A Brief History
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It Started With a Friendship

Paul Harris and George Clark

Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, moved to Jacksonville in 1892 and took a job as a salesman in the marble and granite company owned by one George W. Clark. Clark, a prominent local businessman who had many business interests in the community. The two had met when Harris was a clerk at a local hotel.  Harris left Clark's employ but returned to Jacksonville and rejoined Clark for a short time.

During Harris's second stay in Jacksonville, it is said he came up with an idea of a businessman's club where its members rotated each meeting to gather at a different member's business location. His effort to organize was not entirely successful although the group he invited did in fact meet a few times.

Harris returned north a year later to continue his education and pursue other interests. One of those interests was the founding of the first Rotary Club in Chicago in 1905. However, Harris never abandoned his friendship with Clark.

Several years later Harris influenced the Chicago Rotary club to elect as honorary members Clark and Jacksonville attorney David D. Doig. In the book Founder of Rotary credit is given to the friendship and influence of Clark on Harris as well as Harris on Clark. Without that friendship, Jacksonville may not have joined Rotary's family so early.

With only 40 Rotary clubs in the nation, and only New Orleans in the south, in 1912 the Chicago club sent a prominent member to Jacksonville to assist in organizing a new club.

Windsor Hotel 1912On February 13, 1912, at the Windsor Hotel downtown at Hemming Park, 14 businessmen met and officially organized. Members gathered for lunch weekly at the Windsor Hotel and later at the Aragon Hotel. 

The club adopted the logo of the Chicago Rotary club as 1912 Rotary Jacksonville Logoits membership symbol. There was no official universal logo at that time. Club's were left on their own to create a club symbol.  The basics of the Chicago logo, however, endured in one form or another from that point forward.

List of 50 members in 1912See a list of members and their classifications from the late summer of 1912.

Now having celebrated its its Centennial in 2012, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville has more than 240 members and fostered more than 20 other Rotary clubs in the region.

The First Meeting

Our club's first meeting was February 13, 1912. Fourteen businessmen had gathered for lunch and met with a representative of the Chicago Rotary Club who was dispatched here by Harris to help get the club organized. Although the Rotary Club of Jacksonville began in February it wasn't until May 1, 1912 that it was chartered and accepted into the National Association of Rotary Clubs of America as it was then known. Two clubs were inducted that day — Superior, Wisconsin (No. 40) and Jacksonville (No. 41). By the time that the charter arrived the original 14 members had grown to 35 charter members and by year's end the club had 71 on its roster.