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Walt Disney | Inducted November 13, 1986

Walt Disney, Cartoonist Extraordinaire
1901-1966

Walt Disney – an icon for generations, a man with a vision, a self-made success who built an empire with his drawings – was first a DeMolay.

Disney was born in Chicago and raised in Marceline, Missouri. He spent most of his boyhood on a farm, often sketching illustrations of the animals. Later, the family moved to Kansas City, where Disney took a number of odd jobs to help support the family, including keeping a paper route for six years. At age 15, he dropped out of school.

By the fall of 1917, World War I was in full-force. Disney wanted to join the war effort, but he was only 16 and he was turned away. Determined to help, Disney traveled to France and became an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. Ever the vigilant artist, Disney’s ambulance was not decorated with camouflage, but with his original drawings.

Disney returned to Kansas City in 1918, and became an artist. After working with a local advertising agency, Disney organized his own company. Once he decided to make cartooning his profession, Disney traveled to Chicago to attend the Chicago Academy of Art in the evening while working days. After several years, Disney moved to Hollywood.

In Hollywood, Disney formed a small company with his brother, Roy. He did a series of film cartoons that he called “Alice in Cartoonland.” There he met Lillian Bounds, who later became Mrs. Disney. During the next ten years, Disney experienced more hard times than successes. Although some of Disney’s creations were successful, his cartoons could not be called distinguished. It was not until sound broke in Hollywood that Disney came into his own, for in action, sound, and later color, Disney had the necessary tools to make his cartoons as he imagined them.

Mickey Mouse was Disney’s first, and today, most widely known cartoon character. One success followed another, and before Disney’s death in 1966, his small company had expanded to an empire with color, movies, television, and two theme parks. He produced full-length animated classics such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia,” “Dumbo,” and “Bambi.” Disney, along with his staff, received forty-eight Academy Awards and seven Emmy’s. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Disney’s dream didn’t end with his death. Even today, Disney is one of the most recognized names worldwide, and his empire continues to expand in the 21 st century. And it all began with a man and a dream…

Disney was initiated into Mother Chapter in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1920. He received the Legion of Honor in 1931. Disney was a member of the first class to be inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on November 13, 1986.

“I feel a great sense of obligation and gratitude toward the Order of DeMolay for the important part it played in my life. Its precepts have been invaluable in making decisions, facing dilemmas and crises. DeMolay stands for all that is good for the family and for our country. I feel privileged to have enjoyed membership in DeMolay.”