Bushnell, George E. (George Edward), 1887-1965

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Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, official in Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Sovereign Grand Commander, Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction.

From the description of George E. Bushnell papers, 1921-1965. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34422322

George Edward Bushnell was born November 4, 1887 in Roanoke, Virginia. After graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1907, and working for a time as an advertising executive, Bushnell studied law in Cincinnati, then came to Detroit in 1913 where he enrolled in the Detroit College of Law. He graduated in 1915, and was admitted first to the Bar of Virginia and later to the Michigan Bar.

Bushnell saw brief service during World War I as a trial judge advocate. Upon the war's conclusion, he returned home to Michigan where he became a partner in a Detroit law firm. In 1933, he ran for public office as the Democratic candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court. He was re-elected for two additional terms in 1941 and 1949.

During the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, Bushnell gained further prominence as a national mediator in industrial disputes. He was referee for the National Railroad Adjustment Board (first appointed in 1939). He was later appointed by President Truman to the National Railway Labor Panel in 1946. That same year, Bushnell chaired the Presidential Fact Finding Board on the matter of the airline pilots' strike. At war's end, President Truman asked Bushnell to serve as one of the judges of the Nuremberg war trials, but because of his heavy schedule on the state Supreme Court he declined the offer.

Throughout his life, Bushnell seemed most committed to, and took most pride in, his activities as a Freemason. Because so much of the Bushnell papers concern Freemasonry, it might be helpful to outline something of the organization of Scottish Rite Masonry.

An individual enters Masonry through Blue Lodges, where he is able to obtain three symbolic degrees: the first degree being "Entered Apprentice, " second degree, "Fellowcraft, " and the third degree, "Master Mason." Beyond Master Mason, the individual has the option of pursuing two branches of Freemasonry, York Rite and Scottish Rite. York Rite consists of Royal Arch Masons, Royal and Select Masters, and Knights Templar. Scottish Rite, the branch which Bushnell entered, includes the degrees from the fourth to the thirty-third. The administrative units for the Scottish Rite are called Valleys. Within the Valleys, there are four divisions: 1) the Lodge of Perfection, covering the fourth to fourteenth degrees (its presiding officer is the Thrice Potent Master); 2) the Council of Princes of Jerusalem, covering the fifteenth and sixteenth degrees (the presiding officer is the Sovereign Prince); 3) the Chapter of Rose Croix, covering the seventeenth and eighteenth degrees (presiding officer is Most Wise Master); and 4) the Consistory of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret, covering the nineteenth through the thirty-second degrees (its presiding officer is the Commander-in-Chief).

The governing body for the several Valleys in the Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite is the Supreme Council, whose members are chosen from among the Valleys. From the Supreme Council in turn, there are chosen a smaller number of "Active" members who act as a kind of board of directors for the Supreme Council. There are at least two "Active" members in each state, one of whom is designated as the "Deputy" for that state. Heading the Supreme Council is the Sovereign Grand Commander, followed by a Lieutenant Commander and by the Grand Minister of State.

The governing body within each state is the Council of Deliberation, which is headed by that state's Deputy, and who in this role is designated as the Council's Commander-in-Chief.

With this background in mind, the researcher will better understand the multiplicity of roles which Bushnell played in Scottish Rite Freemasonry. He was "Raised" a master mason in Taylor Lodge No. 23 in Salem, Virginia in the early 1900s. Later, upon moving to Detroit, he entered Scottish Rite Freemasonry through the Valley of Detroit. He quickly moved up the Masonic ladder, becoming Thrice Potent Master of the Detroit Lodge of Perfection in 1925, and later Commander-in-Chief and Trustee of the Detroit Consistory, as well as a Trustee of the Masonic Temple Association.

During this time, in 1924, he was chosen Honorary Member of the Supreme Council and served as Sovereign Grand Inspector General, 33°. In 1934, he was crowned an "Active" member of the Supreme Council. Two years later, by virtue of his status as an Active member he was chosen Deputy for Michigan and Commander-in-Chief of that state's Council of Deliberation. In 1945, he was selected as Grand Lieutenant Commander of the Supreme Council of the Northern Jurisdiction; and in 1954, he assumed the position of Sovereign Grand Commander upon the retirement of Melvin Johnson. It was at this time that Bushnell decided to devote all of his energy to the Scottish Rite, and thus retired from the Michigan Supreme Court in 1955 before the completion of his third term. Bushnell served full-time as Grand Commander until his death in 1965.

As a Mason, Bushnell traveled widely and undertook a variety of responsibilities. In 1945, he journeyed to Europe as member of the joint White House Masonic Service Association mission. Among the many committees on which he served were the committees on Jurisprudence; Fraternal Relations; Constitution and Laws; and Rituals and Ritualistic Matters. Beyond fraternity, Bushnell's special interest in the Masons was its support of mental health research, especially in the area of schizophrenia. During his term as commander, Bushnell significantly strengthened this program through support of the Benevolent Foundation.

Outside of the Masons, Bushnell's other interests included involvement in the Michigan Democratic Party, the American Bible Society, the Michigan Board of Education, and the Sons of the American Revolution.

From the guide to the George E. Bushnell papers, 1921-1965, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Carl M. Weideman Papers, 1921-1972, 1932-1934 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Alumni Association (University of Michigan), Individual Photographs, ca. 1880-ca. 1960s Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Murphy, George, 1897-1961. George Murphy papers, 1911-1961. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Boyles, Emerson R., 1881-1960. Emerson R. Boyles papers, 1879-1911 and 1931-1960. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Arthur J. Lacy Papers, 1891-1975 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf George E. Bushnell papers, 1921-1965 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Emerson R. Boyles papers, 1879-1911 and 1931-1960 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Bushnell, George E. (George Edward), 1887-1965. George E. Bushnell papers, 1921-1965. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn George Murphy papers, 1911-1961 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
creatorOf Weideman, Carl May, 1898-1972. Carl May Weideman papers, 1921-1972. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Boyles, Emerson R., 1881-1960. person
associatedWith Carton, John J. (John Jay), 1856-1934. person
associatedWith Freemasons. corporateBody
associatedWith Lacy, Arthur J. (Arthur Jay), 1876-1975 person
associatedWith Michigan. Supreme Court. corporateBody
associatedWith Murphy, George, 1897-1961. person
associatedWith Scottish Rite (Masonic order) corporateBody
associatedWith Stevens, Frederic B. (Frederic Bliss), 1871-1947. person
associatedWith University of Michigan. Alumni Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Weideman, Carl May, 1898-1972. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
African American freemasons


Birth 1887-11-04

Death 1965-09-30


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