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Joseph Wellington "Jo" Byrns Sr. Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Joseph Wellington "Jo" Byrns Sr. passes away in 1936.

Joseph Wellington "Jo" Byrns Sr. was an American politician.

Byrns was born on July 20th, 1869 in Cedar Hill, Tennessee. He was named for a maternal uncle who died during the American Civil War. He graduated from public schools in Tennessee.

Byrns great grandfather figures prominently into the legend of the Bell Witch. The legend involved the Bell family who moved to Tennessee in the early 1800's. The legend goes the patriarch of the family was out tending the field when a strange animal appeared with the head of a rabbit and body of a dog. He shot at the animal and it disappeared. Over the months and years the Bell family was tormented by an entity allegedly causing physical harm to family members and visitors to the farm, including members of General Andrew Jackson's party who visited the farm to investigate the occurrences.

Starting in 1894, Byrns was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives for three consecutive terms. In 1900 he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate.

In 1902 Byrns ran for the District Attorney of Davidson County Tennessee unsuccessfully. It was the only election he lost out of a total 18 elections he faced in his life.

In 1908, Byrns was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He served in the House of Representatives until the time of his passing in 1936. During his time in the House he was the House Majority leader and in 1935 became the Speaker of the House.

Byrns passed away on June 4th, 1936. His funeral was attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was held in the United States Capital.

Byrns was a member of Phoenix Lodge No. 131 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was also a member of Cumberland Chapter No. 1, Royal Arch Masons and was reportedly a Knights Templar and Shriner.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.