2011 – 2020



As of July 18th, 2012 there were only 214 days until the Rotary Club of Birmingham’s most extraordinary milestone – The Centennial Event. The official founding date of our club was February 6th, 1913. As Whit DeBardeleben took to the Rotary podium as Rotary’s new president (2012-2013), numerous plans were being developed to celebrate the clubs 100th anniversary.

Past Rotarian President Bill Jones chaired The Centennial Project Committee, a committee that included: Mary Boehm, Bart Crawford, Malena Cunningham, Margaret DeBardeleben, Bing Edwards, Jamie French, Brenda Hackney, Betsy Holloway, Duncan Hulsey, Susan Jackson, Philippe Lathrop, Danny Markstein, Edgar Marx and Jon Whetsell. The club’s 2012-2013 Board and officers also supported the committee as well as other Rotary members added throughout the year.

At the suggestion of members and the Centennial Project Committee several plans for a major legacy project were proposed. In the end, Bill Jones announced that the members involved had selected by vote taken on July 25th the First Avenue “cut” development for the project. The name of the project would evolve into “The Rotary Centennial Trail in the Magic City”. The Trail was chosen over other suggestions for several reasons. By implementing the trail project it would help in the long-term plan to link Railroad Park with the Sloss Furnace area and would be seen as a part of the Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System. In addition it supported the ongoing city revitalization which would prove to be a permanent asset for the city and promote the “Rotary” brand.

For the special Rotary year, plans were also made to provide for the club’s weekly meetings speakers who were connected to the city’s and club’s history. There was also to be a concert during the year, special dinners, a celebration meeting with RI President Sakuji Tanaka from Japan, funding projects, partner organizations’ involvement and special attention to the major goal of Rotary International, working towards polio eradication. At the third weekly meeting of President Whit’s term, member George Wheelock informed and entertained members and guests with a brief biography of our club’s founder, Harry Wheelock. With all the planning, Rotary Club of Birmingham’s 100th year celebration was now bound to happen.



As of December 5th, 2012 there were only 63 days left on the calendar until February 6th, 2013 when members and their guests would commemorate the Rotary Club of Birmingham’s Centennial   and   celebrate   the   remarkable   journey   the   club’s   membership   had experienced through the years. Plans for the  then-upcoming  event  were  announced  on  a weekly  basis  to   the  club’s  members.

Richard Yeilding chaired the Celebration Committee and made the announcement on December 12th, 2012 in regards to the history of  Beethoven’s  9th  Symphony  and why that  piece of music was the perfect fit and selection to commemorate an occasion as grand as a centennial anniversary. A champagne reception was  to  be  held  preceding  the concert  at  the  Alys Stephens  Center  where  area  Rotarians  and  guests  would participate   in   the   celebration.  Four  of  Birmingham’s  finest  restaurants  were reserved  as  venues  for  Rotarians for  an after the concert dinner. The dining event and celebration were to be held on the actual 100th year birthdate of Birmingham’s Rotary Club and members were asked to  choose  the restaurant  of their choice. The restaurant venues were: Highlands, Chez Fon Fon, Bottega and Hot and Hot.

As of January 23rd, 2013, design plans were nearing completion for the Rotary Trail. A 3-D model of the trail was placed on the screen in the atrium of The Harbert Center and was available for review by members. The Rotary Trail fulfilled the purpose of  the Centennial  Committee's desire to implement a centennial project which would focus our efforts on healthy living opportunities for local citizens, friends and visitors to the city. Thus the Rotary Trail would transform a submerged railroad eyesore to a green space of interest and beauty to be walked through, run and cycled through, and a place citizens and others could relax in and enjoy, hopefully, for the next 100  years.

Prior to the celebration of the 100 year milestone it was announced  that 2012-2013  Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka would address the club at the Wednesday weekly meeting on the date of our actual celebration. Mr. Tanaka was the former chair of the Daika Company and former president of the National Household Paper  Distribution  Associates  of  Japan. He would honor our Club with his visit and attend other events  throughout  the  memorable day. This was an exciting time for our club. As of late January 2013, our official centennial  date was  "right around the corner."

2013 - 2014


After the official celebration date had passed, the Rotary Club of  Birmingham continued its special year. The club received  a “Proclamation  for  100  Years  of  Service”  to the city, delivered by Mayor William Bell. It was officially  announced at  the  February  20th, 2013 meeting that the list of five possible names for  the  Centennial  Project  had  been  reduced to one. The first place name, receiving the highest number of votes, as voted on by Board  members  and   members,  was   “The  Rotary   Trail” Project.

The 2013 Rotary International  Convention  was  held  in  Portugal  in  the  city  of  Lisbon from June 23rd to June 26th. This was the largest business convention ever held  in Portugal with participation by roughly 25,000 people. An optional side trip was announced for opportunities to visit other European cities for  sightseeing  prior  to  the  convention.  The  cities  noted  were  Porto, Portugal; Madrid, Spain; and Granada, Spain.

At a Wednesday meeting Past Rotary President Hatton Smith announced that a special program would be held in the coming days which would highlight a symposium in Birmingham titled, "Lessons From The Birmingham Movement; A Symposium on Youth, Activism and the Struggle For Human Rights." This program was to be held from April 25th to April 27th with venues at the Sixteen Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Sheraton Hotel. Members of Rotary were encouraged to participate in the program. There    was to be  a  special  offsite  Rotary  event  on  April  24th  at  the  Sixteenth  Street  Church  where Juan Williams, a network news anchor, would speak.

During the first half of the year, a special survey  was  distributed  to  the  membership by the Rotary Board of 2013-2014 welcoming comments and suggestions for plans and objectives for the upcoming year. The officers and directors  representing  the  2013-2014 Rotary year met to work on revisions to the club’s strategic planning that would guide the organization over the years to follow. President Whit and President Elect Eddie Friend presented a fabulous roadmap which would provide solid continuality, sustained strength, significant impact and worthy stewardship for Rotary for the following five  years.  That  was June 5th, 2013. It was at that point that the realization set in among Rotary members that the club’s successful first 100 years was at an end and a productive and accomplished future lay in store for The Rotary Club of Birmingham.