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Brief histories of Rotary's First 100 Clubs

Rotary Club of Galveston 73

Rotary International District 5910

Also see Rotary Comes to Texas - 1912

 

It was 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, this day, Sept. 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 International.

In his memoirs, meteorologist Isaac Cline 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.

The 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."

With 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, San Antonio and Houston 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.

At the 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.

By 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.

On 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 attendance.

Galveston has started two important traditions in the Rotary world. At the first meeting in December of 1913, the club flew a special club 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.

Who 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?

Doug Rudman

By 1959, the use of club banners had grown to the point where the RI board of directors issued a statement of concern.

Our thanks to:

Francine Keyes
Reference Archivist
Rotary International Archives 

Texas "100 Clubs"

The Most of the First 100

Austin 63

Beaumont 72

Galveston 73

Waco 74

Fort Worth 75

Dallas 39

San Antonio 52

Houston 53

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