ROTARY CLUB OF AUSTIN
On May 1, 1913,
the Association of Rotary Clubs in Chicago granted its sixty-third charter
to the Rotary Club of Austin. Roy Rather is credited with persuading a
former University of Texas classmate to bring members of the San Antonio
Rotary Club to Austin for a meeting with interested businessmen; and Rather
is believed to have initiated the impetus for the Austin Club. It is know
that he became the clubs 1st president.
Their 1st meeting was held in Austin’s Driskill Hotel on March 6,
1913, the 77th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo.
Ten San Antonio Rotarians and Thirteen "movers and shakers" in Austin
met over lunch to talk Rotary, and it didn't take long for them to decide
that Rotary would be good for this growing city of 30,000.
So, in a year when O.P. Colquitt was Governor, President Woodrow
Wilson was beginning his first term of office, (and on the day that the
major headline in the Austin Statesman
proclaimed, "Snake Saves House From Lightning: Reptile Forms Connection
Between Ends of Broken Rod, and is Burned to Death,") the Rotary Club of
Austin was organized.
A list of the
thirteen charter members appears in this notebook.
Austin held the sixty-third charter in an organization that had been
developed only eight years before by Paul Harris, a young attorney in
Chicago. It was called Rotary
because meetings were rotated between the members' offices.
Roy Rather was
the Austin club's first president; Fred K. Fisher was vice-president;
William L. Vining was secretary; and William H. Folts was treasurer.
Before he could
complete this term as president, Roy Rather changed businesses, and thus his
classification, so he was forced to resign since his new classification was
filled. He became the first
Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Austin, and Fred Fisher completed his
term of office.
The Rotary Club
has had seven previous homes. It
met at the Driskill Hotel until June 3, 1947, when it moved across the
street to the Stephen F. Austin Hotel.
From July 1955 to June 1969, the Club moved back to the Driskill, but
when the hotel was closed for extensive remodeling, the club moved to the
Commodore Perry Hotel. In
January 1977, it was back to the Stephen F. Austin, and in 1981 it returned
to the Commodore Building. From
August of 1983 to 1990, the club met at the Sheraton Crest Inn. That was
followed by a move to The Terrace, our home until sale of the property
forced a move in February 1996; at that time Palmer Auditorium became our
home. In the summer of 2002,
closure of Palmer Auditorium for transformation into the Long Center for the
Performing Arts necessitated another move, this time to the Hyatt Regency
Hotel. On January 1, 2005, the
meeting place changed to St. David’s Episcopal Church.
years, members of the Rotary Club of Austin have been civic leaders serving
on countless boards and the City Council.
Several have been mayors and one governor of the state.
In addition to
wide recognition for its outstanding speakers and programs, the club has a
superlative record in areas of vocational, community and international
service. One of its earliest
projects, the Helping Hand Home for Children, continues to be a priority of
the organization. It was
extremely active in the initial PolioPlus Campaign.
Through the estates of former Rotarians Evans Swann, PDG George K.
Marshall, and Charles Burton, and donations from current members, college
scholarship funds have been established for Austin area high school
To help high
school students better understand the Free Enterprise System in America, the
club annually conducts a weekend seminar, “Rotary Camp Enterprise.”
In recent years international service has become even more important,
and this is reflected in the projects carried out by the International
Friendship Committee and various exchange projects worldwide. The club is a
substantive supporter of The Rotary Foundation, and several hundred members
are Paul Harris Fellows.
years, the Rotary Club of Austin has furnished leadership on the District
level through committee service and conference program participation.
Members having served as District Governor are William H. Richardson,
Jr. Governor of the 12th District in 1915-16; Robert E. Vinson 18th
District, 1919-20; Thomas H. Shelby 129th District, 1946-47; Jack H. Dillard
187th District, 1950-51; George K. Marshall 187th District, 1953-54; O.V.
Koen 587th District, 1959-60; Maurice Acers 587th District, 1965-66; Dave
Smith 587th District, 1969-70; Wilson E. “Pat” Speir 587th District,
1974-75; James L. Stoner 5870th District, 1992-93; Barry Curlee 5870th
District, 2007-08 and Ronald “Ronney” Reynolds 5870th District,
2008-09. John W. Ezelle was
nominated to serve as Governor of District 129 for the year 1939-40, but had
to withdraw because of ill health, and Thomas J. Hemphill was Governor
nominee in the old District 187 for 1955-56, but died before taking office.
Members and former members of the Club who served their District
while members of other clubs are John A. Crockett 47th District, 1931-32;
Allen Sears 130th District 1942-43; Leon Graham 185th District, 1950-51;
George K. Marshall 130th District, 1943-44; Clarence R. Miller 187th
District, 1955-56; J. Neal Miller, Jr. 591st District, 1960-61; and Jack
Mayo, 5340th District, 1992-93.
PDG Dave Smith
was the first member of the Rotary Club of Austin ever to be elected a vice
president and director of Rotary International.
He served on the International Board of Directors from 1975-77, and
was Vice President of Rotary International in 1976-77.
He has represented the President of Rotary International at Rotary
meetings and conferences worldwide and served on various international
committees. He was General
Chairman of the Rotary International Convention held in Dallas in 1982.
Fitzgerald was the first paid Executive Director, a position she held from
1950 until her retirement in 1980.
Carolyn Henderson was Executive Director 1981-89.
After Rotary International voted to include female members, Carolyn
was the first woman to join the RCA in 1987. Dorothy and Carolyn later
became Honorary Members. Nancy
McCoy was Executive Director from 1989 – 2008. Teresa Basa was Executive
Director 2008 - 2010. Past President Mary Bird Bowman is the club’s current
As the Rotary
Club of Austin has grown, it has shared its territory so other Rotary Clubs
could be organized. Today,
Austin has thirteen additional clubs.
Rotary Club of
Rotary Club of
University Area Austin 1987