Austin, TX, USA

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Brief histories of Rotary's First 100 Clubs[edit]

Rotary Club of Austin 63[edit]

Rotary International District 5870 ROTARY CLUB OF AUSTIN

Also see Rotary Comes to Texas - 1912 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.

Through the 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 students.

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.

Through the 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.

Dorothy 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 Executive Director.

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        Organized             Rotary Club of        Organized

               West Austin                 1953                  University Area Austin       1987
               South Austin                1958                  Cedar Park                   1989
               North Austin                1960                  Lakeway/Lake Travis          1999
               Northwest Austin            1980                  East Austin                  1993
               Westlake Austin             1982                  Lago Vista                   1995
               Oak Hill                    1982                  Capitol                      2002                
               Northeast Austin            1984          

PDG Jack Mayo, District Historian, modified 7 April 2011 and post by Jack Selway

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