What is a Scottish Rite “Red Hat”?
What is a Scottish Rite “Red Hat”?

What is a Scottish Rite “Red Hat”?

By Paul R. Swanson, 32° KCCH

What is a Scottish Rite “Red Hat”?

By Paul R. Swanson, 32° KCCH

November 19, 2023

KCCH stands for Knight Commander Court of Honor. If you are a member of the Scottish Rite, you have been through several degrees which involved knights. Degrees can’t be opened to the public for viewing. However, KCCH is not a degree, and the public is invited to see the ceremony in Florida.

In contrast, degrees lead to titles in most cases in Masonry. Worshipful Master is one of the most common. Right Worshipful is bestowed on those who serve as DDGMs. Appending bodies bestow Illustrious on the head Shriner and the Scottish Rite man in charge. Any title you hear the secretary list for attendees when he does the last meeting minutes is a title. KCCH is not listed when you sign into the lodge logbook nor when you are noted in any lodge meeting minutes. It is an honor and sits in a special place within the Scottish Rite, but it doesn’t rise to the level of a masonic title. That is an important distinction.

In Masonry in general, where you place your effort, time and energy is where you see the rewards if done correctly. The same is true for the Scottish Rite Mason and the KCCH is a reward for work, in all areas of Masonry leading up to the many efforts in the valley where one joins. Think of it as a reward for a lifetime of dedication to the Craft, including other Masonic bodies. Very few members of the Scottish Rite are limited to just that group, usually, they belong to other masonic groups beyond their personal Blue Lodge and valley.

Recently I was honored by receiving the KCCH patent and the “Red Hat”. The selection process is a bit obscure, but one thing was stressed when I joined Scottish Rite thirty years ago in the Norfolk Valley, you are NOT allowed to even joke about asking for the KCCH or the thirty-third degree. If it is reported, you will never get the honor or the degree. It is an honor bestowed, not requested, and certainly never demanded. Both paths of asking or demanding are considered poor behavior for anyone, let alone a mason.

In most valleys, the Personal Representative (PR) is responsible for the nominees. In the Orient of Florida, the KCCH ceremony can be viewed by the public, thanks to a change made five years ago when the rules were altered. The thirty-third degree is closed just as any other Scottish Rite degrees are closed to the public.

One other thing for the KCCH, is a selection process, with several reviews by committees at the state level after the SGIG has made his review of the PRs recommendations. Just being nominated is only the start of the process we were told by the preparation committee as we awaited the ceremony.

It is not a popularity contest by the way, but if you are skirting masonic values and laws, or causing disharmony it is unlikely that you will be selected. The work in your total masonic resume is the part that the selection groups look at. They look at the appendant bodies you are involved in as well as your Blue Lodge activities.

Another interesting point, the KCCH is now a requirement to be considered for a “White Hat” or 33°.

Albert Pike was involved in the creation of the KCCH after looking for a way to avoid diluting the 33° membership. He found too many willing workers for the Craft who needed recognition but not yet were worthy of the top honor of a 33°. This was his answer to those who did the work but fell short of the next rung.

Another thing is that it is not a “rank” in the military view. We are all on the same level even if we have a multiple group of titles like Right Worshipful, Worshipful, or Illustrious. It is very improper for a brother to try and use the title as a perception of rank to try and boss others through entitlement. Leadership in volunteer groups is tricky and not like the military where those higher in rank are the decision-makers. It is not uncommon for numerous brothers to work on a project without a dedicated leader since often as not they are all used to being leaders in other aspects of their lives and they can function effectively without a designated leader.

Only the most insecure or emotionally immature members throw their perceived titles as a form of rank around in any volunteer group. It’s called an “entitlement mentality” and it is not proper masonic conduct. It also tends to drive other participants away from the group or sew discord with such behavior.

If one has been selected to be honored with a red hat, he is expected to do even more work for Masonry! This is true for the recipients of the 33° as well. He is also supposed to be an example of a proper Mason in public and private interactions.

I had someone ask me if the Double Eagle points had a threshold for this honor. No, the DE points are not universal between valleys, and they are a reward for local work. They are not the sole path toward the honor of a KCCH. The presenters at the ceremony told us that the criteria are not dependent on any one thing but include all your work and energy for Masonry combined over time. This makes the process very subjective. They also stressed that all of us individually went through several reviews before being approved which might negate some of the subjectivity. It is a process that has a lot of reviews after the PR submits his recommendations, thus not making his nominations the sole criteria.

There are a few valleys I know of where the personal representative is a red hat, with white hats helping to run the administration. That alone should tell you that the red hat is not a rank. Leadership in the Scottish Rite is positional and set by the SGIG every two years at the KCCH and 33° ceremony, usually revealed at the dinner after both ceremonies were held earlier in the day. All personal representatives, secretaries, and treasurers are appointed, regardless of the hat they wear.

The above photo is from honors weekend in Tampa 2023 for the Valley of Tallahassee.

The photo above is the author receiving his patent for KCCH in Nov 2023 in Tampa.

The above photo is the delivery of the SGIG’s appointment to our PR Ill Doug Knowles, 33°.