How Louisiana Shriners laid the foundation for Shriners Children’s Hospital in Shreveport
For centuries, laying a Masonic cornerstone has served as the first step in the erection of buildings of significance. Steeped in symbolism and tradition, the cornerstone and its placement ceremony represent not only the physical strength and durability of a building but also serve as a reflection of the spiritual and moral strength of Freemasons themselves. To this day, the laying of a cornerstone symbolizes the literal and figurative start of something special – a journey of time, thought and effort. For El Karubah Shriners of Shreveport members, perhaps no cornerstone is more meaningful than the one placed in 1922 at the corner of Kings Highway and Samford Avenue.
In 1920, members of the Shriners fraternity made the momentous decision to establish a facility dedicated to providing vital medical care to children. For nearly 50 years, the fraternity’s 146 temples had supported a variety of charitable initiatives at local, regional and national levels. Following the conclusion of World War I, the fraternity began to coalesce around the concept of a Shriner-initiated charitable cause as their enduring gift to humanity. Inspired by recent advancements in orthopedic care, the onset of the polio epidemic and a nationwide need for children’s specialty services, the fraternity placed the focus of the new philanthropy on pediatric orthopedic care.
Upon learning of the hospital discussions, El Karubah Potentate James H. Rowland set out to make a case for Shreveport as a potential location. Rowland’s wellknown Shreveport businessman and civic leader initiated an aggressive campaign to bring a Shriners hospital to Shreveport. He began raising funds and helped El Karubah secure land at the corner of Kings and Samford – the outskirts of town at the time. He then enlisted the help of the Shreveport Medical Society in funding a qualified orthopedic surgeon for the first year of operation.
Joined by Shreveport Mayor L.E. Thomas and other El Karubah representatives, Rowland traveled to Atlanta to present his proposal to the Shriners committee oversee ing the hospital initiative. Chaired by Sam Cochran of Dallas, Texas, the committee was impressed with the level of preparation by the Shreveport delegation. In September of 1921, El Karubah was given the approval to proceed.
On May 12, 1922, hundreds of Shriners from throughout the region descended upon Shreveport to lay the cornerstone for the world’s first Shriners Hospital. From their home location at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in downtown Shreveport, El Karubah led a parade procession that included Shriners from surrounding temples and dignitaries representing the Shriners International fraternity and national hospital committee. The numerous vehicles, parade units and special guests traveled the 2.5 miles to Kings and Samford for the formal cornerstone dedication. Led by Imperial Potentate Ernest Cutts and with Rowland and other fraternity leaders looking on, the cornerstone ceremony was performed for hundreds of onlookers and physically signaled the start of an ambitious and unprecedented effort to provide essential care to children in need.
On May 12, 2022, members of El Karubah, Louisiana Masons, hospital staff and special guests stood before that same cornerstone at Kings and Samford to commemorate the anniversary of the momentous occasion there 100 years prior. What began with the revelry and ceremony of those 1922 events has now blossomed into an international system of facilities that have provided life-changing care to over 1.5 million children, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. As part of the commemoration, El Karubah and other Shrine temple representatives, the Grand Lodge of Louisiana and Shreveport Hospital leadership all paid homage to those whose efforts laid the foundation for the extraordinary mission of Shriners Children’s.
Upon initiation, Masons are called upon to erect a spiritual temple in their heart. The cornerstone thereby represents a bedrock of both structure and character, a foundation without which neither a building nor a Mason could stand. One hundred years after the events of that May afternoon, one can safely add the Shreveport community as part of the cornerstone of this special facility, whose support has helped ensure a solid and stable presence in this community then, now and for years to come.
To schedule an appointment at Shriners Children’s Shreveport, please call 318-226- 3314.