Famous Freemason: Gene Autry
What do Freemasonry, the Los Angeles Angels, and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer all have in common? Gene Autry of course! Orvon Grover “Gene” Autry, was a 33° Mason, as well as a member of the Shrine. Bro. Autry lead a varied and exciting life, born on September 29, 1907, today marks his 110th birthday!
Brother Autry was born in Grayson County in North Texas, where he lived with his parents Delbert Autry and Elnora Ozment. In the 1920s the family moved to Johnston County in Southern Oklahoma. While still in high school Autry worked on his father’s ranch, but in 1925 he began working as a telegrapher for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. When he was working as a telegrapher, Autry would sing and play the guitar to pass the time. This habit eventually got him fired, but it spurred his musical career as Will Rogers heard him playing and encouraged him to sing professionally. He followed the advice and moved to New York in 1928, where he auditioned for Victor Records. The year before, in 1927, he was raised a Mason in Catoosa Lodge No. 185, in Catoosa, Oklahoma.
When Bro. Autry auditioned for Victor Records, he was rejected by the Director of Music and was told that he needed more experience singing on the radio. In 1928, he was singing on the Tulsa radio station KVOO as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy.” In 1929, he signed a recording deal with Columbia Records while he was working on the National Barn Dance radio show. Autry had his first hit in 1932 with “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine.” Afterwards, he had many other hits including covers like “Back in the Saddle Again” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” His own compositions were hits as well, with Christmas songs like “Here Comes Santa Claus” and his biggest hit “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
During his run with Columbia Records, Bro. Autry also began a career in film. Starting in 1934, when film producer Nat Levine discovered him. Autry and his companion, Smiley Burnette, made their film debut for Mascot Pictures Co. in the film In Old Santa Fe as two parts of a singing cowboy quartet. After his debut, Autry was made the star in a 12 part serial The Phantom Empire. Autry went on to make 44 films with Mascot Pictures up until 1940. In 1942, Autry left show business to enlist in the United States Army. He became a tech sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and in 1944 he earned his Service Pilot rating. When he returned home, he went back to the show business life, working in T.V., radio, and the rodeo.
In 1960, Autry became a part owner of the Los Angeles Angels. He owned a stake of the team up until 1995 when he sold a quarter share to the Walt Disney Company, and then the controlling interest the next year. Autry also served as the president of the American Baseball League from 1983 until 1998.
Bro. Gene Autry died of lymphoma on October 2, 1998, and was buried in Los Angeles. His headstone has some of his many remarkable accomplishments written on it, including: America’s favorite cowboy, movie star, singer, and 33° Mason. In 1953 Autry moved to California, where he was a member of Long Beach Scottish Rite as well as the Al Malaikah Shrine Temple in Los Angeles, California.
Brother Autry lived an incredibly full and interesting life, far more than what could be fit in this short article. To read more about our Illustrious Brother, click here! To read about another one of our famous Brothers, click here!
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The Bodies of the Scottish Rite, sitting in the Valley of Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, acknowledge and yield allegiance to the Supreme Council, 33°, of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America, whose Grand East is in Lexington, Massachusetts.