Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

DUBLIN ROTARY CLUB

75 Years of Service Above Self



For the last seventy five years, the members of the Dublin Rotary Club have been asking themselves;  Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

When they answer all four tests in the affirmative, the Rotarians of Dublin go into action.  While no accurate total of their members monetary contributions to those in need in our community, our state, our nation and our world, one could safely estimate that the total would be up in the millions of dollars.  

In the early decades of the club, Rotary members were seen as among the most wealthy, powerful and influential men in the community, a characteristic which came in handy when it was time to raise funds, close loopholes and leap over obstacles in the way of badly needed community projects.

This power was never more evident than during the early decades of Dublin's return to prominence in the state after World War II. 

The founding of the Dublin Rotary Club didn't come easy.  While the first Rotary Club in Georgia was formed in Atlanta in 1913, the movement to begin a club in Dublin did not begin until after World War I.   The community's first two "all male" civic clubs, the Kiwanis and the Lions, were solidly entrenched with the leadership of the community's public spirited citizens.  Money, or the lack thereof, was a factor as well.  Extra money was  scarce.  Ironically, some club members believed that if the club had begun in the post World War I years, it would have folded under the burden of the economic depression in the South, which began with the coming of the boll weevil in the early years of the war and did not wane until the full implementation of the recovery measures set in place by the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

But, as the local and national economies began to improve in the late 1930s, a concerted effort was set in motion to form a Rotary Club in Dublin.  Then one day, L.A. Whitlock began to speak to his friends and colleagues about forming a Rotary Club in Dublin.  Within a few weeks, Georgia Rotary District Governor Porter Carswell came to Dublin to meet with Whitlock and his firends.   Carswell, Whitlock and his friends, spent the rest of day brainstorming on Whitlock's front porch.  The following day, the two men walked through the town canvassing all possible applicants for admission. When the requisite number of signatures were inscribed on enough application forms, the Rotary Club was born.

The Club was first organized under the leadership of District Governor Porter Carswell  on December 8, 1938.  The official charter was granted on January 18, 1939.   The charter ceremony was held in the Women's Community Club House on the evening of January 18, 1939.  The building, which is still located at the western end of North Drive in Stubbs Park, was filled with new and prospective members and their honored guests. 

The sixteen original charter members were: James E. Allen, John B. Bedingfield, W.W. Brinson, A.T. Coleman, Walter A. Hobbs, Rubert L. Hogan, W.H. Lovett, Elbert Mullis, W.D. Parkerson, Jr., J. Felton Pierce, W.H. Shuman, E.G. Simmons, L.K. Smith, Harry L. Taylor, E.W. Vaughn and L.A. Whitlock.  E.G. Simmons was the first president.  Walter Hobbs was the Secretary Treasurer and L.A. Whitlock was the first Sergeant at Arms. 

Writing a complete and brief history of any civic club is arduous at best.  So here are a few trivial facts about the local club.

Col. M.H. Blackhshear was the oldest person to lead the club as president.  Blackshear was born in 1878.   As best as I can tell, only Griffin Lovett is the only current member, who is descended from an original founding member, his grandfather, W.H. Lovett. There have been seventy- five club presidents.   Jay Studstill is the current president.  No one has ever served more than a single one-year term.  The Rev. Glenn Dorris was the first and only member to serve as president.  Felton Pierce and Bob Walker have been the club's only mayor/president, while Gibbs Flanders and Helen Harpers have been the only judicial presidents in the seventy-five-year history of the club.

Seven attorneys have been president.  Not surprisingly, only two presidents have been physicians who could manage to take time out of their busy schedules.  But two VA Directors, David Quinn and Harold Duncan,  have headed in the club. 

Preston Johnson (1979-1980), Jake New (1986-1987)  and Billy Adams (1991-1992)  have served as District Governors of the Georgia District. 

There have been two sets of father-son president, McGrath Keen, Sr. and McGrath Keen, Jr., James F. Nelson, Sr. and James F. Nelson, Jr.   Marshall Chapman and his grandson Frank Seaton have held the office of president.   Don Johnston, his son-in-law Jeff Davis, III, and grandson Jeff Davis, IV have the longest lineage.
  
In 2005, Marcia Dixon became  the first female president of Dublin Rotary, just a few years after women were first admitted.  Helen Harper joined Dixon as the second female club president in 2011.

The history of the Dublin Rotary Club cannot be stated in 1200 words.  It can be told in the deeds of its members over the last three quarters of a century.  Those deeds, which number in the thousands and cannot be listed here, are the true history of the club.   

Today the members of the Dublin Rotary Club are not just the most prominent and  influential white males of the community.  Its membership represents a mixture of males and females with members from different nations, creeds and cultures.  

Like the other major civic clubs -  the Exchange Club, the Civitan Club, the Pilot Club, the Lions Club and dozens of other volunteer service organizations -  the Dublin Rotary Club represents what is still good and right  in our community, doing good deeds for others with service above self.



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