Paul Harris

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Rotary Club: Rotary Club #1
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Paul Harris

Harris began his law practice in 1896 in Chicago’s main business district and continued being active in this practice for the next forty years. After establishing his law practice, Harris began to consider the benefits of the formation of a social organization for local professionals. In 1905, Harris organized the first Rotary Club “in fellowship and friendship” with three clients and local businessmen, Silvester Schele, Gustavus Loehr, and Hiram Shorey. His initial goal was solely to create a club of professional and business men for friendship and fellowship. Soon, Harris realized that Rotary needed a greater purpose.

Paul Harris Third President

When Harris was elected as third president of the Chicago Rotary Club in 1907, the club initiated its first public service project, the construction of public toilets in Chicago. This step transformed Rotary into the world’s first Service Club. This action was facilitated by the formation of the Executive Committee (now Ways and Means Committee).

This Committee was open to all members and their noon meetings began tradition of club luncheon meetings. Harris had great ambitions for Rotary’s growth, and very early in the organization’s history new clubs were started, first on the west coast, and then all over the US and in Europe. By 1910, at least 15 new clubs had begun in major cities.

That August, the existing 16 Rotary Clubs held a national convention in Chicago. There they unanimously chose to unify as the National Association of Rotary Clubs. Eventually, the organization became the International Association of Rotary Clubs, helping to realize Harris’ dream worldwide. Through his work with the Rotary Club, Harris received awards from numerous national governments.