He was the kind of leader that never desired to halt anybody's shine; he only desired to help everybody shine.
It was late evening and quite frigid that night in Baltimore, and we were both tired and road weary immersed on the living-room coach like two ships derelict on the ocean. In the kitchen, Sister Bessie gingerly prepared hot tea and Boston cream pie (her favorite) for us. We had just gotten back from a four day religious/spiritual conference in Ocean City, Maryland, where to say the least, Brother Hazel Bey literally stole the show, and blew my mind in the process.
I really didn't know quite what to expect from the conference, only that we would be meeting with some “big” people there, he had told me. But when we arrived at the conference four days earlier, I noted from the door many “famous” people; you know, namely those TV evangelists (of all races) we see flaunting their oratory muscles at us on Sunday mornings. Then there were noted professors of religion and the social sciences, scholars, authors, a handful of politicians, and a host of lesser known preachers and clergy men and women. And there were Freemasons. I'd say altogether around 300 people converged on that conference center for those four days; they'd come from all over the country and around the world. This was something very special! I was impressed, to say the least. And I felt special to be there myself.
As Brother Hazel and I checked our bags in the lobby, I said, “Hey, Dad, there's a lot of people here...I see a lot of faces I recognize.”
Hazel Bey just smiled at me and said, “Well, I see the El Dey is here too.” He flattered me—he had a way of doing that.
In my own excitement, I then said, “I didn't know this event was going to be like thi...,”
Just then an exalted chorus of “Dr. Hazel...Dr. Hazel!,” rang to suffocate my words.
People (some of the notables) came from within the walls it seemed to greet and hug, and kiss, and bow to (yes, bow), and shine on Dr. Hazel; and I am not kidding when I say that they behaved as if God (or some celebrated deity) had just arrived, encircling him as he were a living shrine. A hallowed spectacle to be sure.
He's a gentleman first class. He excused himself to introduce me, and everyone shook hands with me as well, and some even hugged me to exchange pleasantries. Then returning their joys and attentions back to Dr. Hazel, their faces aglow like children poised for ice cream and cake, they all but smothered him. And a few referred to him simply as “Cliff.” Then more “Dr. Hazel” choruses rang, this time from the atrium above, faces beaming and people teeming. They flowed into the lobby in seconds it seemed, bright-eyed and bouncy. I thought we'd never make it to our room where we could share further discussion over a book he carried with him about the hidden years of the Knights Templar. But I had a suspicion that wouldn't mean anything anyway...everybody was trying to get at “Dr. Hazel.”
And speaking of thinking, by this time I probably did very little of that because my mind was blown. I mean, I knew he was Dr. Hazel, but I didn't know he was this “Dr. Hazel.” And of course, from day one I'd always recognized and revered his special aura, his halo, but now it loomed larger, massive even.
Later, finally somewhat relaxed at our room, and betwixt the intermittent knocking on the door and or calls of “Dr. Hazel?”...”Dr. Hazel?,” without the door, he explained to me that some of the people I saw and recognized had been classmates or lodge brothers or sisters, and many had even been clients at one time or another. I mentioned one particular notable personality and he said, “I was there when he built his church from scratch, brick by brick; In fact, I laid the first brick and later offered the first prayer when the doors opened. I also designed the church altar. Yeah, he's a good man, I raised him a little over twenty years ago in Saint Thomas lodge.”
He then shared a few engaging stories about some of the others: I leaned in—just a little, listened—a lot, laughed—just a little, and learned—a lot.
Now it's the final day of the conference, and the “Dr. Hazel” frenzy and fan-fare hasn't let up; in fact, this day it has spiked up like a windstorm on the ocean. After all...this was Ocean City. Early that day, a rather calm knock on our room door startled us both, simply because it was calm. It was the gentleman scheduled to give the conference keynote address in the afternoon. I recognized him immediately. He'd come to ask Brother Hazel if he cared to carry the keynote that afternoon. Moreover, he expressed that he (and a host of others) had decided that Brother Hazel would be the better and perfect choice. He said, “I was gonna dazzle em today, but I'd rather learn from you.”
Brother Hazel returned, “Well, I wanna be dazzled too; I appreciate the gesture, and I'm highly honored; but no, I'll be fine, all is well. I'm looking forward to your address this afternoon.”
When the gentleman left the room, I was like a little kid, “Dad-you-should-do-it...Dad-you-should-do-it!”
Brother Hazel returned, No, Son; you never take away anyone's shine, anyone's light...even if they offer it to you. We never, ever accept it, as long they are themselves capable. He's the Keynote, and that's his shine today. I'm honored that he honored me to ask me; but If I were to accept, I'd be no better than one of the ruffians. You're gonna enjoy him; I taught him!”
And enjoy him I did.
Back to the Boston cream pie, it complemented the hot tea quite nicely. Both were also soothing, for I was still excited albeit tired. I noticed that Brother Hazel drank his tea quickly but hardly touched the pie.
He took a large red leather bound book from beneath his sitting chair, opened it, showed the page to me, smiled, and said, “All is well. Now let's talk about the Moorish Rite.”
In his memory, I commend Clifford E. Hazel Bey Lodge N0.1 (Fayetteville, NC), the first Moorish Rite lodge named in his honor, and other Moorish Rite lodges currently in the forming also poised to bear the name of Dr. Clifford E. Hazel Bey.