Walter M. Fleming, Cofounder of Shriners International
Walter M. Fleming, M.D. is considered to be the cofounder of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, along with actor, William “Billy” Florence. Fleming established the first Ritual for the fraternity that is today known as Shriners International.
Dr. Fleming was born in Portland, Maine, in 1838. When he was a child, his father relocated the family to Rochester, New York, to open a medical practice. Deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor, Fleming began classes at Albany Medical College; however, a call to duty during the Civil War interrupted his degree work. In 1857, he served as a surgeon for the First Cavalry of the New York National Guard. A few years later, he was named surgeon to the Nineteen Regiment of the same organization, with the rank of lieutenant or ensign.
Following a medical discharge from service, he returned to Albany Medical College, earned his degree in 1862, and joined his father’s practice in Rochester. Eventually tiring of the town, Dr. Fleming sold the family practice – which he inherited upon his father’s passing – and moved to New York City in 1869. There, he opened a medical practice that lasted nearly 40 years.
Fleming went on to become the first Potentate of Mecca Shriners and the first Imperial Potentate of Shriners International. He died on December 8, 1913, and was laid to rest at Kensico Cemetery in Westchester County, New York.
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