D.W. Clements
  1. The White Leather Apron

  2. Biographical Sketch, by Fitch

This poem is often confused with another of the same title by Franklyn Lee which also begins similarly.

The White Leather Apron

The white leather apron is more ancient by far
Then the eagles of Rome, a symbol of war,
Or the fleece of pure gold, by emperors given,
A rich decoration for which many have striven.
The Garter of England, an Order most rare,
Although highly prized, can not with it compare;
It is an emblem of innocence, symboled in white,
And purity ever brings the greatest delight;
With pure thoughts and actions, how happy the life,
How care-free the conscience, unclouded by strife!

No Potentate ever can upon us bestow
An honor so great as this apron doth show;
No king on his throne in his highest estate
Can give us an emblem so cherished or great;
'Tis the Badge of a Mason, more noble to wear
Than the gold of the mine, or the diamond most rare.
So here's to the lambskin, the apron of white,
That lifts up all equals and all doth unite,
In the Order so ancient that man can not say
When its teachings began or name its birthday.

Since its birth, nations young have gone to their tomb,
And cities once great turned to ashes and gloom;
Earth's greatest achievements have long passed away,
And peoples have risen and gone to decay.
Outliving all these, never changing with time,
Are the principles taught in our Order sublime.
And now, my good brother, this apron's for you,
May you worthily wear it and ever be true
To the vows you have made, to the lessons most grand;
For these, home and country, we ever will stand.

The Builder Magazine, Vol.3, No.1, Jan. 1917.

When first searching for this author, we had only the initials D.W. (sometimes cited as D.L.) Clements, and didn't even know his full name! We found no other poems by the man, and only a reference that might have been him in Iowa. But further research revealed the Iowan died in 1910, so seemed not likely to be the author of a poem published in 1917. At the time, we couldn't imagine how a poem written at least 7 years before would have come into a distant editor's hands. But then it occurred to us that Iowa also was the home base for "The Builder" magazine. It didn't take much more digging to discover that Joseph Fort Newton, the editor of "The Builder", moved to Cedar Rapids, IA, in 1908. Since he and David were both extremely active as Masons beyond just their local lodges, and their cities only 75 miles apart, it's entirely likely they knew each other (indeed, unlikely that they didn't!) So for David to have entrusted Joseph with a copy of his poem before his death, or one of his survivors to have passed it on a few years later, now seems, in our opinion, fairly likely. Thus, the following comes with a caveat that the identity is not positive, but circumstantially likely.

David W. Clements (July 9, 1846 - Nov. 16, 1910)

The following is much condensed from Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, by George Fitch, 1910, which focused mainly on his professional life.

The Honorable David W. Clements was an American by adoption, being a native of county Antrim, Ireland, where his birth occurred on the 9th day of July, 1846. His parents, Henderson and Margaret Woods Clements, both of Scotch-Irish antecedents, were born and reared in the Emerald Isle, but in the prime of life they immigrated to the United States and settled in Fayette county, Iowa, where the father engaged in farming and stock-raising. He was a soldier in the late Civil War, having served with the Iowa Infantry. Henderson and Margaret were the parents of six children who lived to maturity, namely: Mrs. Phoebe Bartlett; David W., whose name introduces this sketch; James J.; William H.; Mrs. Jennette Jones; and Mrs. Marguerite Probert; James and William being business men in the cities of Cedar Rapids and Des Moines respectively. In the year 1849 3-year-old David was brought to America by his parents. In due time, he entered the State University, from which institution he was graduated June 30, 1874, with the degree of Bachelor of Laws.

Mr. Clements, on July 4, 1867, was united in the holy bonds of matrimony with Mary A. Bartlett, the union being blessed with the following children: Willard B., Vida Ruth and Arthur. Mrs. Clements seconded her husband in all of his endeavors, professionally and socially, and for much of his success he was indebted to her kindly sympathy and active co-operation.

Actuated by a laudable ambition to excel, he mastered the basic principles of the law, which, coupled with the ability and tact to apply the same in the practice, enabled him to become successful in his chosen profession. Believing in the honor and dignity of his calling, he never stooped to anything savoring of cunning or trickery in the practice. As no suspicion of wrong doing ever tarnished his professional record, so no assault ever compromised his personal honor. His intercourse with all was marked by unaffected frankness and good will, and he was ever steadfast in friendship, modest in self assertion, firm in adherence to principle, providing in all the relations of life an honorable, upright gentleman with the welfare of his fellows at heart.

One matter, however, aside from his profession, engaged his attention to a very marked degree, i.e., the deep interest he manifested in the ancient and honorable order of Masonry, in which he long wielded a wide influence and in which he had also risen to the highest positions within the gift of the local lodge to which he belonged and the grand lodge of the state. He held membership with West Union Lodge No. 69, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Unity Chapter No. 62, Royal Arch Masons, at Elgin; Langridge Commandery No. 47, Knights Templar, West Union; West Union Chapter No. 110, Order of the Eastern Star; Grand Chapter OES, of the state of Iowa, in all of which he was honored from time to time with important official positions. In addition to serving as Worshipful Master of the Blue Lodge with which he was identified, he also held the highest offices in the Commandery, Chapter and Eastern Star, besides being elected Grand Commander, Knights Templar, of Iowa, in 1894, Grand Master of the Masons of Iowa in 1909-10, and a member of the Grand Encampment, Knights Templar, of the United States. From the foregoing it will be seen that Mr. Clements was signally honored by this old historic fraternity. In all of the high positions to which called, he discharged his duties with distinguished ability, earned the confidence and esteem of his fellow craftsmen and his life affords a conspicuous example of the influence of the principles upon which the Brotherhood of the Mystic Tie is founded.

Mr. Clements was a firm believer in revealed religion and for a number of years was an active and devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal church, being at the time of his death president of the Board of Trustees of the local church to which he belonged. Mr. Clements died at his home in West Union November 16, 1910, after an illness of but eight days. He had been failing physically for several years and his collapse was not entirely unexpected. His funeral drew from all over Iowa the largest company of prominent Freemasons ever seen in West Union. The service was in charge of Langridge Commandery, Knights Templar, West Union Lodge of Masons acting as escort. The local chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star also attended in a body, and the services were conducted by the grand commandery of Iowa Knights Templar. Resolutions of respect were subsequently passed by the Fayette County Bar Association and the various Masonic bodies to which Mr. Clements belonged.