The 15 Most Powerful Members Of ‘Skull And Bones’
(Business Insider) The most famous secret society in America, Skull and Bones was co-founded at Yale in 1832 by the father of a future president and has come to signify everything that attracts and repulses the public about “The Elite.”
Rumor has it that Yale junior class members are tapped for membership each fall by some measure of leadership, influence and breeding.
Among the business titans, poets, politicians and three US Presidents that are rumored to be members, we’ve picked out the honor roll.
William Howard Taft – Class of 1878
Our 27th, and fattest (fun fact), President was known to his college buddies as “Big Lub,” and was the first “Bonesman” ever to reach The Oval Office.Frankly, young Mr. Taft would probably had a rather easy time getting into the club…
His father, and one-time Attorney General, Alphonso Taft, co-founded Skull and Bones as a Yale student in 1832.
Amos Alonzo Stagg – Class of 1888
Yale’s greatest football player of all-time (apologies to Calvin Hill), Stagg practically invented the modern game and is still the only man to be elected into both the Pro Football and Pro Basketball Halls of Fame. It can only be assumed that being the most gifted jock in Yale’s history had some bearing on Mr. Stagg’s being chosen to join Skull and Bones.
William Averill Harriman – Class of 1913
The future Governor of New York and Presidential candidate was clearly a man who liked his time at Yale… Immediately after inheriting the largest fortune in The United States from his railroad baron father upon his graduation, Harriman took a job as Yale’s crew coach and stuck around New Haven.
No doubt the man his fellow Bonesmen referred to Averill as “Thor,” continued to enjoy himself around town as Yale celebrity before moving on to his many future successes.
Archibald MacLeish – Class of 1915
Before living in Paris amongst “The Lost Generation” of Hemingway, Pound and Fitzgerald, while honing a poetic voice that would yield three Pulitzer Prizes, MacLeish was a Yale Graduate and a member of Skull and Bones. It would seem that MacLeish, like most Bonesmen, was chosen more for his brains more than his connections…
“Archie’s” father was an Illinois dry goods dealer, and his mother was a college professor, a rare combination of parentage and geography for the Bonesmen of his day.
Prescott Bush – Class of 1916
If you thought “Dubya” was a wild man in his college years, you should have met his grand-daddy. Prescott, the future Senator from Connecticut, was apparently a real “cut-up” who, along with some other Bonesmen, is believed to have dug up and absconded with the skull of the legendary Native American warrior Geronimo during World War I.
Legend has it that Geronimo’s head is still inside Skull and Bones HQ, known as “The Tomb,” at 64 High Street in New Haven.
Robert Lovett – Class of 1918
Harry Truman’s Secretary of War and the man whom many have called “The Architect of The Cold War” was the consummate Bonesman insider. Along with sharing a membership timeline with Prescott Bush, Lovett was also friendly with fellow Bonesman Harvey Hollister Bundy, who served with Lovett in Truman’s War Cabinet and was the father of future Bonesman McGeorge Bundy.
Henry Luce – Class of 1920
The man who went on to found and publish Time Magazine was first an editor of The Yale Daily News. He was also a man that fellow Bonesmen referred to as “Baal,” an apparent reference to a mythological, ancient, Aramaic demon.
We have no idea why, but the mind boggles at the implications.
Potter Stewart – Class of 1936
The son of a Midwestern Congressman, Stewart went on to be an editor of The Yale Law Review, after being a member of Skull and Bones during his undergraduate days. But it was perhaps much later in life that Mr. Potter was of greatest assistance to Bonesmen of the future…
As an Associate Justice of The Supreme in 1965, Mr. Potter wrote a dissent in Griswold v. Connecticut, setting the stage for the future legalization of the sales of contraceptives in The Nutmeg State, no doubt bringing great relief to the young gentlemen inside “The Tomb.”
McGeorge Bundy – Class of 1940
Before becoming one of JFK’s “Wise Men,” Bundy was another Bonesman with a long family lineage of getting “Tapped” for the society. But, if the lore surrounding Skull and Bones has any veracity, he was apparently a man with a personality all his own, one that led his pals to nickname him “Odin.”
George Herbert Walker Bush – Class of 1948
The second ever Bonesman to be elected President, “41″ was also a fighter pilot in WWII, Ambassador to “Red China” and Director of the CIA. His training at Skull and Bones must have been invaluable in the career he made out of keeping safe the secrets of state
CBS News: Skull and Bones
By Rebecca Leung
(CBS) As opposite as George Bush and John Kerry may seem to be, they do share a common secret – one they’ve shared for decades, and one they will not share with the electorate.
The secret: details of their membership in Skull and Bones, the elite Yale University society whose members include some of the most powerful men of the 20th century.
Bonesmen, as they’re called, are forbidden to reveal what goes on in their inner sanctum, the windowless building on the Yale campus that is called the Tomb.
When 60 Minutes first reported on Skull & Bones last October, conspiracy theorists, who see Skull and Bones behind just about everything that goes wrong, and even right, in the world, were relishing the unthinkable – the possibility of two Bonesman fighting it out for the presidency.
Over the years, Bones has included presidents, cabinet officers, spies, Supreme Court justices, captains of industry, and often their sons and lately their daughters, a social and political network like no other.
And to a man and women, they’d responded to questions with utter silence until an enterprising Yale graduate, Alexandra Robbins, managed to penetrate the wall of silence in her book, “Secrets of the Tomb,” reports CBS News Correspondent Morley Safer.
“I spoke with about 100 members of Skull and Bones and they were members who were tired of the secrecy, and that’s why they were willing to talk to me,” says Robbins. “But probably twice that number hung up on me, harassed me, or threatened me.”
Secret or not, Skull and Bones is as essential to Yale as the Whiffenpoofs, the tables down at a pub called Mory’s, and the Yale mascot – that ever-slobbering bulldog.
Skull and Bones, with all its ritual and macabre relics, was founded in 1832 as a new world version of secret student societies that were common in Germany at the time. Since then, it has chosen or “tapped” only 15 senior students a year who become patriarchs when they graduate — lifetime members of the ultimate old boys’ club.
“Skull and Bones is so tiny. That’s what makes this staggering,” says Robbins. “There are only 15 people a year, which means there are about 800 living members at any one time.”
But a lot of Bonesmen have gone on to positions of great power, which Robbins says is the main purpose of this secret society: to get as many members as possible into positions of power.
“They do have many individuals in influential positions,” says Robbins. “And that’s why this is something that we need to know about.”
President Bush has tapped five fellow Bonesmen to join his administration. Most recently, he selected William Donaldson, Skull and Bones 1953, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Like the President, he’s taken the Bones oath of silence.
Ron Rosenbaum, author and columnist for the New York Observer, has become obsessed with cracking that code of secrecy.
“I think there is a deep and legitimate distrust in America for power and privilege that are cloaked in secrecy. It’s not supposed to be the way we do things,” says Rosenbaum. “We’re supposed to do things out in the open in America. And so that any society or institution that hints that there is something hidden is, I think, a legitimate subject for investigation.”
His investigation is a 30-year obsession dating back to his days as a Yale classmate of George W. Bush. Rosenbaum, a self-described undergraduate nerd, was certainly not a contender for Bones. But he was fascinated by its weirdness.
“It’s this sepulchral, tomblike, windowless, granite, sandstone bulk that you can’t miss. And I lived next to it,” says Rosenbaum. “I had passed it all the time. And during the initiation rites, you could hear strange cries and whispers coming from the Skull and Bones tomb.”
Despite a lifetime of attempts to get inside, the best Rosenbaum could do was hide out on the ledge of a nearby building a few years ago to videotape a nocturnal initiation ceremony in the Tomb’s courtyard.
“A woman holds a knife and pretends to slash the throat of another person lying down before them, and there’s screaming and yelling at the neophytes,” he says.
Robbins says the cast of the initiation ritual is right out of Harry Potter meets Dracula: “There is a devil, a Don Quixote and a Pope who has one foot sheathed in a white monogrammed slipper resting on a stone skull. The initiates are led into the room one at a time. And once an initiate is inside, the Bonesmen shriek at him. Finally, the Bonesman is shoved to his knees in front of Don Quixote as the shrieking crowd falls silent. And Don Quixote lifts his sword and taps the Bonesman on his left shoulder and says, ‘By order of our order, I dub thee knight of Euloga.’”
Finally, check out this complete list of verified Skull and Bones members. Yes, it’s from Wikipedia, but the list of sources is quite exhaustive. If you doubt anyone on the list, you can always check the primary source yourself through the citation.
Skull & Bones Secret Society Documentary
Recommended Reading: For an inside look at another influential secret society, the Milner Group, check out The Anglo-American Establishment and Tragedy and Hope by Georgetown University professor Carroll Quigley, former professor and mentor to President Bill Clinton.