PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — One local man is trying to save an important piece of history from the black community of Panama City.
Members of the Freemasonry Fraternal organization founded the Labor System Lodge in 1907, helping to establish Panama City’s African American community in Glenwood.
712 Hamilton Avenue in Panama City is the home of the Labor System Lodge #324.
Brother Secretary, Johnathan Potter, said it’s been the home of the masonic family in Panama City since 1951.
“It was state of the art for its time and in the 1950s for the African American community in this community to build such a fine establishment it was a great accomplishment for the disenfranchised of African Americans in this area,” Potter said.
Those who founded this branch like Emanuel “Blue” Pope and Cora Pinkney, worked their way up from nothing to promote civil rights for all here in Bay County.
“Some of these members were employed by the school board, some were entrepreneurs, some of the members that were listed on our roster are some of the greats,” Potter said.
March first will mark the 115th anniversary for this organization.
Current members of the organization like Potter work hard to preserve the history of the masonic family.
“We have longevity and I think that they would be very very grateful that the legacy lives on even though they are not with us today we still have these artifacts that they have left with us,” Potter said.
He said the people that came before him have beaten the odds and shown what African Americans can do for society. Now it is his turn to keep the history alive.
He’s spearheading an effort to rebuild the lodge that was wrecked by Hurricane Michael.
“The building is in disrepair right now because of the storm and we aren’t holding any events because of the pandemic but we are excited to get back on the ball,” Potter said.
More than two and half years after Hurricane Michael, there are still several repairs that need to be made. But they lack funding and raising money during a pandemic isn’t easy.
“We are down but we are not out and we need to partner together with those who will have a concern for the African American civic organizations to thrive and live in this area,” Potter said.
He said it’s important to repair this building so history can live on for another 115 years.
“We do have a footprint and our footprint is to remain,” Potter said.
The organization is accepting donations to help repair this special building. They accept checks and money orders, which can be sent to 712 Hamilton Avenue Panama City, Fla 32401.