A Brief History of the Griffin Rotary Club

The Griffin Rotary Club, with the help of the Macon Rotary Club, was formally organized February 26, 1924, just one year after Julius W. Gresham, then President of the Griffin Chamber of Commerce, attended a meeting of the Miami Rotary Club at which Ken Guernsey, Rotary District Governor, was featured speaker.

After the meeting these two discussed the possibility of organizing a Rotary Club in Griffin. Mr. Gresham’s interest was further encouraged when he returned home by his own Chamber Secretary, J. Len Satterwhite, who was familiar with Rotary.

There existed, at this time, an informal business men’s club and on January 28, 1924, this group, after discussing the relative merits of Rotary and Kiwanis, organized themselves as the Tuesday Luncheon Club on motion of John B. Mills. Other charter members were E. H. Griffin, J.W. Hammond, C. M. Power, Pink Traer, John Morrow, J. P. Mason, E. K. Domingos, Frank Smith, J. L. Satterwhite and W. T. Bennett.

During the summer of 1923, the Macon Club gave Griffin a favorable report to Rotary International and in November 1923, Guy Gundaker, President of Rotary International, named Mr. Gresham organizing chairman. J. Woods Hammond took over this responsibility on February 19, 1924, shortly after his Tuesday Luncheon Club had voted to tie its future to either Rotary or Kiwanis. After an impressive delegation from Macon Rotary presented its case, Mr. Hammond quickly led the group to a unanimous decision to join Rotary with him as Charter President. Frank Smith was elected Vice-president; Lem Satterwhite, Secretary; Milton Daniel, Treasurer; and John Morrow, Sergeant-at-Arms.

The first meeting as the Griffin Rotary Club was held March 6, 1924, following acceptance from Rotary International, and the installation ceremony as Club No. 1657 was conducted by District Governor Guernsey and Macon Rotary at the Griffin Hotel on March 19, 1924.

Following that first year the Griffin Rotary Club developed a tradition of prestige and excellence that it has maintained ever since. Many current members are second and third generation Rotarians.

In 1931 Griffin Rotary began a continuing relationship with the Blackburn, England Club and, during the Battle of Britain, offered to bring over 40 of that city’s children. After the war Griffin Rotary responded to Blackburn’s need for food and clothing with substantial in-kind contributions. Numerous exchange visits have occurred over the years and Blackburn Rotary donated “the jewel,” the ribboned necklace which is the President’s symbol of authority.

Griffin Rotary’s success through the years can be attributed to its outstanding committees and, to encourage their good work, in 1938 then President R. G. Hunt donated a silver loving cup as a reward to the outstanding Rotary Committee. The 18-inch cup remains with the recipient for 12 months and is a cherished reminder of “SERVICE ABOVE SELF.”

In 1949, Griffin Rotary began its continuing participation in the Georgia Foreign Student Program which is described in more detail elsewhere.

In 1959 Willis Warnell became Griffin’s only District Governor and served with distinction. To honor Griffin Rotary’s most faithful member, the late Dick Mitchell, in 1965 the Club established an award given annually to the club with best average attendance in each of the three size categories.

Griffin Rotary has four times been instrumental in extending Rotary to its sister cities. In 1939 under the leadership of then President Otis D. Blake Barnesville Rotary was established and in May of 1990 under the leadership of President Larry Stover Thomaston-Upson was finally chartered. In June 1995 under the leadership of President John Newton Forsyth was chartered and under the leadership of Tommy Hopkins the Griffin Daybreak Club was chartered in June 1997.

Women Rotarians were admitted to the world wide fellowship of Rotary through the Griffin Rotary Club for the first time in 1991.

Griffin Rotary is rich with tradition and history with every hope of continuing excellence.