By DON STINE
The first African-American Exalted Ruler of the Asbury Park/Wall Elks Lodge 128 was installed Sun., April 2 at a ceremony at the lodge on West Bangs Avenue in Neptune.
Neptune resident Tony Richardson, 71, was sworn into a one-year term as the lodge’s Exalted Ruler. He has been a member for five years.
“I think it’s historic. It is emotional yet it is something that I didn’t look forward to when I started out in the Elks,” Richardson said.
Richardson said that his main focus during his tenure will be increasing membership and having transparency in the lodge.
“Members matter and without members, we can’t do anything,” he said.
The new Exalted Ruler also said that transparency in the organization is also important.
“I want to be responsive to our membership and show accountability, both financially and physically. I want to keep everything as transparent as possible,” he said.
“I am looking to a very productive and successful term,” he said.”It is an honor to serve as Exalted Ruler.”
Richardson, a former FBI agent, owns All-Star Investigation, and is an avid collector of black baseball memorabilia.
The lodge was originally organized on June 20, 1889. The first lodge 128, one of the oldest in the country, was built in 1914 in Asbury Park and expanded in 1924. The four-story building was located at Heck Street and Monroe Avenue. It not only housed the Elks’ offices but had four bowling alleys, a billiard room, a gymnasium, a barbershop, a lounge, dining room and smoking room.
In the early 1940s the building was purchased by the Charms Candy Company and housed a packing plant and clerical offices. Hence; its name more common name, “The Charms” building. The building was razed under the city’s waterfront redevelopment project. The Elks Lodge moved to 1701 Park Ave., Asbury Park where it remained for many years until it sold that building and moved to West Bangs Avenue in Neptune.