History of Our Club
Rotary began in Chicago on February 23, 1905, when Paul Harris met with three friends and decided to meet periodically in the spirit of camaraderie to enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances. Weekly meetings were to be held at each member’s place of business in turn. The rotation for meetings was designed to acquaint the members with one another’s vocation and to promote business. Hence, the name “Rotary” was adopted early on. Soon, the weekly meetings evolved around lunch, thus the first civic luncheon club in the world became a reality.
In 1915, Rotary had 123 clubs in five countries and a total membership of 15,000. North Carolina had four clubs in Raleigh, Wilmington, Asheville, and Durham. It was thought that Winston-Salem, the largest city in the state, should have a Rotary Club.
Owen Norwell, a 29-year-old Assistant Cashier at Merchants National Bank in Winston-Salem was approached to start a Rotary club here as the city’s first civic luncheon club. Norwell contacted his friend, W. Wilson Gray, Secretary of the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company. Gray shared Norwell’s enthusiasm.
The two recruited 22 additional business men in the community for the purpose of determining whether a new club was advisable.
On October 23, 1915, 19 of the 24 prospective Rotarians gathered for dinner. The 19 voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new club. As a result, an organizational meeting of the club was held on November 9, 1915 at the grandiose Zinzendorf Hotel with all 24 members present.
On February 1, 1916 the Rotary Club of Winston-Salem received its charter from Rotary International as the 199th club formed.
The book “Morobullia – Seventy-Five Years of Winston-Salem Rotary”, written by club member Dr. Doug Young, is a complete history of Winston-Salem Rotary. (ISBN -0-9621 194-5-8).