government; (4) Cross of Military Service, conferred by the Daughters of the Confederacy upon men of lineal Confederate descent who were honorably engaged in active military service of the United States or its allies during the World War.

Returning home from the war, he graduated from North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (now North Carolina State University) in 1924 with a B.S. in Business Administration. Bridges moved to Greensboro in 1927 and married Emily Lena Smith the following year on August 4, 1928. He worked for the Dixie Fire Insurance Company and later for the Internal Revenue Service and two local businesses before retiring in 1959. Bridges remained in Greensboro until his death on October 17, 1974. He is buried at Greenhill Cemetery in the Greensboro Lodge #76 plot (Lot 15; Section10; Grave 3).

Masonic Life

Earley W. Bridges was initiated, passed, and raised to the sublime degree on Master Mason in 1930 in Greensboro Lodge No.76, A.F. & A.M., in Greensboro, North Carolina.  He held several Officers positions and was installed Master of the Lodge from 1936 to 1937. He served on several committees of the Lodge and became the Lodge Historian in 1933.  He was installed as Treasurer in 1948, and held that position for number of years.

He received his Scottish Rite degrees in November 1930. He was elected Venable Master February 16, 1937 to February 12, 1938.  He was invested with the rank and decoration of Knight Commander of the Court of Honor by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite and was invested October 1945 and Coroneted 33° Inspector General Honorary in October 1959.

He was also a member of the Greensboro York Rite Bodies and served as presiding officer in each Body. He served as Treasurer for many years and received several other degrees, including the Super Excellent Master Degree, the Order of High Priest Hood, the holy Royal Order of Knights Templar Prefect and Knights of the Cross Honor, the allied Masonic Degrees and others.

He received the degrees in Guilford Chapter No.141, Order of Eastern Star, in May 19, 1933.

He was elected Treasurer of the Greensboro Masonic Temple Company on January 19, 1944 and held that position for several years.

He was elected and active member of the North Carolina Lodge of Research No. 666

Formation of the Museum

On February 22, 1932, Earley Bridges and other members of Greensboro Lodge No.76 traveled by train to Washington, D.C. to open a Special Communication at Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge No. 22 in Alexandria, Virginia. A total of ten officers, fourteen members and twenty-six visitors made this trip to place a lambskin apron George Washington’s casket at Mt Vernon. This was one of many ceremonies that commemorated the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth on February 22, 1732.

The trip to Mt. Vernon had a profound impact on Bridges and served as the catalyst for the creation of a museum. Less than a month later, on March 10, 1932, a Resolution was pasted by Greensboro Lodge No. 76 to establish the Greensboro Masonic Museum and appoint its First Custodian, Earley W. Bridges.

From 1932 until his death, Earley Bridges tirelessly devoted time and energy to his love for history and Masonry. Serving as Curator of the Greensboro Masonic Museum for more than forty years, he developed an amazing collection of several thousand items. He also authored nearly dozen books on Masonic and North Carolina History.

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