Re: Dr. Karl A. Menninger - Psychiatry & Freemasonry

Great American Psychiatrist And Freemason

Robert L. Uzzel, 32°, P.H.A.
7041 Sorcey Road, Dallas, Texas 75249

Brother Karl Menninger was a pioneer in proving that the mentally ill
could be helped.

Dr. Karl Augustus Menninger was an outstanding Freemason who was known
to the general public as the "dean of American psychiatry" and
"America's greatest living psychiatrist." However, his many friends,
colleagues, and patients simply called him "Dr. Karl." Through his
teaching, lectures, and writings, he was credited with doing more than
anyone else to bring psychiatry out of the dark ages and to show that
the mentally ill can be helped.1

Dr. Karl was born on July 22, 1893, in Topeka, Kansas. He attended
Washburn College, Indiana University, and the University of Wisconsin
before enrolling at the Harvard Medical School, where he received the
degree of Doctor of Medicine cum laude in 1917. He held an internship
in Kansas City, worked at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital, and taught
at Harvard Medical School before returning to his hometown in 1919.
There, he played a major role in the opening of the Menninger
Sanitarium and Clinic, dedicated to treatment and training in
psychiatry. Eventually, the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and
Mental Health Sciences, a cooperative effort between the clinic and
Topeka State Hospital, was established.2

During World War II, the mounting number of emotional casualties led
to Dr. Karl's appointment as scientific consultant attached to the
office of scientific research and development of the Adjutant General.
In this capacity, he toured U.S. military operations in Europe,
assessing the need for psychiatric care for military personnel. At the
end of the war, he helped establish Winter Veterans Administration
Hospital as a pilot hospital and psychiatric teaching center in Topeka.

Dr. Karl served on the reorganization committee of the American
Psychiatric Association in 1945 and was a founding member of the
American Orthopsychiatric Association, the Central Neuropsychiatric
Association, and the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education.4

Regarding his fraternal career, Dr. Karl was initiated as an Entered
Apprentice Mason on March 27, 1918, passed to the Degree of
Fellowcraft on May 1, 1918, and raised to the Sublime Degree of Master
Mason on June 21, 1918, in Topeka Lodge No. 17.5 He was a life member
of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge No. 385 in Independence,
Missouri.6 At the 1968 Grand Aerie Convention in Houston, Texas, the
Eagles presented him with the Good Samaritan Award and a $25,000 grant
from the Jimmy Durante Fund.7 He was also a member of the Fraternal
Order of Police Associates.8

Dr. Karl well expressed his philosophy of treatment in his testimony
before the Congressional Judiciary Committee on June 3, 1971.
Referring to 1948, he said: "We began to take a different,
revolutionary position about mental illness. We said: These are not
hopeless cases. . . . We should try to change these patients and send
them home. They belong on the farm, or wherever they were; they do not
belong here in the back wards of this hospital. So we set about to
change it. . . . All across the nation we changed the state hospitals
from snake pits to reputable places of treatment and healing."9

Dr. Karl received many professional awards over the years and was
honored by President Jimmy Carter with the Medal of Freedom, America's
highest civilian honor. The award described him as "an acute observer
and social critic" who had "put into action what he put onto paper."10
In 1979, when the Wilson Memorial Window of the Healing Arts at the
National Cathedral was dedicated, this window contained his

Dr. Karl's long and productive life came to an end at Stormont-Vail
Regional Medical Center in Topeka on July 18, 1990.12 Funeral services
were held at the First Presbyterian Church of Topeka on Saturday July
21, the day before his 97th birthday, with about 850 people in
attendance.13 His pastor, Rev. W. James Richards, presented the
following words of comfort: "If anything can be said about the
Menninger era in psychiatry . . . it is that it has ushered in a new
day of hope for those who were otherwise sealed in prisons of
darkness. . . . Dr. Karl had great impatience with injustice wherever
he saw it: in state hospitals and in international politics. And he
spoke up. . . . I received a packet of reading material about once a
week from Dr. Karl. Things he had read, which he believed his pastor
should be reading. Underlined and marginally noted and
emphasized. . . . Probably there is no one here who doesn't have a
story to tell about this colorful man who grew up, lived and died
among us and who cared so passionately about so much. . . . So it is
with thanksgiving that we come to this place . . . to celebrate the
lives of those who die in the faith, and therefore, thanksgiving for
the life of Karl A. Menninger and for the fact that he is not only
alive now in another part of God's kingdom, but whole again."14 Burial
was in Mount Hope Cemetery in Topeka.15

No doubt Masonic principles greatly influenced the life and work of
this famous psychiatrist. As Freemasons, we should feel proud that we
can claim him as one of our own.


1. "Karl Menninger Dead at 96 - 7/19/90,",

2. Ibid., 2.

3. Ibid., 3.

4. Ibid., 4.

5. Nancy Johnston, Staff Member, Grand Lodge of Kansas, A.F&A.M.
Personal interview, August 21, 2002.

6. Pete Ehrmann, Editor of Eagle Magazine. Personal interview, October
6, 2002. The Independence, Missouri, Lodge's most famous member was
President Harry S. Truman, Past Grand Master of Masons in Missouri,
who often stated that the Eagles were his type of organization-one
founded by and for the common man; see "People Helping People: The
History of the Eagles," http// history.html, 2.

7. "The Houston Story," Eagle Magazine, August-September 1968, 1-4.

8. Karl A. Menninger, The Crime of Punishment (New York: Viking Press,
1968), 197. The Fraternal Order of Police Associates is "an
organization formed for the purpose of increasing our understanding of
the rights, duties and problems of law enforcement officers; of
fostering respect for them; and of bettering conditions under which
they serve society"; see "Fraternal Order of Police Associates,", 1.

9. Lucy Freeman, ed., Karl Menninger, M.D.: Sparks (New York: Thomas
Y. Crowell Co., 1973), 223-24.

10. "Karl Menninger Dead at 96 - 7/19/90," 4.

11. Ibid., 5.

12. Ibid., 1.

13. Vickie Griffith Hawver, "Mourners Gather to Remember Dr. Karl -

14. Ibid., 2.

15"Karl Menninger Dead at 96 - 7/19/90," 1.

Robert L. Uzzel
is a member of Goodwill Lodge No. 313, P.H.A.; Ferris, Texas; Dale
Consistory No. 31, Dallas, and Zakat Temple No. 164, Ancient Egyptian
Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Dallas. A Fellow and Director of
Public Communication for the Phylaxis Society, he holds a Ph.D. (1995)
from Baylor University in World Religions, serves as Associate
Director of Adult and Continuing Education at Paul Quinn College,
Dallas, and pastors Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church,
Ennis, Texas. He is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and
the Philalethes Society. Recently, Eakin Press, Austin, published
Blind Lemon Jefferson, His Life, His Death, His Legacy, Bro. Uzzel's
biography of the famous blues performer. In February 2003, Dr. Uzzel
was made a member of the Society of Blue Friars. Limited to 20
members, this group, founded in 1932, honors authors and editors who
have distinguished themselves in Masonic publication.


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