a sunny, warm day. It was the kind of day that has provided the driving
force in why people came to Galveston for nearly 200 years. However,
8, 1900, life would be forever altered. "The Storm," the West
Indian/Caribbean hurricane that tore across Galveston that day and left
the city in ruins, would ultimately lead to a tremendous rebirth of the
city, and this rebirth would lead to the 73rd chartered club of Rotary
referred to the morning after the storm as "a most beautiful day."
But, few visitors would walk the sandy shores for months after the
infamous hurricane. Instead, bodies of the dead that were improperly
buried at sea washed ashore on those beaches, leaving even more
treacherous work for the cleanup crews.
city struck back. in the face of overwhelming odds. With more than 6,000
dead, Galvestonians rolled up their sleeves, buried their dead, rebuilt
their homes and businesses and "weatherproofed" the city. In the words
of PDG Chester Burns, Historian of the 73rd chartered Rotary club, "By
August 1910, 500 blocks of the city had been filled with more than 16
million cubic yards of sand to raise the grade of Galveston's East End.
In 1911, Governor Oscar Colquitt rode the first car to travel atop a
massive seawall of solid concrete that extended from the south jetty to
53rd Street. In 1912, Colquitt led the caravan of cars that first
crossed the new bridge to the mainland; a bridge that accommodated two
railroads, The Houston-Galveston Interurban, a 30-inch water main, and a
19-foot roadbed for autos. Better protected from Nature's furies and
better linked to Texas and the rest of the world, Galvestonians embraced
the future with optimism and enthusiasm."
this backdrop of recovery and renewal, and imbued with the spirit of
economic growth, six Galveston businessmen, George N. Copley, Marion
Douglas, Thomas E. Gaffney, Fred Hartel, Ed Salzman and Charles E.
Witherspoon met Thursday, February 13, 1913, at the Elite Cafe on Market
Street, to look at the Rotary club concept, after clubs had been
established in Dallas,
within the two previous years.
One-and-a-half weeks later, on the 24th, the six joined Harry W.
Stanley, vice president of the Western Division of Rotary, four
Houston Rotarians, and eight additional Galveston businessmen at the
Galvez Hotel for dinner. After a good meal and a lengthy discussion, the
Galvestonians agreed to establish the Rotary Club of Galveston, and the
Houston club offered to sponsor them.
next organizational meeting, on March 6, 15 members adopted a
constitution and bylaws, based upon the classification system. They
also elected Copley as their president. Other officers included Hartel,
Witherspoon, Fred Lege, William Eicher, Fred Burton and Julius Jockusch.
May, their ranks had surpassed 25 members, and near the end of the
month, 29 members rode the Interurban to downtown Houston to join the
members of the Houston club in the opening of the Rice Hotel.
June 1, 1913, the International Association of Rotary Clubs granted
charter number 73 to the Galveston club. At their meeting on June 5, the
membership stood at 52, and five days later, the Galvestonians hosted a
joint meeting of the clubs in Texas, with nearly 750 Rotarians in
Galveston has started two important traditions in the Rotary world. At
the first meeting in December of 1913, the club flew a special
banner over their meeting place at the Hotel Galvez. Albeit, at five
by seven feet, it was slightly larger than what Rotary uses today for
club banners, it is the first known instance of a unique club banner.
And, the lapel pin that every Rotarian wears with pride...it can
trace its roots to an early beginning on Galveston Island.
would have thought a hurricane that nearly obliterated a city, would
ultimately lead to the creation of one of Rotary's most important
entities, the Rotary Club of Galveston?