Bro. Michael A. Richards, 33°
Richards’ conduct might ultimately stem from his association with Freemasonry. There’s a controversy going on right now in the South, whether to officially recognize Prince Hall Masonry. In his convoluted apology on Letterman, Richards inserted a reference to the racial tension (“black/white conflict”) in the wake of Katrina. Perhaps it’s a Freudian slip, alluding to the Dixie Lodges’ struggle to come to terms with its own racial divide. As a very active and high-ranking Mason, Richards is most likely privy to the ongoing discussions taking place behind the scenes.
The argument surrounds the fact that blacks wishing to join Freemasonry – having been rebuked because of race – have had to form their own Lodges. This situation has been going on for a long time. Adding insult to injury, the Prince Hall masons are looked upon as “clandestine” – meaning, they aren’t officially recognized. Prince Hall Masonry represents a separate body of Lodges segregated from mainstream masonry. There are some whites in Prince Hall, and vice versa in the main Lodges, but the southern jurisdictions still refuse to officially recognize the black masonic organization.
Michael Richards was initiated into Freemasonry on December 17, 1998, at the Riviera Lodge No. 780 in Pacific Palisades, California. In an interview (“Michael A. Richards, 33° Beyond the Symbols”)[Internet Archive] with The Scottish Rite Journal of Freemasonry (Sept. 2003), Richards said his fascination with the Craft began in the early 60s. His mother had “had a friend who was a Mason … I didn’t have a father, but he was like a father to me. He was very charitable with his time. On Friday nights he would take me to the American Legion Hall where some of the best vaudeville acts in the country were performed.” After finding out his comedic idol Red Skelton was a mason, Richards decided to become one himself.
In a previous article (Renaissance Man, Not “Kramer”) from the September 2000 issue of the same official magazine for Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Richards said he had already been somewhat of an armchair Masonic philosopher before being initiated. He became “interested in the Craft from reading Manly Palmer Hall’s The Secret [Teachings] of All Ages, Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma, and Albert Mackey’s Symbolism of Freemasonry. So, when I met Red and found out about his strong ties to Freemasonry, I was very impressed. Morals and Dogma certainly introduced me to Scottish Rite philosophy, but it was through Red’s lovable nature, Masonic and all, that I really wanted to be a Mason.”