Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 27, 2013

SALISBURY — One of the first things Dewey Preslar wanted to do in his term as grand master of N.C. Masons was to recognize a fellow Salisburian with the highest honor he could bestow.
So he presented Floyd Burton, 93, with the prestigious Montfort Medal. Joseph Montfort was sort of a granddaddy of all Masons in America, and since 1940, North Carolina’s grand masters have been allowed to hand out judiciously — very judiciously — the Grand Lodge’s highest award.
“It’s such an honor to get it from a friend I’ve known for many, many years,” Burton says. “I didn’t think I deserved it.”
But for Preslar, recognizing Burton with the Montfort Medal was “a no-brainer,” given all Burton has done through the decades for Masons and his community as a whole, especially young people trying to further their educations.
To Preslar, who in December became the first N.C. grand master from Salisbury since 1937, Burton is the example of what being a Mason is all about.
As grand master, Preslar is allowed to award three Montfort Medals in the state during his year’s term in office.
“I didn’t struggle at all with this first choice,” Preslar says.
“Floyd is very special.”
Preslar adds he and Burton are more than good friends — they’re brothers.
The other two living Montfort Medal recipients in Rowan County are Tommy Eller and Bill Meacham, both of whom were able to attend the surprise presentation for Burton at the Andrew Jackson Masonic Lodge Dec. 20.
“I’m in very good company,” Burton says.
More than 80 people attended that evening, including members of Burton’s family. He lost his wife, Dot, three years ago, and has two daughters, Delores and Barbara, and two grandchildren, Drew and Burton.
Burton has belonged to Andrew Jackson Masonic Lodge No. 576 since 1949. He became a Mason at the invitation of the pastor of Stallings Memorial Baptist Church, the Rev. C.A. Rhyne, and Frank Wellman, who everyone knew as “Pop.”
Burton became absorbed in Masons.
“It’s been a way of life for me,” he says.
He served as his lodge’s master in 1955, the year in which Preslar was born. Preslar needles Burton constantly about that fact.
Burton was a founder and organizer behind the local lodge’s two charity projects, including its well-known Brunswick stew, which debuted in 1958.
“I had a lot of help,” Burton protests. “That wasn’t just me.”
Floyd and Dot Burton established the Burton scholarship at the Masonic-sponsored Home for Children in Oxford in 1978. He has served as an officer in district positions and on Grand Lodge committees.
There was a day, Burton acknowledges, when he knew all the Grand Lodge officials and their wives on a first-name basis. His duties at the state level have included service on the orphanage and juris prudence boards.
In 1988, the Andrew Jackson Masonic Lodge made Burton a life member. He also has been given honorary memberships in the Keller Memorial, Scotch-Irish and Spencer Masonic lodges.
In addition, he also belongs to the York Rite, Scottish Rite and Oasis Shrine organizations.
Burton and his wife always made conscious efforts to support children’s homes and overall provide scholarships geared toward education.
Besides the children’s home in Oxford, they set up a fund that annually gave a scholarship to a high school graduate at the Mills Home in Thomasville.
In 2000, they endowed the Floyd Burton Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Catawba College. In fact, Floyd and his late wife, Dot, have quietly funded scores of college scholarships through the years, always with an eye to students who needed financial help.
A native of Spencer, Burton has lived in Salisbury since 1956. He served in a U.S. Army Railroad unit in the European Theater during World War II and is a dedicated member of the American Legion and a familiar face at local Legion baseball games.
For 34 years, he operated Burton Furniture in Spencer before selling in 1975. Prior to the furniture career, he worked about seven years for Southern Railway at Spencer Shops. He is a graduate of Salisbury Business College and also studied retailing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Joseph Montfort was the only man to have been named Provincial Grand Master of America, so appointed by the Grand Lodge of England in 1771.
Montfort was born in England in 1724 and served as a colonel of Colonial troops before his death March 25, 1776. He belonged to the Royal White Hart Lodge of Halifax.
His commission as Provincial Grand Master came in 1771. He chartered a number of North Carolina’s earliest Masonic lodges.
North Carolina’s Grand Lodge was established in 1787.
According to the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence, the Joseph Montfort Medal is presented by the grand master “to any Master Mason in good standing and recognized by this Grand Lodge who in the opinion of the Grand Master is deserving thereof because of distinguished service or achievement.”
Those are a lot of words to say one thing to Burton.
“I know they’re special,” he says.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.