Brief histories of the
Rotary Club of
Louisville 45 1912
International District 6710
(Organized June 14, 1912)
(Charter Dated July 23, 1912)
(Incorporated December 21, 1914)
Brief History of
Rotary Club of Louisville, Inc.
By: Martin F. Schmidt
and William O. Brittain
The Rotary Club of
Louisville, the first Club in Kentucky was formed June 14, 1912 as the
45th club in the world in a district which embraced ten states. With
constant membership growth, the district was reduced to four states in
1915 and in 1918 District #13 was established, which was designated for
the states of Kentucky and Tennessee.
In 1925, Kentucky was
made a district by itself and continued that way until 1937 when
Kentucky was divided into two districts as it remains today with
Louisville being in District 6710 as it is designated today. The
Louisville Club led the way in organizing many clubs throughout the
state, as an example, it organized the Lexington Club on June 23, 1915
as well as most of the clubs in the metropolitan area.
In reviewing the Clubs
early history, one sees the emphasis placed on acquaintanceship,
fellowship and making the Louisville community a better place in which
to live. The weekly bulletin, SPARKS, and the annual membership roster
were started in 1912 so members could get to know each other better. In
1916 a movement to restore and improve the burial place of Zachary
Taylor was initiated. A student loan fund was established in 1918 to
support worthy boys at Male High School and Manual High School during
World War I. In 1921 Rotarians were represented on a city government
committee to devise changes in the city's organization plans. In the
same year a resolution was presented, by a Rotarian, to the Board of
Trade and the Park Commissioners recommending a municipal air field for
Fun was no stranger to
Rotary in its youth, perhaps a more frequent visitor than today, when we
effect a certain dignity and take ourselves more seriously. As an
example, during the earlier years, the Club entered one of its members
in a boxing match and on another occasion one of its members earned a
ribbon in a mule race. When radio was in its infancy a weekly radio
program was broadcast by the Rotary Club during the 1922-23 years.
The 1937 flood
involved many members who worked valiantly to conquer the problems of
clean-up, repair, and helping to put the local government in order as
well as extending aid to eastern Kentuckians in similar straits.
When World War II
began in Europe, Rotarians took their places in all the ranks of useful
service through gifts of funds for the war's needy, work with defense
related agencies, and support for servicemen. Many served in the
The return of peace
brought the revival of community work. Club members played important
roles in building George Rogers Clark Park, in working with under
privileged children and in providing loans to students. The California
and Ormsby Avenue Boys Clubs were major accomplishments as well as the
Harelip and Cleft Palate Foundation which we started.
More outreach work in
the 1950s included support of the Hagan Surgical Research Foundation;
active interest in science training for capable high school students;
and the Rotary Lodge at Camp Kysoc. Hands-on and sponsorship of the
Scout-O-Rama began in 1957, continues to be a major project with over
one hundred of our members providing judges for competitive events of
some 10,000 Scouts who come from through-out the state for this two day
event. Our Rotary members are the food concession workers, ticket
takers, and all behind the scenes activities. In 1954 the Rotary
International Constitution was adopted and in 1953 the time-proven
training for new members, called "Yearlings" was begun and continues
today. The Rotary Four-Way Test came into poplar use. Three members
served as District Governors in our second quarter-century and
membership grew to 422.
quarter-century will be remembered at least in part for the new search
for a meeting place after meeting at the Brown Hotel for 47 years, it
was closed in 1971 following the death of J. Graham Brown.
We met at the Kentucky
Hotel, the Holiday Inn at Zorn Avenue, Jim Porter's Tavern, and the
YWCA, before being able to return with pleasure to the restored Brown
Hotel in 1985. During this period the student loan program matured,
making up to 50 loans a year - totaling as much as $35,000 - to worthy
students. The loan fund reached a total value of $115,000 before
changing circumstances led to its cancellation.
undertaken were: a stockade and bath house for the Rough River Boy
Scout reservation; help for the Newburg Boys Club; sponsorship of local
visits for foreign students; distribution of safe driving pamphlets
about the then-new expressway system, and improvements at Plymouth
Settlement House. Other projects were concerned with Youth recognition;
assistance to the Burn Unit at Children's Hospital; to Camp Green Shores
for handicapped children, and the establishment of Dental Care for the
homebound. Still other work supported the Gift of Life Project of heart
surgery for needy children from third world countries, and in 1987, when
the members of our club donated $137,000 to the Rotary International
program to eliminate polio worldwide.
The fellowship and
pleasure of weekly meetings continued to make the members a cohesive
group, enjoying the summer outings, days at the races, Christmas Holiday
parties, theatre parties and competitive sports events.
The day of
Louisville's tornado, April 3, 1974, Rotary International President Bill
Carter of London, England arrived and was entertained at a luncheon.
The next year in 1975 Howard Fitch was recognized as the club's first
Paul Harris Fellow for his gift to the Rotary International Foundation.
We now have 275 Paul Harris Fellows, including family members and
friends whom club members have honored by making a Fellow gift. A
celebration was held in 1962 for the Club's 50th anniversary and then in
1987 five hundred members and guests attended a celebration
commemorating the 75th anniversary.
On August 31, 1987 the
first female member, Patricia W. Hart, the Club's Executive Director,
was admitted. There are now 58 women members. From 1987 to 1991 Rotary
teams worked for Public Television Station Channel 15's Auction to help
raise funds for its operation. After the station elected not to
continue its auction, all of the Rotary Clubs in Metro Louisville banded
together to start an auction sponsored by TKR Cable to raise funds for
In early 1988, the
Rotary meeting place was moved to The Galt House Hotel complex, and the
club's office moved from the YWCA building to One Riverfront Plaza.
The Club members
participate regularly in The Salvation Army's Holiday Bellringer
Program. Among other Rotary projects are a career guidance program for
high school seniors and graduates, and a mentor program for high school
International Service Committee has been active for many years in the
various exchange programs and the many diverse scholarships including:
The Ambassadorial Scholarship Competition; the District Scholarship;
International Scholarship Competition; Group Study Exchange; Montpelier
Cultural Exchange; The Kentucky Rotary Youth International Exchange; and
Saving Lives Worldwide.
In 1990 the long-range
planning committee developed 38 proposed improvements in current
activities including new approaches, obtaining and retaining members,
providing information to members, and in club recognition. In this
year, it was decided to use the important legacy of Dr. Bert Williams'
gift of $844,000 for Rotary International to provide Paul Harris Fellow
Awards to the club's members as well as others to augment the Louisville
Foundation funds. Nearly 200 Fellows have been the recipients of this
award, by the Williams legacy. In 1999, Theodore Buerck provided over
$600,000 in his will for our own Louisville Rotary Foundation and over
$600,000. to the Rotary International Foundation. It should be noted
that Rotarian E. Randall Allen gave under his will the sum of $577,000
to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.
Meetings have been
held a few places outside the hotel, such as Actors Theatre, The Star of
Louisville, Churchill Downs, The IMAX Theatre, Youth Performing Arts
School, The Seelbach, The Louisville Zoo and The Cathedral of the
1991 found Past
District Governor A. G. Spizzirri serving on the Rotary International
Council on Legislation. A plan for quarterly pre-payment for luncheon
meals began in 1991 and has proven helpful. To recognize the
accomplishments of the Club's members, the Rotarian of the Year award
was started in 1991. In 1999 the “Lifetime Service Award” started with
the first one going to Henry Heuser, Sr. posthumously.
Beginning in 1991
also, the Metro Clubs of Louisville have sponsored each year a
toast/roast banquet to honor one of Louisville's leading citizens,
raising money to date for The dePaul School for dyslectic children. In
2003 this roast format was changed to a live/silent auction and dinner.
In 1992 territory was
released by our club to help organize a Rotary Club in Fern Creek, and
again in 1995 for creation of a new club in Prospect. These were the
eighth and ninth new clubs to be formed in the Louisville metropolitan
area since the original territory was designated for the Louisville Club
In 1996, the Club
launched an initiative to collect and distribute surplus U.S. medical
supplies and equipment to the world’s poorest communities. During the
first eight years, the Saving Lives Worldwide Program completed 17 major
humanitarian shipments valued at $4 million to ten developing, yet
financially destitute countries. Through extraordinary partnerships
with Rotary Clubs abroad, shipments were safely distribute to hospitals
and rural clinics in Romania, Latvia, Nicaragua, Kiev, Panama, Ecuador,
Ghana West Africa, Barbados, Belize, and Nepal.
In addition, through
special international Rotary Club-to-Rotary Club partnerships, six new
dental clinics have been established and are now serving poor
communities in Panama, Ecuador and Nepal. In 2004, the Saving Lives
Worldwide Program – in close collaboration with Rotary clubs in
Cincinnati and Kathmandu – will establish a kidney dialysis clinic – the
first of its kind – to serve the poor of rural Nepal.
In keeping with Rotary
International’s credo of “Service Above Self,” the Rotary Club of
Louisville has created the Rotary Leadership Fellows Program. Its
purpose is to identify potential community leaders, early in their
careers, and to involve them in a formal, three year Rotary leadership
The Club budget has
grown from $116,000. in 1987, our 75th anniversary year, to $471,000.
our 92nd Anniversary Year. The Rotary Foundation of
Louisville's charitable grants have remained at about the same number
but have become larger, their totals increasing from about $12,000. to
The Club membership
has remained in the range of 450 to 490 and most of those members have
of course continued to serve our community in many ways.