“James Penn was born in Amherst County, Virginia, September 22, 1794. While still in Virginia, Brother Penn married Martha and their first two children Virginia Ann Penn and James Littleton Penn were born there. In 1825, Brother Penn and his family moved to Triana, Madison County, Alabama. His sons Fearn Penn, George Nicholas Penn, and William Penn, born in Alabama, died of scarlet fever in January 1841. Two daughters were also born in Alabama. Brother Penn entered into law practice with Thomas J. Sumner of Huntsville, but maintained his office in Triana and on June 21, 1829, ran an ad in The Democrat, a Huntsville newspaper, to announce his candidacy for the Alabama Legislature. He served as speaker of the lower house for three years. After serving his final term in the legislature he dropped his law practice and became a cashier for the Branch Bank of Alabama, where he remained employed until his removal to Memphis, Tennessee in 1848.
Brother Penn was made a Mason as early as 1817 in Marshall Lodge No. 39 of Lynchburg, Virginia, and served as Master for several years and District Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1820 and 1821. He was Exalted in Richmond Chapter No. 3 R.A.M. in 1819, and soon became a member of Euclid Chapter No. 15, at Danville, Virginia, and was Grand High Priest of Virginia Royal Arch Masons in 1820-21. Brother Penn apparently received the R. & S. M. Degrees on the 16th day of February, 1820, from James Cushman, who held a patent from Jeremy L. Cross and who issued another patent authorizing Brother Penn as the first Thrice Illustrious Grand Master and others to open Washington Council No. 6 at Lynchburg, Virginia.
Brother Penn is not only distinguished as the “Father of the Alabama Ritual” but also as the “Father of Scottish Rite Masonry in Virginia” for his leadership in the movement to establish the Scottish Rite in Lynchburg and in the State of Virginia at large, thereby becoming a Charter member of Virginia Consistory in Brother Penn appears to have received the Scottish Rite Degrees, Forth to Thirty-second from James Cushman, a Deputy of the Supreme Council, at the same time he received the Cryptic Degrees. He affiliated with Triana Lodge No. 22 and served as Master from 1827 to 1834, then later with Helion Lodge No 1 in Huntsville where he served as Master from 1837 to 1842. In 1826, he was present at the Annual Communication in Tuscaloosa and served on including committees appointed to revise and amend the Constitution and another to exemplify the work. He also served as pro tem, Grand Senior Warden. He served as Grand Lecturer of the Alabama Grand Lodge from 1827 to 1833 and as Grand Master in 1843 and 1844.
Brother Penn died July 21, 1870, at age seventy-five. In a memorial written by Brother Albert Pike Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite at that time, and a personal friend of Brother Penn, he states “Our dear friend and brother was a man eminently of pure
heart and innocent life, a generous, genial, kind affectionate man, of blameless morals, in the truest sense a servant of the Cross, doing harm to none, and saying harm of none; and yet no negative man, but of firm convictions and energetic action, and resolute nature and quick decision, condemning with a lofty scorn every act unworthy of a Mason, and yet ever ready to forgive when that wrongly done had been repented of.” xvi[1979 Pro] [Grand Masters of The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons The State of Alabama 1821-2008 by Donna R. Causey]