U.S.S. LEXINGTON CV-16
Master Mason’s Degree
Known as “The Blue Ghost,” the Lexington is one of 24 Essex class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship, the fifth US Navy ship to bear the name, is named in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington. She was originally to have been named Cabot, but she was renamed while under construction to commemorate USS Lexington (CV-2), lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.
Lexington was commissioned in February 1943, and served in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, receiving the Presidential Unit Citation and 11 battle stars for World War II service. Like many of her sister ships, Lexington was decommissioned shortly after the end of the war, but was modernized and reactivated in the early 1950’s, being reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA), and then an antisubmarine carrier (CVS). In her second career, she operated both in the Atlantic/Mediterranean and the Pacific, but spent most of her time, nearly 30 years, on the east coast as a training carrier (CVT).
She was decommissioned in 1991, remaining active longer than any other Essex-class ship, and was donated for use as a museum ship here in Corpus Christi. Lexington was designated a national Historic landmark in 2003. Though her surviving sister ships, Yorktown, Intrepid and Hornet carry lower hull numbers, Lexington was laid down and commissioned earlier, making Lexington the oldest remaining aircraft carrier in the world.
I head up Route 358 from North Padre Island to the Crosstown Expressway and then onto Route 181 in Corpus Christi, Texas. As I cross the bay on a high arching bridge, there she is, The Blue Ghost in all her magnificence. Coming off the bridge I wind my way around to ground level and park a block away. I walk towards my destination. A double sized golf cart waits for me at the bottom of the ramp. Soon I am on my way up the long ramp that will take me on board the retired aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington, The Blue Ghost. I am here to witness a Third Degree on the Lexington by a very special Degree Team.
I think back to the meaning of Lexington to me. Lexington seems to end up following me or I it wherever I go.
I was born and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts the birthplace of the American Revolution. It was this Lexington for whom the USS Lexington was named. It was here on April 19, 1775 that Paul Revere rode into Lexington with other riders and proclaimed, “The British are coming, the British are coming.” I went to church 100 feet from the Lexington Green where the first battle of the American Revolution was fought on that day. My mother was secretary of the church. She also worked weekends at the Buckman Tavern beside the Green as a historical story teller to visitors. The Buckman Tavern is where The Lexington Minute Men gathered on that early morning of April 19, 1775. I would become Master Councilor of Battle Green DeMoaly also just off the Green. Much later I would return to Lexington’s Simon Robinson Lodge as Master of Paul Revere Lodge with the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team to exemplify the Third Degree and participate in a Tri Table Lodge.
This night I would witness the Third Degree by a team of Masons from the Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM drawn from all over Southeastern Texas who were Grand Lodge award winning Ritualists.The host Lodge was Oso Naval Lodge No 1282. Grand Master, MW Wendell P. Miller was in the East for the Second Section of the Degree. District Instructor PM Mike King was the producer of the degree and sat in the West for the Second Section.
For the reenactment of the Legend of Hiram Abiff, the players were all dressed in ancient costumes. Upon the giant wall behind the South was a huge video screen which the Grand Lodge used in conjunction with the Lecture and the Charge. In addition to these two, there was also an Apron and a Bible presentation.
The degree was flawless and very well done. Long pieces of ritual were recited from memory without mistakes and with great flourish. At its conclusion, the Grand Master was presented with a few gifts as mementos of the occasion among which was a very decorative flag.
After the Degree, we gathered to greet new friends and touch base with old ones. Most of the Brothers present were not familiar to me which gave me a good opportunity to make new friends. Many pictures were taken including me with the Grand Master.
What was most impressive to me was the fact that you don’t often see a Grand Master performing degrees at the local level. Grand Masters are too involved with Administration and Ceremonial functions to actually do ritual in a Degree. And few remember their ritual from long ago. Not this one, MW Wendell P. Miller did not miss a word of a lengthy ritual part.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Hugs all around and back out into the night and onto the deck of the Blue Ghost we went. From that vantage, there was a beautiful view of Corpus Christi all lit up in the night. We took the same cart back down the ramp and dispersed.
As I left the Blue Ghost late at night, I turned back and snapped a couple of pictures that really gave meaning to the Lexington’s nickname. Once again, I had celebrated Freemasonry in fine style!