Every year Blue Lodges across the state of California bestow an honor known as the Hiram award upon a single member of their individual Lodge. The award is generally described as the ‘highest honor” which can be presented by a Lodge. This can be somewhat confusing, as being Master of the Lodge is also described as being the ‘highest honor” that a Mason can achieve. Technically, both statements are true.
To understand the differences, it is necessary to know the history of the Hiram Award, how it is awarded, what it is, and who is eligible to receive it.
The first Hiram Award was presented to Andrew D. Miller, PM by San Pedro Lodge No. 332 in 1964. The award remained a local award until 1977, when Galt Lodge No. 267 presented a Hiram Award to Glen Ingram, PM. This presentation was attended by over 350 people, including county supervisors, the Shrine Band from San Francisco, and John Roberts, past Grand Master of Masons for California. This event was such a success that Grand Master Kermit Jacobson assembled a committee to create a statewide Hiram Award program to “try it out” for a year. The Hiram Award caught on, and has spread to virtually every Lodge throughout the state of California. It is now awarded in several other Grand Lodge jurisdictions across the United States as well.
Many non-Masons may have one question about the award: “Who is this Hiram guy?”
The name ‘Hiram’ itself is Hebrew and means “my brother is exalted,” or “my brother is most noble.” In Masonic Legend, there are two Hirams; Hiram, King of Tyre and Hiram Abiff, who was sent from King Hiram of Tyre to King Solomon (2 Chron 2:13). “Abiff” is an interesting word from the Bible, as it’s translated differently in the various versions: -ab, Abi- and Abi(f). Strong’s Concordance indicates that the word ‘Abif” translates to “fatherless.”
The Hiram Abiff of Masonic Legend was the son of a widow who was from the tribe of Napthali and lived in Tyre. The tribe of Napthali was one of the northern Israelite tribes, who joined with David, who was to become the ruler of a unified Kingdom of Israel. The successor to David was Solomon, the King of Israel.
We read in the Bible (1 Kings Chapters 6-8) that King Solomon built the First Temple – also known as King Solomon’s Temple. King Solomon requested the aid of King Hiram of Tyre, who furnished Solomon with materials, workmen and a particular craftsman skilled in stone, metal, wood and fabric: Hiram Abiff. Hiram was not only a skilled craftsman, but he was known as a Master Architect and was renown as a man who could get things done. A Biblical mover and shaker, as it were.
According to accounts, the First Temple took seven years to complete – even with over 150,000 masons employed at the building. These workmen – while provided with food, shelter and a steady paycheck during the construction – worked under the premise that when the project was finished, they would then achieve the status of Master Mason.
Seven years is a long time. And some of the workmen were less patient than others. A few dissatisfied workers conspired together to extort their promotions early from Hiram Abiff. They talked, cajoled and finally hunted him down, found him alone, and threatened him. But Hiram refused their demands and did not yield to their threats. He reminded them of their duty to God and the conditions of their employment by King Solomon. Unfortunately, his discussions with the workmen failed, and three of them, in their anger, murdered Hiram Abiff in the unfinished Temple.
That, essentially, is the answer to the question of who Hiram Abiff is. He is a man of noble character, who remained true to his word, his nation, his community, his promise, and God even when confronted with certain death.
The Hiram Award is an honor that is bestowed only once a year by a Lodge. Unlike the office of Master of the Lodge which a Master Mason can hold more than once a Mason can only receive the Hiram Award one time in his life. And there’s no memorization or floor work required for the Hiram Award, which is a nice plus, too.
As far as eligibility requirements go, every Master Mason is eligible. The award is recognition of a Brother by the Lodge for his service. It is a tribute to a Brother who has devoted themselves, their time, and their talent above and beyond the minimal requirements of Freemasonry to become a shining beacon to others both within the Fraternity and the community. It is a singular honor authorized by the Grand Lodge of California and presented by the Brethren of the Lodge to a member they feel is a credit to the Craft.