A Brief History of the Owensboro Rotary Club

February 23, 1905 

A small group of Chicago businessmen, led by attorney Paul Harris, formed a club to discuss important business and political issues and promote good will and fellowship to members of the business community.  The club meetings rotated: each member serving as a chairman and holding meetings at his business establishment.  The name Rotary derives from this unique meeting arrangement.  By 1910, sixteen clubs constituted the National Association of Rotary in the United States with a branch in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  The following year, Rotary extended to London and Belfast.

In 1915, Rotary began in Owensboro, Kentucky.  

April 1915

A group of Owensboro businessmen, calling themselves the "Live Wires," investigated formation of an Owensboro Rotary Club.  The population of Owensboro at the time was under 20,000.  Although the International Association of Rotary had reservations about the ability of a club to thrive in a city of less than 25,000, they decided to experiment with the Owensboro club, calling it "The Baby."  They instructed the Louisville Rotary Club to sponsor the Owensboro Club since both cities were in the same district.  The Evansville Rotary Club also participated in sponsorship, providing guidance to their Kentucky neighbors.

September 1, 1915

The Rotary Club of Evansville and the Rotary Club of Louisville chartered the Owensboro Rotary Club.  The new club inducted 33 charter members and elected the following officers:  President - Edward W. Smith; Vice President - Charles E. Hugger; Secretary - E. R. Southard; Treasurer - A. B. McCarthy.


A meeting place...

After its charter, the young club searched for an acceptable meeting place, moving from leased rooms over Ed Southard's candy and bakery shop to the dining room at the Rudd Hotel, to the basement of the Masonic Temple and on to the Chamber of Commerce.  When the Hotel Owensboro opened, the club moved its meetings to the hotel and remained there until the early 1960's.

During its formative years, Owensboro Rotary took on its first service projects, helping underwrite the Associated Charities (later the Welfare League) and helping Daviess County meet its Liberty Bond quota during World War I.

February 23-23, 1917

Owensboro Rotary hosted the District Conference for the 6th District (then Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee).

1920's and 1930's

Owensboro Rotary became involved with the Crippled Children's Project.   For many years, helping handicapped children remained a major service project for the Owensboro club.


Owensboro Rotary Club 1922


Three members of the Owensboro Rotary Club have served as governor of Rotary District 6710


Owensboro Rotary joined other Kentucky Rotary Clubs and the Kentucky Society for Crippled Children in building Camp KYSOC near Carrollton, Kentucky.


Owensboro Rotary and other Kentucky Rotary Clubs built Camp Green Shores, a second handicapped children's camp, near Rough River in western Kentucky.

Early 1980's

Owensboro Rotary adopted the Hospice House and helped make a dream become a reality.

May 31, 1988

The Owensboro Breakfast Provisional Rotary Club, sponsored by the Owensboro Rotary Club, elected its first officers.  The club was officially chartered as the Owensboro Breakfast Rotary Club with 35 members in July 1988.

July 6, 1988

The Owensboro Rotary Club inducted its first women members: Sister Ruth Gehres, President of Brescia College; Alma Randolph, Owensboro Human Relations Commission; and Donna Anderson, Director of the Mary Kendall Home. 



Over the years, members of the Owensboro Rotary Club have employed many innovative and successful fundraising tactics.  They've grown tobacco and stripped it. They've scheduled football games and tugs of war between members. They've even raffled off a goat.  And, in an event that will probably never be topped, they held a boxing match between presidents. This was such a big event that some stores even closed for business during the match!


Owensboro Rotary partnered with the Hager Educational Foundation to support Readifest, a program that celebrates the opening of school and helps K-8th grade students prepare for the school year.


The Owensboro Rotary PlayZeum opened it's doors to area children and families. This facility, located within the Owensboro Area Museum of Science and History, provides children, their parents, grandparents or caregivers a place to play when inclement weather would otherwise keep them indoors. 

Over 100  years of service to others...

The Owensboro Rotary Club continues to foster the ideal of service by undertaking activities to improve the quality of life in our community and beyond.  Visit the "Service Projects" page to find out more about our current activities.

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