He is considered the most prolific founder of fraternal benefit societies in America. An 1865 graduate of Eastman Business College, Root operated several businesses, sold insurance and real estate, taught classes in bookkeeping, managed a lecture bureau and practiced law.
Root firmly believed that "Freemasonry" and other fraternal organizations played an important role in the promotion of human welfare. He became a 32° Mason on March 14, 1884 and was elevated to 33° in 1889. In addition to the Mason's, Root was a member of "Knights Templar", the "Knights of Pythias", the "Ancient Order of United Workmen & Mechanics" and the "Independent Order of Odd Fellows".
His membership in so many fraternal orders and his years of experience in the insurance industry sealed his destiny as a leader in the field of fraternal insurance. Root was responsible for establishing "Modern Woodmen of America", "Royal Neighbors of America" (women's auxiliary of MWA), "Woodmen of the World" and "Woodmen Circle" (women's auxiliary of WW). From those 4 original organizations various Woodman & Woodcraft groups have evolved: "Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society", "Woodmen of the World" (Pacific Jurisdiction), "Canadian Woodmen of the World", "Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle", "Neighbors of Woodcraft" and, indirectly, "Royal Neighbors of America".
By the time of Root's death, "Woodmen of the World" had nearly 700,000 members and over 10,800 camps (lodges). Insurance in force amounted to over $927,000,000. Through 1913, the society had paid $553,004 to its beneficiaries.
Today, the various "Woodmen" organizations established by Joseph Cullen Root continue to provide valuable insurance protection and fraternal benefits to thousands of members. This fact is a testimony to the great vision and organizational genius of this giant of American fraternalism.