History of the Al Chymia Hillbilly Unit

Sixteen nobles petitioned Potentate Dewey Waddell on January 11, 1984 for permission to form a Hillbilly Unit. These nobles, led by James Jackson, Lee Frazier, Floyd Cupp and Chuck Pollock, began meeting in May 1984, organizing and defining their purpose and plans. During this planning stage, the group was called the Ridge Runners and/or Mountaineers. On September 12, 1984, Potentate Waddell presented the unit, now called the Hillbilly Unit, their charter. The first roster of officers were James Jackson, President; Lee Frazier, Vice President; Floyd Cupp, Secretary; and Chuck Pollock, Treasurer. The other charter members were Bill Avant, Keith Barlow, Bobby Davis, Gordon Fredrickson, George Fritz, Robert Haire, Jerry Magsig, Gene Meyers, William Phillips, Tom Simmons, Gene Tipler, and Art Wells. As of 1997, three of these charter members were still active, Floyd Cupp, Tom Simmons and Gene Tipler, who served as President that year. Other officers for 1997 were Wayne Leard, Vice President; Robert Kermick, Secretary; and Sam Lester, Treasurer.

Shortly after inception, the Al Chymia Hillbilly unit discovered there was no Southeastern Shrine Hillbilly Association (SESHA). Hillbilly units from other Southeastern Shrine Association (SESA) temples were contacted. With the aid and support from them, especially from the AI Hambra hillbillies in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Hadji hillbillies in Pensacola, Florida, and the Amran hillbillies in Raleigh, North Carolina, an organizational meeting was held in Greenville, South Carolina in August of 1985. In August 1986, though not officially chartered, the hillbillies met in Memphis during SESA for activities planned by the Hillbilly Unit of AI Chymia Temple. The Hillbilly President in 1986, Floyd Cupp, with the support, cooperation and hard work of the unit, spearheaded the organization of the Southeastern Shrine Hillbilly Association (SESHA) and served as its first President in 1987. Albert Rockholt served as Secretary. Other members who have served as officers of SESHA are Tom Simmons, 1993 President; Robert Kermick, 1993 Secretary; William Hardy, 1997 President; Butch Stockdale, 1997 Secretary and 2002 President; Bill Hardy, 2001 President; Charles Mixon 2011 President; Robert Kermick 2012 President; James Morgan 2016 President; David Johnson 2017 President; and Chip Childress 2021 President.

In 2013, the Al Chymia Hillbillies asked the Temple for permission and was granted permission to join Dixie Shrine Association and have become an active part of the Dixie Hillbillies. Presidents of the Dixie Shrine Association from the Al Chymia Hillbillies include James Morgan 2016, Chris Trim 2018, and Chip Childress 2021.

Over the years, the Hillbilly Unit has become known for its culinary expertise. They have prepared and served meals to the Potentates of Al Chymia Temple and most of its members. It has become an annual event to prepare bar-be-cue to feed circus workers and performers. They also have enjoyed cooking for other organizations for fund­raising activities. A portion of these funds is donated to the transportation fund each year.

The Hillbillies drive “Hillbilly Cars” which defy definition, for all the vehicles are unique. Each member buys and builds his own vehicle. The “Hillbilly Cars” attract attention wherever they go and are frequently asked to participate at fund-raising events held by companies located both in Memphis and in the Mid-South. They are invited to participate in parades throughout the Mid-South as well as the usual Christmas parades.

The Hillbillies are quickly recognized by their “uniforms”, patched bib overalls and floppy hats, some too large and some too small, brogans and other paraphernalia peculiar to “Hillbillies”.

Al Chymia’s Hillbillies have been fortunate to win many awards at the annual DSHA meetings in May and SESHA meetings each August. There is competition with cars, hillbilly attire and degree work, parade ability and “a pickin’ and a grinnin” capabilities. The Hillbilly Band is requested to perform at many functions. Numerous awards enabled the unit to bring home the SESHA traveling trophy many times and they are also bringing home the traveling trophy in DSHA also.

Since its inception, the Hillbilly Unit has never wavered from its original purpose, to perform and participate in all functions of Al Chymia Temple, to do everything possible to aid the burned and crippled child. It has fulfilled its purpose by participating in the annual circus and paper crusade as well as all other functions the Potentate has requested.

The nobles who have served as president of this unit are:

  • James Jackson 1984
  • Lee Frazier 1985
  • Floyd Cupp 1986
  • Bill Jobe 1987
  • Tom Simmons 1988
  • Albert Rockholt 1989
  • Leon Cummings 1990
  • Bobby Houston 1991
  • Bill Deering 1992
  • William Hardy 1993
  • Butch Stockdale 1994 & 1995
  • Joe Essary 1996
  • Gene Tipler 1997 & 1998
  • Sam Lester 1999
  • Robert Kermick 2000
  • Wayne Williams 2001
  • Keith Smith 2002
  • Robert Mason 2003
  • Chuck French 2004
  • David Johnson 2005
  • Travis Riggs 2006
  • Paul Russell 2O07
  • Denny Williams 2008
  • Charlie Mixon 2009
  • Elmo McDonald 2010
  • Billy Joe Gatlin 2011
  • Ed Morton 2012
  • Robert Totty 2013
  • Dan Melancon 2014
  • James Morgan 2015
  • Bob Schumacher 2016
  • David Nutzell 2017
  • Chip Childress 2018
  • Chris Trim 2019
  • Jimmy Stewart 2020

 

In January 2020 the Hillbilly unit founded the Al Chymia Shrine Hillbilly Outhouse #1 in Jackson TN and dedicated it to the memory of Hillbilly Floyd Cupp. The Outhouse by-laws were signed by Potentate James Morgan.

The nobles who have served as president of the Outhouse are

  • Dwayne Blair P.P. 2020

 

This unit pays its respects to its members who have been visited by the Black Camel: Kenny Cupp, Chuck Pollock, Gene Rogers, Bill Jobe, John Whitsett, Leon Cummings, Albert Rockholt and Broughton Gillett. We dedicate ourselves in their memory to promote Shrinedom and its endeavors in providing loving care to any needy child in the Shrine Hospitals for Children.

HONOR THE COB