The following article is the script of a 8:35-minute videotape played as a tribute
to Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33°, during the Biennial Session's Gala Banquet at the Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., on October 7, 2003. More than 1,000 Brethren, guests, and Masonic dignitaries from around the world responded to the videotape with a prolonged standing ovation, which was humbly accepted by Ill. Kleinknecht and his lady, Gene.

 
 

Excellence, loyalty, and persistence-these words frame the accomplishments of Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht. Today, under Fred's leadership, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry carries its message of individual development, community service, and global freedom to hundreds of thousands of members.

The Kleinknecht legacy of leadership began with his father, Christian Kleinknecht, who served the Temple from 1919 to 1970 in many official positions, including Acting Grand Secretary General. Fred began his fulltime relationship with the Rite after serving in World War II. Like many aspiring young men, Fred returned to tackle the challenge of building a career and a family. In 1947, he took a job at the House of the Temple, learning about the Rite from the ground up. This hands-on approach remained Fred's trademark throughout his 56 years at the Supreme Council.

Within a year of joining the Temple staff, Fred married his childhood sweetheart, Gene Elizabeth Kamm, a life-partner in the truest sense. Gene's confidence in Fred's potential was the turning point in his life. With Gene's encouragement and support, Fred studied accounting at Benjamin Franklin University and applied his education to reforming the Council's bookkeeping methods, quickly saving the Rite tens of thousands of dollars. Fred's initiatives demonstrated his leadership potential. From accounting, Fred moved up through numerous administrative positions at the House of the Temple.

C. Fred Kleinknecht, his two brothers, mother, and father pause for a snapshot of Fred in his U.S. Navy uniform. Left to right are: Kenneth S. Kleinknecht; C. Fred Kleinknecht; Nell May Kleinknecht; Christian F. Kleinknecht, Sr.; and Robert M. Kleinknecht.

In 1949, he began his Masonic journey, joining Maryland's Silver Spring Lodge No. 215. By 1966, the then current Grand Commander, Luther A. Smith, placed Fred in positions of increasing responsibility, leading to Fred's election as Sovereign Grand Commander in 1985.

Immediately, Fred set about repositioning the Order within the context of a changing world. To accomplish this mission, Fred said: "Because Freemasonry lives not just for today, but for generations to come, we must be first class in whatever we do."

About 1958, Fred poses for a family photo with his wife, Gene, and children Scott Nelson, Henry Frederick, and Gene Ellen.

Working closely with his handpicked staff and giving credit where credit is due, Fred initiated profound innovations in every area of Scottish Rite endeavor and brought an Ancient and Accepted Order into the new millennium.

Fred knew that building strength for tomorrow's Rite meant growing financial support today. With drive and determination, he rebuilt the Rite's endowment infrastructure and helped generate 47 state and local Scottish Rite Foundations. Fred's commitment to securing a sound financial future benefited the House of the Temple itself. He established the House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, Inc., and in just 12 years, its endowment enabled innovations such as creating the Pillars of Charity Alcove and the Scottish Rite Hall of Honor to recognize major donors to the Rite.

On September 16, 1969, Ill. C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33°, then Grand Secretary General and S.G.I.G. at Large, greeted Astronaut Ill. Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., 33°, to the House of the Temple.

The annual Scottish Rite Cal-endar Program, an effort Fred began 14 years ago, has enabled much-needed improvements, including reconstruction of the Temple's damaged grand entrance steps and completion of the Cornerstone of Freedom Hall, the Hall of Scottish Rite Regalia, the George Washington Memorial Banquet Hall, the Burl Ives Room, the Americanism Museum, the just-dedicated Albert Pike Museum, and, most of all, the total renovation of the Rite's most valuable scholarly resource, the Supreme Council Library. Inspired by Fred's leadership, Brethren rallied to support the House of the Temple, the finest architectural masterpiece of the Scottish Rite in America and the modern headquarters for our Order.

On February 11, 1988, President Ronald Reagan welcomed Grand Commander Kleinknecht to the White House.

Similarly, Fred, as Editor-in-Chief of the Council's publications, set new records:

  • publishing 18 major books
  • distributing more brochures and booklets than any previous Grand Commander
  • founding the Scottish Rite Research Society with its 10 volumes, to date, of scholarly articles
  • modernizing and renaming the Scottish Rite Journal, now in full color and reaching nearly half a million readers every month
  • producing four major videotapes
  • creating an influential Internet site
  • and streamlining the Pike Degrees for modern audiences around the world.

A leading advocate for Masonic Unity, Fred broke new ground in fraternal relations by officially presenting a copy of our revised standard Pike ritual to the Supreme Councils of Prince Hall Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

In an era of declining membership, Fred created dynamic programs bringing new Brethren to our ranks.

Wanting to debunk long-standing fictions about Freemasonry, Fred manned an aggressive and winning campaign against an extremist faction within the Southern Baptist Convention that wished to condemn Freemasonry.

Ill. Ernest E. Borgnine, 33°, Grand Cross, was Ill. Kleinknecht's very special guest at the 1991 Biennial Session.

Similarly, Fred took unprecedented steps to heal misunderstandings between Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic Church. Through personal conferences with high Vatican officials in Rome and in Washington, he set the cornerstone for building cordial relations between the two great institutions.

Internationally, Fred boldly initiated new Scottish Rite relations. He appointed a Deputy to oversee Western Europe and Africa, restored a regular Scottish Rite presence in Portugal, established new Supreme Councils in Togo and the Ivory Coast, and reestablished the Scottish Rite in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, and Romania. On May 31, 2003, the President of Romania recognized Fred's contribution by awarding him that country's highest honor, the Romanian Star.

At home in the U.S., the Rite responded to a nation in need. Imme-diately following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Southern Jurisdiction pledged $1 million to the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund to assist children and spouses of 9/11 victims.

The work of the Rite continues with major initiatives focusing on the RiteCare Childhood Language Program, whose Golden Anniversary we celebrate this year. In 1953, 14 children were treated in the Valley of Denver. Today, in over 170 clinics, we treat over 28,000 children every year.

These few facts, briefly sketched, highlight only a small portion of Ill. C. Fred Kleinknecht's 18-year tenure as Grand Commander, a tenure exceeded only by Grand Commanders Albert Pike and Henry Cowles.

A family man who values his wife, children, and grandchildren above all else, he extends that love and loyalty to his church, country, Freemasonry, and, most of all, to the Scottish Rite.

Rapid and resolute, Fred rejuvenated the Scottish Rite and inspired dynamic activity in every area of our Order's mission.

Thank you, Fred, and thank you, Gene, "First Lady of the Scottish Rite." With grace and style you have supported our Order's accomplishments as an ambassador to the world.

The Kleinknecht legacy of leadership will inspire us for generations to come. On behalf of Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite, thank you, Fred, and thank you, Gene!