Bill Koulter and Other Doctors
Continuing the Legacy of Medicine at Waco 92
Men of all kinds have passed through the pillars of our lodge and enjoyed fellowship at Waco 92. I pulled out the card which shows who was present at my initiation ceremonies recently and saw the name of the late, great Bill Koulter. Bill served as our Chaplain for several years and was responsible for some of the most sincere and beautiful prayers I have ever heard at a lodge, church, or anywhere. That’s saying a lot for someone who spent four years on one of the world’s largest Christian university campuses. There was something profound about the way Bill gave witness for the lodge. In masonry, it is tradition that an altar with a Bible sit at the center of the lodge room. It is also tradition that the lodge chaplain offer prayer to open and close meetings and to ask for God’s help in curing the ills of sick brothers. The heaviest part of the job, of course, is when the chaplain is asked to pray in memory of recently deceased members. Usually, this also involves the draping of a cloth over the charter papers of the lodge to show our solidarity in remembering the brother. Bill Koulter added something simple but very special to this tradition.
When it was announced in a meeting that one of our own had passed away, the Master of the lodge would ask Bill to offer a prayer. Bill would walk slowly to the altar of the lodge and kneel with his hands on the Bible. Bill was in his 80s and getting around wasn’t as easy as it once was so when he moved around or especially when he kneeled, he did so with good reason. He’d let loose a heartfelt and meaningful prayer like only Bill could and then, he’d slowly stand and return to his place among the brethren. More than once, I peeked around the lodge room after these prayers and more than once, I saw tears on the faces of grown men. Yes, there was just something special about the way Bill Koulter went about his work as lodge chaplain. He was deeply devoted to his faith as a Christian but he wasn’t a pastor or priest like some lodge chaplains. He was a healer of a different sort.
As an MD, Brother Koulter enjoyed a medical career that spanned several decades and provided him the opportunity to serve the urgent needs of countless people. He certainly left a lasting impact by joining with his friend and fellow mason from Hillsboro Lodge, James “Red” Duke, to establish the emergency flight care system here in Texas. Bill moved on to that celestial lodge above when he passed away a few years ago and Dr. Duke joined him recently but Bill’s presence is still very much felt at Waco lodge every time we pause for prayer.
The early years of Waco 92 saw many other doctors become members as well. Some of them were quite famous for various reasons. Just to name a few:
Charles Alderton, Past Master and creator of Dr Pepper
John Strayhorn, led relocation of Grand Lodge to Waco
Thomas Moore, who also founded the Texas Democratic Party
Benjamin French, Jewish pioneer
Josephus Steiner, who famously shot and killed the founder of Ft. Worth
D.R. Wallace, father of Texas Psychiatry
W. Wilkes, a founder of the Texas Medical Association
Jack Puckett, brother of Layton Puckett
Thomas Cranfill, Past Master
William Barker, Past Master
Sherwood Owens, Past Master, 1849 goldminer, and veteran of three wars for three different countries
Joe Willis, Past Master who worked so hard as a doctor that he was said to have worked himself into an early grave
William Pipkin, of the well-known Pipkin Drug Stores
That’s a pretty formidable list of medical leaders from Waco’s past and I think they’d all be proud to add Bill Koulter to their ranks. As a chaplain and as a doctor, Brother Koulter had few peers. Cicero said,
“In nothing do men more closely near the gods than in giving health to men.”