IOOF to honor Byrd at ceremony

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) of West Virginia will honor the late United States Sen. Robert C. Byrd on Saturday, during a public ceremony in the Capitol Complex at Charleston.

Byrd will receive posthumously the Grand Decoration of Chivalry, the highest military honor bestowed from the organization. The decoration exists to recognize and honor extraordinary service to mankind. The recipients of the award are members of the organization or notable personages.

In consideration to service of mankind and in homage of his selflessness, the Department Council of West Virginia, along with the General Military Council and the Sovereign Grand Lodge, approved the issuance of this decoration to the late senator for his contributions as a member of the IOOF, as well as his service to the citizens of the Mountain State.

“The late Sen. Byrd was a very special member and a friend to all,” said Maj. Gen. Emil Suder, executive officer of the General Military Council and coordinator of the ceremony. “He contributed a vast amount of dedicated hours to make our great state what it is today. We wanted to recognize his love for the state and its citizens and this is a perfect way for us as an organization to show appreciation.”

The Patriarchs Militant Army was established in 1885 during an annual session of The Sovereign Grand Lodge. Members of the organization provide a semi-military appearance to the organization.

For more information, please visit the organization’s website at

The IOOF is a worldwide fraternal organization established in North America on April 26, 1819, by Thomas Wildey, an Englishman along with four other individuals. The organization was founded on four principles – to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan. The IOOF was the first fraternal in the United States to authorize a women’s auxiliary within the organization. In 1851, vice president Schuyler Colfax authored the Rebekah Degree.

Upon Wildey’s death in 1861, there were more than 200,000 members of the organization throughout the United States. Today, the organization is in over 28 countries with just more than 600,000 members worldwide.

In 1929, there were more than 1.2 million members across the North American continent. Some famous members included Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Wyatt Earp, P.T. Barnum, Charles Lindbergh and Charlie Chaplin.

The organization was established in West Virginia shortly after the Civil War. Due to the overwhelming support from other states (jurisdictions), leaders came into the Mountain State and established lodges. The first lodge in Virginia, now West Virginia, is Virginia Lodge No. 1 located in Harpers Ferry. Instituted in 1833, the charter for the lodge was issued by Virginia and later reassigned by West Virginia. Since that time, the organization established lodges in many areas throughout the state and continues to render services in local communities.

The IOOF, in earlier years, provided benefits such as a sick and funeral home while maintaining, for more than 100 years, a home in Elkins for widowers and widows of members and orphan children.