William Henderson Wilkes
President of Texas Medical Association 1891-1892
Mayor of Waco 1882, 1896
Past master JH Gurley #337
William Wilkes was born April 8, 1833 in Raymond, Mississippi but grew up in Giles County, Tennessee. He got his medical degree from the University of Nashville Med. School, graduating from there in 1855. In the Civil War, he rose to Colonel in Tennessee’s 53rd infantry until he resigned in 1863 due to tuberculosis. Wilkes moved to Waco in 1868.
One of our first doctors, Dr. Wilkes became mayor after he led a campaign to “clean up” Waco and its reputation due to the Bawdy House District where prostitutes were allowed. In 1874, he served as Worshipful Master of JH Gurley Lodge #337 and while doing so, he was also an active member of the appendant masonic body of Knights Templar. At a public Waco Commandery No. 10 election of officers where he gave the following speech regarding the relationship between blue lodges(such as Waco 92 and Gurley Lodge) and the Knights Templar or Commanderies:
“If I may assume the honor of representing JH Gurley Lodge, in the name of that Lodge for this compliment I thank you. In doing so, allow me to say that while we, as the Lodge, may not don these snowy plumes or buckle on these glittering blades of steel; while we claim not to do battle for the truth of Christianity, we are nevertheless your co-workers in the cause of virtue, morality, and truth. As your chivalric ancestors went forth steel-clad to gain possession of the sacred tomb of the Savior, you are expected with the sword of Truth to battle for the great Divinity of Christ; not against the infidel Saracen of old, but against that modern infidelity has marshaled. We may not go so far, but we battle with you for truth and right. And Gurley Lodge, young as she is, is an ally not to be despised; in less than three years her thirteen members which all came from Waco Lodge 92 have now increased to a membership of eighty!
We are your allies in this great battle of life, in advancing the mission of Masonry. What is the mission of Masonry? Permit me to answer in the poetical language of another…
‘And Masonry’s mission is simply to prove, ‘mid the discords of life, how potential is love to revere what is sacred, to feel what is human. Show good will to man and true honor to women.'”
-W.H. Wilkes, April 2, 1874
He died of malaria while mayor in 1896.