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History

First President of Rotary Club of Birmingham, Harry B. Wheelock 1913-1914

Birmingham Architect Harry B. Wheelock, while visiting his brother in Denver, first heard of the growing-fast-as-wildfire movement "among men of good will" that had originated in Chicago by a man named Paul Harris who, with his primary emphasis, "he profits most who serves best," called his new organization "Rotary." It was destined to culminate as Rotary International with more than a million members in 164 countries. Wheelock became so enthused that he determined that Birmingham should have a Rotary Club. In correspondence between Wheelock and Harris in March 1912, Harris speaks of the responsibility that most people in a profession or business feel to spend a certain about of time in public work. He said, "it is the aim of Rotary to advance the individual interests of its members in proportion to the advance of the welfare of the communities in which we are established." This purpose is still a driving force today as the movement nears its centennial.

Wheelock called a meeting at the old Turn-Verein Hall of a half dozen friends and kindred spirits to discuss this new movement called "Rotary". At this meeting a carefully compiled list of business and professional men was made. They selected men whose lives and personal philosophies already manifested the Rotary spirit. They were invited to hear the Rotary story, told with the force of an evangelist. They, too, became enthused and "Rotary 56", The Rotary Club of Birmingham, was born. The incorporation papers forming it can be found in Vol. 10 of Incorporations at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham. These papers show the organization's "birth date" was February 6, 1913.

Excerpt from Ninety Years of "Service Above Self"