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Rotary Club of Houston
The Rotary Club of Houston was founded in August of 1912, soon after newspaper executive Robert Cornell returned from an advertising convention in Dallas, where he had met a member of the newly formed Minneapolis Rotary Club.

The new Houston club began meeting in the Mecca Cafe, where club president Cornell had to hear members complain about the $1 initiation fee and $2 annual dues. A year later, club members and wives gathered for an evening banquet at the brand new Rice Hotel a day before its official opening. The club would meet there for the next seventy three years. In 1914, the club hosted 1288 Rotarians and wives who attended Rotary International's (RI) 5th Annual Convention in Houston. Thereafter, the club's membership grew steadily until September, 1963, when it became the world's largest with 773 members, two more than the founding Chicago club's total. Meanwhile, RI credited Houston with bringing Rotary to numerous other Texas cities as far away as Amarillo, 600 miles to the northwest in the Texas panhandle. In 1972, Houston again hosted the RI convention and its' 14,000 delegates. When the Houston club reached its zenith with 941 members in 1985, there were 34 neighborhood Rotary clubs throughout Houston, 24 of which the Houston club had sponsored.

The Houston club's distinguished record of service to the community began in 1919 when it first supported the young residents of the Burnett Bayland County Home with Christmas parties and summer picnics - support that has continued uninterrupted for 86 years and today also involves computer mentoring to help the troubled youngsters improve their reading skills.

Following a club luncheon in 1944, Goodwill Industries was launched in Houston, and is now among the largest in the world. In 1958, the club began judging applications for the Houston Endowment's Jones Scholarships, a continuing program which grew larger through the years and to date has awarded more than $44 million in scholarships. In 1966, not long after Houston joined two other local clubs to save the area's Little League from bankruptcy, club members began counseling inmates about to be released from the Texas prison system, a program of the Fresh Start Committee which currently also coordinates television conferencing to help female inmates improve their family, financial and health life skills.

In early 1971, five months after NFL Coach Vince Lombardi died of cancer, the first Rotary Lombardi Award dinner was held to recognize the outstanding college football lineman before 800 persons and guest speaker U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew. To date, proceeds of these annual banquets have raised just over $3.1 million for cancer research.

In 1987, after club leaders viewed a similar program during the large club conference in Fresno, Houston initiated Camp Enterprise, which during a weekend each spring teaches business practices to 72 outstanding high school juniors. And in 1993, a thirty year dream of the club, following upon its providing free apartments to Rotarians from other countries being treated for cancer at the Texas Medical Center, became a successful fund raising reality with the completed construction of the $17 million Jesse H. Jones Rotary House International, the largest project by a single Rotary club in history. The Marriott Corporation managed facility provides convenient, economical housing for families of cancer patients across the street from the world renowned University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, with easy access through an enclosed bridge over a major thoroughfare. Included in the work of some two dozen other committees, the Houston club supports students at four inner city elementary schools and provides the panels who judge candidates for another multi-million dollar group of college scholarships offered each year by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Foundation.

Complied and edited by Jack U. Wells

Contributing sources: Alvin R. Busse, Steven P. Luffburrow, Jack D. Owen, Arthur D. Schwarz, Jr., and Bill Teague


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