Unity founders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore had three sons—Lowell Page, Waldo Rickert, and John Royal. Each would become known for his unique skills, personality, and contributions to the movement during his years of service.
Lowell was the oldest, born in Pueblo, Colorado, on January 4, 1882; Waldo, known as Rickert or Rick, was born June 1, 1884, also in Pueblo; and, John Royal, known as Royal, was born July 16, 1889 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Lowell Page Fillmore
Lowell, who was named after poet and The Atlantic Monthly editor James Russell Lowell, became known for his ability to clearly communicate the Unity message in speeches and spiritual writings. As writer and editor of the popular Weekly Unity for more than 60 years, he had an immense impact on the proliferation of the Unity movement.
Unlike his younger brothers, Lowell Fillmore did not pursue higher education after graduating from high school. He went to work immediately in the Unity movement. He started even before that, when he worked in the Unity mailroom wrapping parcels for distribution when he was 10.
In 1909 Lowell became editor of Weekly Unity, a weekly paper started that year by Charles Fillmore as the “official organ” of the Local Unity Society, with news items, meeting schedules, and business reports.
His “Things to be Remembered” column appeared in nearly every issue, which ran for 63 years.
In 1933, when Charles Fillmore wanted more time to write and travel, Lowell became head of Unity School, and began running the institution’s day-to-day operations. In 1948, after his father’s transition, Lowell became Unity School president, a post he held until 1964, when he was named president emeritus. He remained active until his transition in 1975.
Marcus Bach, a religion professor at Iowa State University, knew Lowell Fillmore quite well and once described the venerable Unity leader with praise. “There was a certain snap and substance about him not usually found in saints, ancient or modern,” wrote Bach in his 1964 book, The Unity Way of Life.
His vitality, Bach said, “had something to do with a physical healthfulness as well as a state of mind.”
Waldo Rickert Fillmore
Named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, perhaps Rickert Fillmore’s greatest gift to Unity was his architectural training and skills.
When his parents first discovered his artistic gift, they were determined he develop them. His education in London and Rome gave him an appreciation for the local architectural styles of those regions and led to his Unity Village master plan: Italian Renaissance design for the large buildings and English Cotswold style for the smaller homes.
One of Rickert’s greatest desires was to invite people to visit the Village.
The campus hosted the first Unity annual conference in 1924. Rickert took great pleasure in showing people around the acreage. His hope was for the Unity campus to become a “spiritual community.”
His daughter Rosemary agreed but she added that his contribution to the spiritual community was through its art and architecture because he felt so guided with every plan.
Rickert was known for a strong sense of humor and quick wit. In a 1995 interview with author Neal Vahle, Rev. Dorothy Pierson recalled a time when Unity ministers gathered for a Q&A session with Rickert and his brother Lowell. When one minister asked about vegetarianism, Lowell stood, and referring to meat, responded he had not had any for 50 years. Rickert then whispered aloud that he had not had any since breakfast.
John Royal Fillmore
Like his brothers, Royal Fillmore started in promoting the Unity movement at a young age. When he was born in 1889, his mother was just starting Wee Wisdom® magazine for youth. He published his first piece in Wee Wisdom at age 10. As a teenager, he was secretary of the Wee Wisdom booster club.
After returning from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Royal became managing editor of Wee Wisdom. He held that position for several years and had a column on the vegetarian diet in Weekly Unity. Royal was also known for promoting the use of radio in the Unity ministry.
He held various administrative roles at Unity School of Christianity through the years and served as purchasing agent and secretary for the Board of Directors.
Royal was active in the community as well, including the Kansas City Rotary, and was a Master Mason in Summit Lodge No. 263. Royal never had the opportunity to become president of Unity, due to health issues.
His weight took a toll on his health, and he was devastated by the death of his wife after complications in the birth of their daughter in 1921.
Myrtle Fillmore worked professionally with Royal more than her older sons, and the two often traveled together. They had just returned from an East Coast trip in late August 1923 when Royal decided to leave for a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, to regain his health.
He admitted himself to the facility on September 2, 1923, with diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure. Royal had written to his family that he was resting and improving, but passed unexpectedly on October 9, 1923, three weeks after arriving there.
All three sons lived with their families at Unity Farm. After Royal’s passing, his daughter, Frances, was raised by Lowell and his wife, Alice, who had no other children.