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Rotary in Hawaii: Our History

Contributed by: William Baines-Jordan, PDG

Rotary started in 1915 with a social acquaintance between V.O. Lawrence, a member of the No. 3 Rotary Club of Oakland, Calif., and James L. Coke, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Hawaii. As they sailed together from San Francisco to Hawaii, they talked about Rotary and organizing a club in Hawaii.

On arrival in Honolulu, Chief Justice Coke invited a number of local professional businessmen to meet at the Old Commercial Club. After the objectives of Rotary had been explained by Lawrence, the group decided to organize the Rotary Club of Honolulu. The charter was dated July 1, 1915; just 10 years after Paul Harris started the Rotary movement. The Honolulu Club received its charter with 28 Charter Members and the distinction of being the 170th club admitted into Rotary, which then had a membership of 20,000.

In June 1920, Charles C. Graves, President of the Rotary Club of Honolulu, made a trip to Hilo and invited about 20 businessmen to dinner. As a result, an application was made to Rotary International for a charter. The request was granted on Dec. 1, 1920, as Rotary Club No. 795 and the second club in the Territory of Hawaii with a charter membership of 16.

The Secretary of the Rotary Club of Honolulu, John Caldwell, spent two years working for the formation of a third Rotary Club at Wahiawa-Waialua. Local Wahiawa businessman Steven Bowen became the club's Charter President. The charter was presented on May 27, 1937 as Rotary Club #4168.

The Rotary Club of Kauai was admitted on Aug. 23, 1937 as #4378. John Caldwell, Secretary of the Rotary Club of Honolulu, along with fellow club members Wayne Stewart and Charles Loomis, teamed up to organize this club. Charter President was W.P. Alexander.

The Rotary Club of Honolulu assisted in the formation of the Rotary Club of Maui. David C. Rattery was its Charter President and on Nov. 4, 1937, Maui had its first Rotary Club, #4478.

Rotarians now believed the Territory of Hawaii was qualified for organization as a separate district. Up to that time, it was part of California District #104. At its January 1938 Board Meeting, Rotary International approved the split of District 104 with all clubs in Hawaii uniting into a new district, District 100 and California remaining in 104.

Wayne Stewart, Past President of the Rotary Club of Honolulu, was our first District Governor. Rotary in Hawaii came of age, with only five clubs and 231 members. In 1950, District 100 was re-designated District 150 and later changed to District 500 in 1957. The most recent number change took place in 1991, when Hawaii was designated as District 5000.

The 6th Rotary Club in the Territory, Waikiki, was organized through the efforts of a committee consisting of the following members of the Honolulu Club: Chairman Wes Wilkie, Clifford Kimball, Leslie Hicks and Charlie Frazer. Rotary International issued the charter on June 20, 1939 as club #5075. District Governor Wayne Stewart presided at a charter dinner at the Waialae Country Club. The first meeting was held at the Green Lantern Restaurant on Kalakaua (later known as the Wagon Wheel) with Frank Van Cleve as its first president.

The assignment of charter numbers for Rotary Clubs was discontinued in 1950-51, since there were over 7,000 clubs in Rotary.

Perhaps the most significant event in Rotary in Hawaii was the hosting of the 60th International Rotary Convention in May 1969. It was a colossal undertaking, involving hundreds of members from all the clubs in the District. It was the second largest Rotary Convention held in the U.S., attracting 66 countries and 14,684 attendees. Kiyoshi Togasaki of Japan was President of Rotary International at the time.

Morley Theaker of the Honolulu club developed and vigorously pushed the idea that Hawaii could take on the convention. After securing the support of local Rotarians, Morley personally took the official invitation to Rotary International headquarters where he met with Carl Miller, President of RI, who was instrumental in persuading the Board to settle on Honolulu. Miller later moved to Hawaii and became an active member of the Rotary Club of Honolulu and shared the fellowship of Rotary with many District 5000 Rotarians.

The American Red Cross in 1990, honored Rotary Clubs of Hawaii for outstanding community and public service by presenting the District with its' Humanitarian Award. This was the first time that one international organization was honored by another international organization with a national aware here in Hawaii.

For many years, District 5000 led the Rotary world in Rotary Foundation giving - until Rotary International added French Polynesia (Tahiti) to our District. Our per capita dropped and Japan, Korea and California greatly increased their contributions. In 1979, Tahiti was removed from our district and remains an undistricted club, as are the Rotary Clubs of Angola and Gibraltar.

One of the first to suggest the addition of the Keyway to the Rotary Wheel was Charles R. Frazier, a member of the Rotary Club of Honolulu. Without it the gear was an idler, incapable of transmitting power to and from the shaft. The Rotary International Board approved the suggestion in 1923 - the wheel turned on, and has been rolling every since.

We in District 5000 have a lot to be proud of. The Club leaders of yesteryear have left their legacy and challenge to every Rotarian and newly elected club leader each year to continue to make Rotary the meaningful and living entity it is. Welcome to Rotary



Last Modified: 20040519.11:56 EDT
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