He did what was needed." There are, really, no higher words of praise which can be spoken of a man's life. This is especially true if one is speaking of a member of the Scottish Rite, with its profound emphasis on the performance of duty and of making a difference in the world. To say that a man did what was needed is to leave nothing unsaid.
If ever a man merited that epitaph, Christian F. Kleinknecht did. A 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, holder of the Grand Cross, Assistant to the Grand Secretary General, father of our Grand Commander, Christian F. Kleinknecht's life was a monument of doing what needed to be done and benefiting hundreds of thousands in the process.
At his passing, in 1970, he was memorialized in the Congressional Record in a speech delivered in the House of Representatives by Congressman Tim Lee Carter. In his remarks, Congressman Carter, 33, Valley of Lexington, Kentucky, said, "A conscientious official, an astute scholar, a devoted parent, Mr. Kleinknecht was probably best known simply as a good friend."
Who was this man so many loved and admired?
He was, literally, born in a log cabin near Evansville, Indiana, on April 25, 1889. He was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on September 29, 1919, at Washington Centennial Lodge No. 14 in Washington, D.C. On April 15, 1921, he received the 32 at Albert Pike Consistory, also in Washington. Ten years later, he was invested a Knight Commander of the Court of Honour and received the 33 Inspector General Honorary in 1933. In 1932, he received the Degrees of the York Rite.
It was also in 1919 that he began to work as an employee of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, and the length of his record of service has never been equalled. At the time he began, the work week at the House of the Temple was 54 hours long. But even that was not time enough for the tasks he undertook.
Surely the most formidable was to bring order out of the chaos of the membership records. Scottish Rite Masonry was growing at an almost frenetic pace. It was not uncommon for a Valley to confer the Degrees on more than a thousand new Scottish Rite Masons in a year. In April, 1920, for instance, the Dallas, Texas, Valley had 1,030 candidates in a single class. Multiply those numbers by the number of Valleys in an Orient and the number of Orients in the Southern Jurisdiction, and one soon has a mountain of paperwork. And this was in the pre-computer days when each recording of a name, address, and other information had to be done by hand.
Month by month, year after year, the records had been accumulating; it was nearly impossible to find the information needed to serve our members efficiently, and absolutely impossible to find it quickly.
Christian F. Kleinknecht tackled the problem, devised new plans of classification, invested an enormous personal effort, and produced a system which reduced the piles of index cards and ledger sheets to manageable proportions, thus allowing the House of the Temple staff to provide service and information with undreamed of efficiency. He did what was needed.
But then he had always been an innovator. When a very young man, as a Rural Mail Carrier, he was one of the first carriers to use an automobile, a 1912 model Sears & Roebuck auto buggy, for the work.
He became the Assistant to the Grand Secretary General of The Supreme Council, and, again, he did what was needed. Constantly, he found ways to improve the efficiency of the operations, the clarity of the records, and the speed of service both to members of The Supreme Council and to members of the Craft.
He was a writer, and several of his articles appeared in this magazine under its former name, The New Age. And it was there that he found another thing which was needed, and did it. He decided to record his thoughts on the rich texture of life with the intention of offering inspiration and assistance to the Brethren.
The result was volume after volume of writing that touches the very heart of the human condition. Each book is filled with excellent advice on those little acts of consideration which are so often defining moments in human relationships. He taught important lessons in interpersonal communications. But then he had always been a teacher. For most of his adult life he taught Bible Study classes and Sunday School classes.
In an article entitled "Gratitude," printed in the September, 1967, issue of The New Age, he reminded readers how important it was to express gratitude for the little things others do for us. His observations of human interactions had told him that these small considerations help us to make life smoother and better for everyone.
But then he had always been a careful craftsman with the pen. In 1968, he received from Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the George Washington Honor Medal for "outstanding accomplishments in helping to achieve a better understanding of the American Way of Life" for his essay "Help People To Help Themselves."
In the April, 1966, issue of The New Age, Ill. Bro. Kleinknecht had another article, entitled "Praise." It begins, "Have you ever read an article composed mostly of quotes? Well, here is one." He goes on, through a series of well-chosen quotations, to explain the importance of praise in human relations. The article is important in its own right, but even more significant as an example of Brother Kleinknecht's lifelong custom of giving praise as often as possible and in every way possible.
All his life, Ill. Bro. Christian F. Kleinknecht was a voracious reader. Realizing at an early age the wisdom of Emerson's line, "Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it," and Dr. Johnson's dictum that, "Every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language," he began to make note of ideas or thoughts he found in his reading which were especially well-expressed.
He realized that words are the most powerful agents known to man for either good or ill, that they could inspire to the darkest deeds of despotism or to the most heroic acts of self-sacrifice. "Well-expressed is well-remembered."
And so he began collecting quotations, first on notecards and in journals, then in progressively larger files. He sought out expressions of truth, comments on the human condition, and epigrams which captured the essence of emotion. He pursued them with the avid attention of a scientist and the attentive ear of a poet.
But then he had always been an acute observer of both humanity and nature. In 1968, walking through a field while vacationing in Indiana, he discovered a clover with nine leaves. The highest number previously recorded in the scientific literature was eight.
Finally, he began to publish the results of his gleanings in a series of books called The Kleinknecht Gems of Thought Encyclopedia which ultimately ran to 28 volumes. Fortunate is the person who has access to a set. More fortunate, still, is the person who owns one. It is an amazingly good source for materials for writing or for speeches. But its greatest service is twofold: it preserves many thousands of true gems which could easily have perished in the ephemeral press, and it reminds us of the greatest ideas ever conceived by man.
It is almost impossible simply to look something up. The reader starts turning page after page for the sheer joy in the beauty of the words and ideas. Rare indeed is the reader who does not feel an unconquerable urge to find a friend and share at least one passage. And the set is unique. Far more than a simple gathering of quotations, such as one finds in Bartlett, the ideas are given their full form and expression. There was a need for such a work, and Christain F. Kleinknecht, then, as always, did what was needed.
Congressman Tim Carter ended his memorial in the Congressional Record with these words which are a ringing endorsement of the life of any man: "Chris Kleinknecht was a man of commanding ability. He was in the true sense of the term a gentleman, guided by right instincts, directed and controlled by the high motives of justice, truth and honor. He was an ornament of human life and an example in all the walks and relations of life. 'None knew him but to love; none named him but to praise.'"