Greenville Rotary Club History 1920 – 1970
by Governor Frank Koestler, May 1970
According to records available the Greenville Rotary Club was organized in April, 1920, and received its charter from Rotary International May 1, 1920. Our sponsor was the Clarksdale Rotary Club with W. K. Herrin as its special representative.
The first meeting was held in the cafeteria of the old Greenville High School. For the first ten years we met upstairs in what was then the Elysian Club, but later known as the William A. Percy Memorial Library. The meals were prepared and served by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church under the leadership of Mrs. Lola Belle Eustis, according to information furnished by the late Andrew Alexander. In more recent years the Greenville Rotary Club moved their meetings to the Greenville Country Club on Thursdays at 12:00 PM.
The officer elected the first year were W. P. Kretschmar, President; Will A. Percy, Vice-President; Hubert B. Crosby, Secretary; Sam Blum, Treasurer. The Board of Directors consisted of W. P. Kretschmar, T. C. Holmes, J. A. Hunt, J. A. Merfeld, and S. L. Moyse.
The fortunes of our club have followed closely those of our city. Together they have shared prosperity and adversity. We have survived two economic upheavals, two world wars and other conflicts, a disastrous flood in 1927, but in spite of all of this, we have emerged from it stronger and better.
In 1923, the Greenville Club, through the interest of Lyne Starling as president, and with the cooperative efforts of Will Percy, sponsored and helped to organize the Leland Rotary Club. The same year, Will Percy, representing Rotary International, helped to establish the Indianola Club.
It was in 1924-1925 that one of our members, Milton Smith, was elected Governor, for District Number 16, which included 31 clubs at that time, and was comprised of all the clubs located in North Mississippi plus Memphis, Tennessee.
Special mention should be made of the 1927 flood. Most of the members of our club remained in the City for its duration; engaging in the rescue work, conservation and restoration. Recognition should be given to the leadership during this crisis by Rotarians such as Will Percy and General A. G. Paxton who headed up the Relief Agency and the National Guard, respectively.
Then, on our Tenth Anniversary in May, 1930, the First District Conference was held in Greenville. The headquarters for that event was the Hotel Roslyn. In office at that time were the following: John Davis, President; Andrew Alexander, Vice-President; Henry Starling, Secretary; Granville Stanley, Treasurer. The Directors consisted of Andrew Alexander, Maurice Bergman, Jimmie Crumpton and Sidney Moyse.
It is of interest that Chauncy Smith; of our sponsoring club, Clarksdale, was the District Governor at that time. Another interesting item is that the Song Leader for this Conference was none other than Walter Jenkins, a member of the Memphis Club, and also Song Leader for the Chicago International Convention of that year. Walter Jenkins, who is retired and lives now in Houston, Texas, has been the official Song Leader for all Rotary International Conventions up until two years ago.
To be remembered by Past President Davis are the following Mayor Shelben – address of welcome, Rev. Phillip Davidson – invocation, and a band concert by the Memphis Rotary Boys Band at the Grand Theatre. And believe it or not, a visit to the Saenger Theatre that night to see a “talking picture” starring Vilma Banky in “Lady to Love.”
The featured speaker for the Governor’s Banquet, which was held at the old 555 Service Station building that night, was Oscar Johnston of Scott, whose topic was “Mississippi, Its Past, Present and Future.” Then to close the festivities, there was a boxing match scheduled for that night, between two outstanding fighters at the American Legion Stadium, at South Hinds and Johnston Streets.
New Members and Projects
As Greenville grew through the years, adding and opening up new classifications, so did our membership. In the year of 1935 when the new Greenville Hotel was opened, larger quarters were secured there for our weekly luncheons. We used this facility until May, 1966, when we moved to the Community Center, and then December 1969 to our present location at the Downtowner.
It was in the middle Thirties that our club took a very active part in supporting the Hospital for Crippled Adults in Memphis. The success of this worthy project was mainly due to the untiring efforts of our charter member, Hubert Crosby. To this day, the Greenville club has led all other forty clubs in District 682 in contributions.
During the Second World War and the Korean conflict, our club furnished its quota of men, too numerous to mention by name, to the Armed Services, all of whom served with honor and distinction. Two of our presidents were called to military duty while in office. Frank Hall left in 1942 for duty with the Army and T. Russell Nunan, installed in 1952 and president for one meeting was called back to duty with the Navy during the Korean conflict.
Our club participated with other civic clubs in various projects to entertain the cadets training at the Greenville Air Force Base during these times. We also joined with other civic clubs to welcome home the 31st Division, commanded by our own Lt. Gen. Paxton.
Greenville’s Rotary Fellows
One of our youngest presidents ever to wield the gavel, W. C. Kimbrell, inaugurated some worthwhile projects in co-operation with our school authorities. One of these was to Initiate the 4 Way Test in our schools. It was during his administration that a group of our members accompanied Albert Lake to Memphis and Little Rock to present one of the finest programs ever presented – “The Louisiana Purchase.” Our club was also most fortunate to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of Rotary International by having Judge Ed McFaddin, one of the most outstanding Rotarians of our time, to make his inspiring address to our club. It was also in 1955 that our first Rotary Fellow, Richard T. Harbison, was selected for one year of study at St. Andrews, Scotland.
We may point with pride that in 1956 during the administration of President W. M. McGough, Miss. Shirley Stanton, the second Rotary Fellow from our club, was selected to spend one year of study in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Greenville club enjoys the distinction of being a club in our district, consisting of forty-one clubs, to send more than one Rotary Fellow abroad for study. There was developed for our club, also during President McGough’s term, a classification roster which still serves as a model through out the District. Also, as Our club grew in size and stature, more of our members have been called on to serve on various Rotary programs at conventions, panels, etc.
“Hildegard’s 102 Daddies”
Commemorating the Fortieth Anniversary in the year 1959-1960 under the administration of President Frank Koestler, our club undertook an international project by supporting an orphan child in Austria. There are quite a few children’s orphanages in that part of Europe, which are supported by different civic groups and churches. We sponsored a young girl for several years until her graduation, by birthday donations from our individual members. This project received very favorable publicity for our club, including an article published in the “Rotarian” entitled “Hildegard’s 102 Daddies.” Since terminating this particular project, our birthday donations go to the support of our local Teen Club.
Another outstanding International Project was initiated and brought to a successful conclusion under President John McPherson and his committee, which included Dr. Ernest Butler. One hundred thirty-five Rotary Clubs in foreign countries were contacted with the hope that correspondence and the exchange of ideas could be developed. Also a check was enclosed for the purchase of a suitable gift for our Rotary Ann night that year. What was most remarkable, only two clubs refused to co-operate.
Governor Frank Koestler
The year 1963-1964 brought additional honors to our club by having one of our members, Frank Koestler, elected District Governor. That conference was held in Greenville under the capable leadership of President Victor Smith. By all standards, this conference was the best attended, and especially the banquet hall most beautifully decorated by our Rotary Aims. One outstanding feature presentation of this conference was a program on the “Manned Moon landing” by Mr. John Goodrun, chief project officer for NASA. The predicted target date given for this project was before the end of the last decade. The prediction proved to be correct by the performance of the astronauts in the Apollo Series.
Under the direction of President Hal Buchannan the following year saw the formation of the first Interact Club of our district. An Interact skit by charter members of the Greenville Interact Club was presented at the Natchez District Conference.
The year of President Bill Condon’s reign added a great deal of thought and dignity to the admittance of a new member – a breakfast meeting with the prospective member was instituted before final induction into the club. At this meeting, usually conducted by the vice-president and other officers, the aims and objects of Rotary are explained. At the time of induction, the new member’s Rotary Ann is invited to be present at the luncheon. Greenville Rotary is well recognized throughout the district for its induction procedure.
The object of Rotary, in its four avenues of service, particularly stresses the importance of International Service. To this extent some of our members whose travel takes them to foreign lands make every effort to visit clubs while traveling abroad, creating good will by exchanging club banners and other interesting information. Banners of clubs in Bolivia, Columbia, Peru, Israel, Europe and Japan avid others are displayed.
International Student Comes
In addition to supporting the Rotary Foundation which has as its basic purpose the furtherance of international, understanding, the Greenville Club has undertaken another project.
Our latest adventure in international understanding began as a project on one of the youth committees of the Rotary Club in 1967. This group recommended that we sponsor a high school student through the American Field Service Organization, and asked the Board of Directors to donate the $850.00 fee necessary to participate in the program. This was readily done and the search was on for a Rotary family to be the host for our student. The Dick Peterson family was selected and passed the rigorous application procedure administrated by American Field Service headquarters in New York City. Then came the word that our student would be Toney Drinan from Melbourne, Australia and what a marvelous year it has been with the Petersons as wonderful host parents. We are eagerly awaiting word of whom our foreign student (a girl this time) will be this year.
We are listing additional club activities receiving our financial support: Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boys’ State, Girls’ State, Teen Club, Little League Baseball, 4-H Club, 4 Way Test, Cerebral Palsy School, Educational Foundation, Scholarship Award, and Sportsmanship Award.
Fifty years of Rotary has seen many changes in our community. Our club has grown from a starting membership of twenty to the present roster of one hundred sixteen. The classification principle of membership is the foundation upon which a Rotary Club is established and maintained. Therefore it assures participation by our members in all phases of the professional and institutional life in our community.
May Greenville Rotary in the next 50 years be true to the “Objects of Rotary” and to our motto “SERVICE ABOVE SELF.”
It is impossible to mention by name each person who contributed their share in time and talent to make our club the outstanding civic organization it is, and who helped foster the ideal of service to our community.
Charter Members at the time of organization:
Sam Blum, N. A. Bergman, William Crump, T. A. Crittenden, H. B. Crosby, T. A. Hunt, T. C. Holmes, Dr. W. B. Johnson, W. P. Kretschmar, W. T. McGehee, Dr. D. C. Montgomery, H. A. Merfeld, S. L. Moyse, William A. Percy, T. M. Robertshaw, Lyne Starling, Joe Weinberg, Charles P. Williams, Otto Wineman, B. B. Payne
(As of: May 1970)
MEMBER 50 YEARS
Hubert B. Crosby
MEMBER OVER 45 YEARS
Walter Lee Shelton
George B. Walker
MEMBER OVER 40 YEARS
Dr. Frank Acree
Jere Nash, Sr.
Gen, A. G. Paxton
MEMBER OVER 30 YEARS
Dr. Ernest Butler