Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE; also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks) is an American fraternal order and social club founded in 1868. It is one of the leading fraternal orders in the U.S., claiming nearly one million members.[1]



The Elks had modest beginnings in 1868 as a social club (then called the "Jolly Corks") established as a private club to elude New York City laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. After the death of a member left his wife and children without income, the club took up additional service roles, rituals and a new name. Desiring to adopt "a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America", fifteen members voted 8-7 to favor the elk above the buffalo.[2] Early members were mostly from theatrical performing troupes in New York City. It has since evolved into a major American fraternal, charitable, and service order with more than a million members, both men and women, throughout the United States and the former territories of the Philippines and the Panama Canal.[3]

Membership was opened to African Americans in the 1970s, although the Winter Haven, Florida Elks Club was famously segregated as late as 1985, when Boston Red Sox Coach Tommy Harper protested a Red Sox policy of permitting them into the spring training clubhouse to issue lodge clubroom invitations to white players only. Women were permitted to join in the mid-1990s, but currently atheists are excluded. The opening of membership to women was mandated by the Oregon Public Accommodations Act, which was found by an appeals court to apply to the BPOE, and it has been speculated that the religious restriction might be litigated on the same basis.[4] A year after the national organization changed its policy to allow women to join, the Vermont Supreme Court ordered punitive damages of $5,000 for each of seven women whom a local chapter had rejected citing other reasons.[5] Current members are required to be U.S. citizens over the age of 21 and believe in God.

Structure and organization

National organization

Grand Lodge in Chicago, Illinois

The national headquarters, known as the Grand Lodge, is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago at the southwest corner of Diversey Pkwy, Sheridan Rd, Lakeview Ave, and Cannon Dr. Local Elks Lodges, known as subordinate lodges, are located in about 2,100 cities and towns across the United States and its territories (as of 2006). There are several Elks lodges overseas. They must be located in a current or former US territory and only American citizens can be members.

The local Elks lodges are known by their lodge number and the name of the city in which they are located. For example, the first Lodge, located in New York City, is Lodge 1, while the Lodge in Nashville, TN is Lodge 72. When a Lodge is closed, its number is retired, but if re-instituted at a later time, the city name and lodge number can be reinstated by the Grand Lodge.

A Grand Lodge Convention is held each year in a principal city in the United States. It is at this convention that Grand Lodge Members (Current Exalted Ruler or Past Exalted Rules of subordinate lodges) vote on the next years Grand Lodge Officers including Grand Exalted Ruler (GER), BPOE 'Constitution and Statues' proposed amendments and conduct other items of business.

Elks Magazine is published 10 times a year and goes to all members.[1]

Local lodge officers

Chair officers

  • Exalted Ruler
  • Esteemed Leading Knight
  • Esteemed Loyal Knight
  • Esteemed Lecturing Knight

Other lodge officers

  • Esquire
  • Inner Guard
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Tiler
  • Chaplain
  • Trustee (5 yr.)
  • Trustee (4 yr.)
  • Trustee (3 yr.)
  • Trustee (2 yr.)
  • Trustee (1 yr.)
  • Organist
  • Justice of the Subordinate Forum

Past Exalted Rulers are not considered officers, but rather a valuable advisory resource. A Lodge's Past Exalted Ruler's Association usually meets monthly, and current officers are encouraged to seek counsel from the men and women who have led Lodges in previous years.

Elks National Foundation

Established in 1928, the Elks National Foundation is the charitable arm of the BPOE. The foundation, with an endowment valued at more than $400 million, has contributed $253.5 million toward Elks' charitable projects nationwide.

Due to the willingness of most Elk Lodges to respond to community needs and events, it is common to turn the BPOE abbreviation into a backronym for "Best People on Earth."[10][11][12]


The Hour of Recollection

The Elks building in downtown Trinidad, Colorado
Another Elks building in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Deceased and otherwise absent lodge members are recalled each evening at 11 p.m. Chimes or sometimes a bell will be rung 11 times and the Lodge Esquire intones, "It is the Hour of Recollection." The Exalted Ruler or a member designated by him gives the 11 o'clock toast, of which this version is the most common:

You have heard the tolling of eleven strokes. This is to remind you that with Elks, the hour of eleven has a tender significance. Wherever Elks may roam, whatever their lot in life may be, when this hour falls upon the dial of night, the great heart of Elkdom swells and throbs. It is the golden hour of recollection, the homecoming of those who wander, the mystic roll call of those who will come no more. Living or dead, an Elk is never forgotten, never forsaken. Morning and noon may pass them by, the light of day sink heedlessly into the west. But ere the shadows of midnight shall fall, the chimes of memory will be pealing forth the friendly message: To our absent members.[13]

Communal burial

An interesting physical artifact of the order is the number of communal cemetery plots once favored by the group. Often these are marked with impressive statuary.

Famous Elks



Presidents of the United States


Members of Congress

Other politicians



Sports figures

Other influential people

  • C.E. Byrd, prominent educator in Louisiana[16]

In popular culture

  • Classical composer Ferde Grofe won his first major commission courtesy of the Elks. He composed "The Grand Reunion March" for the 1909 Elks Club Convention in Los Angeles
  • In Fibber McGee and Molly, Fibber was member of the Elks. McGee is often referred to as being in charge of the Elks' pool table committee, ostensibly because he is usually the person responsible for tearing the felt on the table. McGee was also perpetually behind in his dues. During the show's 1949 season, a new character, Ollie the Elks' janitor, was introduced.
  • In The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton are members of the Raccoon Lodge and in one episode they are both candidates to be voted the Raccoons' "Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler". This is likely a parody of the Elks and the Shriners as well as The Mikado.
  • In The Flintstones, which takes much of its inspiration from The Honeymooners, Fred, Barney, Mr. Slate and some less frequently shown characters belong to the male-only Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes Lodge No. 26 with a "Grand Pooh-bah".
  • In Stephen King's The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, Roland and Susannah come across a skeleton that is wearing a ring that identifies him as an Elk.
  • In Scene Nine of the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, during the act "Brotherhood of Man", with the lyrics "Now, you may join the Elks, my friend, and I may join the Shriners".
  • In Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, the protagonist Milkman Dead III proclaims, "If this bath and this woman... are all that come out of this trip, I will rest easy and do my duty to God, country, and the Brotherhood of Elks for the rest of my life." Page 285.
  • In Hunter S. Thompson's short 1990 essay "Tarred and Feathered at the Jersey Shore", included in his book Songs of the Doomed, he recalls of his time living in the abandoned coal mining town of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania: "I had to join the goddamn Elks Club in order to get a drink there on weekends."
  • In Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, it is made apparent that Joe (Jody) Starks is a member of the Elks when 'the Elks band ranked at the church door playing "Safe in the Arms of Jesus"' at his funeral.
  • In The West Wing episode "The Women of Qumar", Rob Lowe's character Sam Seaborn mentions that his father was an Elk.
  • In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David lies about being "a moose and an elk" when trying to get a membership in a Protestant golf club.
  • In "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", 1948. Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Betty Garrett.
  • "It's strictly USA" (reprise) Lyrics and music by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Roger Edens
"Like the annual Elks convention.... They're really here to stay; Cause it's strictly USA."[17]
  • Frank Barone in Everyone Loves Raymond was a member of the Caribou Lodge (a fictional organization that appears to be inspired by the Elks), although he left the lodge after being named man of the year.
  • In Babbit, by Sinclair Lewis, the main character, George Babbit, is an active member of the Elks.
  • Canadian indie rock group The Weakerthans have a song entitled "Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call".
  • Members of the Elks Lodge are served reinvented American culinary classics in Bravo TV's Top Chef.
  • In Chapter 37 of John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden, Adam Trask considers joining the Elks.
  • In the Law & Order episode "Helpless", it is revealed that Captain Don Cragen is an active member of the Elks.
  • In Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser two of the protagonists, George Hurstwood and Charly Drouet are members of the BPOE.

National Convention sites & presiding Grand Exalted Rulers

The first Grand Lodge meeting was held on February 12th, 1871 at 114-116 East 13th Street New York City, NY. The Grand Lodge Officers were, George J. Green elected to preside, E.G. Browne as Secretary and Hugh P. O'Neil, Fernando Pastor, J. C. Pinckney, S.K. Spencer, Claude Goldie, Henry P. O'Neil, A.H. Mulligan and Antonio "Tony" Pastor in other offices.[18][19]

Year: Convention Site, Grand Exalted Ruler Year: Convention Site, Grand Exalted Ruler Year: Convention Site, Grand Exalted Ruler Year: Convention Site, Grand Exalted Ruler
1890: Cleveland OH, Simon Quinlin 1891: Louisville KY, Edwin B. Hay 1892: Buffalo NY, Edwin B. Hay 1893 :Detroit MI, Astley Apperly
1894: Atlantic City NJ, Edwin B. Hay 1895: Atlantic City NJ, William G. Meyers 1896: Cincinnati OH, Meade D. Detweiler 1897: Minneapolis MN, Meade D. Detweiler
1898: New Orleans LA, John Galvin 1899: St. Louis MO, B.M. Allen 1900: Atlantic City NJ, Jerome B. Fisher 1901: Milwaukee WI, Charles E. Pickett
1902: Salt Lake City UT, George P. Cronk 1903: Baltimore MD, Joseph T. Fanning 1904: Cincinnati OH, Wm. J. O'Brien, Jr. 1905: Buffalo NY, Robert W. Brown
1906: Denver CO, Henry A. Melvin 1907: Philadelphia PA, John K. Tener 1908: Dallas TX, Rush L. Holland 1909: Los Angeles CA, J.U. Sammis
1910: Detroit MI, Aug. Herrmann 1911: Atlantic City NJ, John P. Sullivan 1912: Portland OR, Thomas B. Mills 1913: Rochester NY, Edward Leach
1914: Denver CO, Raymond Benjamin 1915: Los Angeles CA, James R. Nicholson 1916: Baltimore MD, Edward Rightor 1917: Boston MA, Fred Harper
1918: Atlantic City NJ, Bruce A. Campbell 1919: Atlantic City NJ, Frank L. Rain 1920: Chicago IL, Wm. M. Abbott 1921: Los Angeles CA, W. W. Mountain
1922: Atlantic City NJ, J.E. Masters 1923: Atlanta GA, James G. McFarland 1924: Boston MA, John G. Price 1925: Portland OR, William H. Atwell
1926: Chicago IL, Charles H. Grakelow 1927: Cincinnati OH, John F. Malley 1928: Miami FL, Murray Hulbert 1929: Los Angeles CA, Walter P. Andrews
1930: Atlantic City NJ, Lawrence H. Rupp 1931: Seattle WA, John R. Coen 1932: Birmingham AL, Floyd E. Thompson 1933: Milwaukee WI, Walter F. Meier
1934: Kansas City MO, Michael F. Shannon 1935: Columbus OH, James T. Hallinan 1936: Los Angeles CA, David Sholtz 1937: Denver CO, Charles Spencer Hart
1938: Atlantic City NJ, Edward J. McCormick 1939: St. Louis MO, Henry C. Warner 1940: Houston TX, Joseph G. Buch 1941: Philadelphia PA, John S. McClelland
1942: Omaha NE, E. Mark Sullivan 1943: Boston MA, Frank J. Lonergan 1944: Chicago IL, Robert S. Barrett 1945: New York NY, Wade H. Kepner
1946: New York NY, Charles E. Broughton 1947: Portland OR, L. A. Lewis 1948: Philadelphia PA, George I. Hall 1950: Miami FL, Joseph B. Kyle
1951: Chicago IL, Howard R. Davis 1952: New York NY, Sam Stern 1953: St. Louis MO, Earl E. James 1954: Los Angeles CA, William J. Jernick
1955: Philadelphia PA, John L. Walker 1956: Chicago IL, Fred L. Bohn 1957: San Francisco CA, H. K. Blackledge 1958: New York NY, Horace R. Wisely
1959: Chicago IL, W. S. Hawkins 1960: Dallas TX, John E. Fenton 1961: Miami Beach FL, William A. Wall 1962: Chicago IL, Lee A. Donaldson
1963: San Francisco CA, Ronald J. Dunn 1964: New York NY, Robert G. Pruitt 1965: Miami Beach FL, R. Leonard Bush 1966: Dallas TX, Raymond C. Dobson
1967: Chicago IL, Robert E. Boney 1968: New York NY, Edward W. McCabe 1969: Dallas TX, Frank Hise 1970: San Francisco CA, Glenn Miller
1971: New Orleans LA, E. Gene Fournace 1972: Atlantic City NJ, Francis Smith 1973: Chicago IL, Robert Yothers 1974: Miami Beach FL, Gerald Strohm
1975: Dallas TX, Willis McDonald 1976: Chicago IL, George Klein 1977: New Orleans LA, Homer Huhn, Jr. 1978: San Diego CA, Leonard Bristol
1979: Dallas TX, Robert Grafton 1980: New Orleans LA, H. Foster Sears 1981: Las Vegas NV, Raymond Arnold 1982: Chicago IL, Marvin Lewis
1983: Honolulu HI, Kenneth Cantoli 1984: Houston TX, Frank Garland 1985: Seattle WA, Jack Traynor 1986: Denver CO, Peter Affatato
1987: Atlanta GA, Ted Callicott 1988: Las Vegas NV, Robert Sabin 1989: New Orleans LA, Donald Dapelo 1990: Las Vegas NV, James Damon
1991: St. Louis MO, Lester Hess, Jr. 1992: Dallas TX, Vincent Collura 1993: Portland OR, Charles Williams 1994: Chicago IL, Kenneth Moore
1995: New Orleans LA, Edward Mahan 1996: Las Vegas NV, Gerald Coates 1997: Chicago IL, Carlon O'Malley 1998: Anaheim CA, C. Valentine Bates
1999: Kansas City MO, James C. Varenhorst 2000: Dallas TX, Dwayne E. Rumney 2001: Philadelphia PA, Arthur Mayer, Jr. 2002: Reno NV, Roger R. True
2003: St. Louis MO, Amos A. McCallum 2004: Minneapolis MN, James M. McQuillan 2005: Reno NV, Louis James Grillo 2006: Orlando FL, Arthur H. Frost III
2007: Charlotte NC, F. Louis Sulsberger 2008: Anaheim CA, Paul D. Helsel 2009: Portland OR, James L. Nichelson 2010: Orlando FL, Michael F. Smith
2011: Phoenix AZ, David R. Carr 2012: Austin TX 2013: Reno NV 2014: New Orleans LA
2015: Indianapolis IN 2016: Houston TX 2017: Reno NV 2018: TBA

See also


  1. ^ a b "Elks magazine online". Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  2. ^ "Why not buffaloes". Elks website. 
  3. ^ "Lodge Locator". Elks Official Website. The Elks. Archived from the original on August 10 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Margaret Boule (2008-02-24). "The last bias: Elks lodge bans woman because she's an atheist". 
  5. ^ John Curran (2008-03-28). "Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Fraternal Club Sex Bias Ruling". 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Lodge 1281". 
  8. ^ "Lodge 1414". 
  9. ^ "Lodge 972". 
  10. ^ Beck, Bill. "in A Message From Bill Beck". ""I will forever remember that BPOE also stands for the Best People On Earth, a line you have used often..."" 
  11. ^ Kelly, Mike. "from "The origins of The 11 O'Clock Toast "". ""I will forever remember that BPOE also stands for the Best People On Earth, a line you have used often..."" 
  12. ^ Sparks, Eva. "Elks Walk 2,223 Miles to Attend 1912 National Convention". ""Four athletic young men, members of the local B.P.O.E Lodge (Best People On Earth) and employees of..."" 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "April 1943 Elks Magazine reported that the Life membership card of Brother Eddie Rickenbacker was featured in several national weekly magazines. This was bestowed upon him by the LA Elks on June 18, 1919"
  15. ^ "Christian, John "Jack"". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography ( Retrieved December 23, 2010. 
  16. ^ Kelly, Mike. "Name That Elk". ""Although the original Elks were actors and entertainers, members of other professions soon joined the organization. Today's Elks represent just about the full spectrum of occupations in America."" 
  17. ^ Thanks to GL of BC&Y
  18. ^ Haas, Ralph. "THE HISTORY OF THE PENNSYLVANIA ELKS STATE ASSOCIATION". Retrieved 2011-04-26. "first Grand Lodge meeting. Held on that date at 114-116 East 13th Street in New York City" 
  19. ^ "Facts and Dates about the Elks". Retrieved 2011-04-26. "On Feb. 12, 1871, Claude Goldie received a New York State Charter for the B.P.O.E.'s New York Lodge No. 1, and the first Grand Lodge meeting was called to order at 4:15 PM at 114-116 East 13th St. in New York City." 

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