There are a lot of proud Masons in the Tri-Cities, but not many have the credentials of 102-year-old Jason Worley Snyder.
Among his many Masonic honors and titles, he once served as master of one of the grandest lodges in the United States, the Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 in Alexandria, Va. There were about 500 members at the time he was master.
The grandeur and splendor of this lodge can be seen by any tourist who ventures along King Street in Alexandria. The massive lodge includes a 333-foot tower fashioned after one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The tower sits atop Shooters Hill and can be seen for miles around the city. The building is set on 36 acres of landscaped grounds. Just as impressive is its lineage of past members and masters. George Washington preceded Snyder as master of the lodge by 190 years.
“They have pictures on a wall of everyone who has served as master of the lodge,” Snyder said. “My picture is on that wall along with George Washington’s.”
Snyder served as the 125th master of the lodge in 1979. Washington served as master in 1788-89.
Snyder also served as the commander of the Old Dominion Commandery No. 11 in Alexandria and as master of the Alexandria Scottish Rite.
Snyder was born Aug. 4, 1910, in Doe, along Roan Creek in Johnson County. He was told it was an election day.
“It was near the old railroad station on the way to Mountain City,” Snyder said. His family moved to a 50-acre farm in Valley Forge in Carter County when he was 10. He said it was where Hayworth Tire now stands on U.S. Highway 19E.
Snyder received a bachelor of science degree in education from East Tennessee State Teachers College. His first job was at the two-teacher elementary school in Poga. He then taught at the elementary schools in Hampton and Valley Forge.
He might have had a career in education except for Pearl Harbor. With America’s entry into World War II, Snyder joined the Army Air Corps. He went to Texas, then on to North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
After the war, he got a job with the Veterans Administration supervising the administration of the G.I. Bill in the area. He also became a master mason at the Dashiell Lodge in Elizabethton in 1946. He married Viola Wilson on Nov. 27, 1947.
His job relocated him to Knoxville and then to Washington. He then transferred to the Department of the Navy, where he worked as a management analyst, a job that took him across the nation on short visits to naval stations on both coasts and off-shore bases in Bermuda and Puerto Rico.
In addition to his work with the Navy and the Masons, Snyder was also active in his church, serving as a deacon with the National City Christian Church. Lyndon Johnson attended the church during the time he was president. Snyder got to know him well, and said Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, became friends with Viola.
“He would come to church about every Sunday except when there was trouble,” Snyder said. He said the church was sometimes targeted by civil rights or anti-war protesters, but Johnson had a way to avoid a confrontation at the church.
“His barber was also a member of the church and he would come early and call Johnson to come ahead if there were no protesters,” Snyder said.
He said the church did not try to remove the protesters. “We invited them inside and escorted them to the front row,” Snyder said. “A lot of them didn’t come back after that.”
While Snyder enjoyed his time with the lodge, there was one sad episode. He was attending a lodge meeting in 1973 when he was told his wife had just died of a heart attack in their yard while she was watering her flowers.
Following his retirement, Snyder moved back to Johnson City in 1980. He soon married Frances Shoun of Butler. She died just a few years ago.
Snyder said he attributes his long life to one thing: “I honor my father and mother.” He said he has been blessed with good health, but when he was a small child he did suffer a fever associated with pneumonia. At the time, he said a doctor told his parents he would not live to be 21. “The doctor was wrong,” Snyder said.
These days, Snyder lives at the Colonial Hill Retirement Center and says “it is the best place for old people.”
He also praises the veterans hospital at Mountain Home. “The VA has absolutely been wonderful to me.” His physician is Dr. James Bookout.
Snyder has not been a difficult patient for the hospital. He suffers from failing eyesight and takes daily doses of eye drops. His only other medications are half of a blood pressure pill daily and a stomach pill.
Even though his health has been good, Snyder made what will probably be his last trip to the Alexandria lodge March 27. He told his lodge brothers that the trip was difficult for him and this would probably the last time he would see them “at least until we get to heaven.” He bid them farewell and they gave him a certificate of merit for his distinguished and long service in the lodge.