A little bit about Harry Clifton Meriwether

(1900-1980)

Harry Clifton Meriwether

Harry Clifton Meriwether moved to Iowa from Lee, Oklahoma, in the 1930s. He became one of the first African-Americans to open a business in Fort Dodge. He opened a restaurant called Harry’s Chicken Shack.

He was not only a businessman, but he was a veteran of both World Wars as a member of the U.S. Navy and a recognized leader in the black community.

He was also a worshipful master of the Solomon Lodge for several terms. That was the black Masonic lodge in Fort Dodge from 1947 to 1985. This is according to local historian Roger Natte’s book, “To Make Good Men Better, Black Masonry in Fort Dodge, Iowa.”

According to Jameel Hameed, Masonic lodge master, Meriwether served 27 years in the military.

Meriwether overcame bigotry during that time.

“That’s where Harry’s experience as a mess cook, he was subjected to a lot of negativity,” Hameed said. “While he was in the Navy it wasn’t like today where everyone is treated equally.”

Having served in the Navy himself in the 1960s, Hameed can relate.

“I can bear witness to some things he may have experienced being a person of color,” Hameed said. “He served on smaller ships in the Navy, like escorts and destroyers. I was on a destroyer too, so I can pretty well conceive the thoughts of just a few blacks being on a small ship.”

Meriwether inspired Hameed to get involved in the community.

“Harry was very articulate and he could lead you wherever you wanted to go,” he said. “I took an exception of learning things that he tried to do in his life. That’s one of the reasons I joined Masonry. He was a great person of leadership.”

Meriwether’s wife, Ann Meriwether, had two children. He did not have any biological children, according to Sherry Washington.

He was also a carpenter.

“He was very straightforward,” Washington recalls. “He was very matter of fact. I remember him to be very matter of fact.”

Meriwether saw the importance of always improving.

“He was one of those people that always seemed to be striving for better,” Washington said. “That’s what he used to teach the people in the community.”

She added, “For someone like Mr. Meriwether, it’s an honor as I remember Harry growing up. My father was part of the Masons. I remember him for the work he did in our church. I know the respect the community has for him. He’s an honorable man.”

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