History of the Rotary Club of Jonesboro – Club 2520

At the end of World War I, the work of extending Rotary around the world took on new life.  Clubs were organized in the Philippines at Manila, in China at Shanghai, in Panama at Panama City, in India at Calcutta, in Argentina at Buenos Aires, and in Arkansas at Jonesboro.  It was the 520th club to be organized.

The Jonesboro charter was issued on August 1, 1919, with the chartering officers consisting of President V. C. Pettie, Vice President H. H. McAdams and Secretary A. J. Scott.  The initial board of directors was composed of T. J. Ellis, M. H. Rhodes, J. H. Little, E. L. Westbrooke, Sr., and A. B. Jones.  There were 25 initial members.

In 1920, Edward L. Westbrooke, Sr. became the second president of the club.  By the end of 1920, Rotary International was growing rapidly with a total of 758 clubs formed and a worldwide membership of 56,800.  In 1921, the 12th annual Rotary International convention was held outside of North America for the first time in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Great Earthquake in Japan in 1923 brought a relief movement from the 1500 Rotary Clubs around the world as they sent thousands of dollars to the Tokyo Club for distribution.  Warren Harding was President of the United States, and locally, Gordon Matthews was elected president of the Jonesboro Club.

During 1924 and 1925 Rotary became more and more international.  Clubs were forming all over Europe and the 2,000th club was formed in, of all places, Ketchikan, Alaska.  The two young Jonesboro men guided the Club at that time were Will Mack and Cornelius Chapin.  Schoolteacher J. P. Womack kept their records straight as the club secretary.

The 18th convention was held in Belgium and King Albert reaffirmed the great Rotarian ideal when he said in addressing the convention: “The Rotary ideal, essentially a humanitarian ideal of brotherhood, may have an efficient application in the broad sphere of international relationship.  Friendliness in international relations can be fostered by friendliness in international trade.”  Joe C. Barrett and H. A. Elder were club presidents during 1926 and 1927.

In 1928 a young druggist, Herbert Parker, became president of the Jonesboro Club.  He later became Jonesboro’s first District Governor and one of the Mid-South’s most beloved Rotarians.

Eli Whitfield became the president in 1929.  With the crash and following depression, club membership dropped from 52 down to a low of 27.  It was also in 1929 that the district officially adopted the Crippled Adults Hospital in Memphis as a project.  It was not considered charity, but rather an investment in human resources.  Neither the hospital nor patients ever had to pay for doctor services.  The Jonesboro Club contributed to this project for many years and one of our members, D. B. Aycock, served as director.

By late 1932, the club membership began a slow revival.  In 1933 there were 40 members and the club managed to have 14 meetings in a row with perfect attendance.  Some of the more active members of the club at this time were Price Barton, Horace Sloan, P. W. Lutterloh, Bill Green, Lloyd Rebsamon and M. P. Welsh.

In 1934 Dr. Fred Keller Was elected District Governor.  His motto and personal plea was “Make Rotary Personal” and he lived up to it by personally visiting each member of every club in the District.

By 1936 Rotary International had grown to 4,000 clubs.  Dr. Ralph Sloan was elected president of the club, the second of four Sloans to hold that position.  In this year, the club was active in sending a donation to tornado stricken neighbors in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Tupelo was all but wiped out by the tornado.

The 28th Rotary International annual convention was held in Nice, France in 1938.  It was attended by 6,000 delegates including Jonesboro’s president elect Eric Rogers, Sr. and Gordon Matthews.  1938 was grim year for Rotary as state authorities shutdown clubs in Austria and Italy.  This followed on the heels of Nazi pressure that lead to the disbanding of 42 German Clubs.

Great Britain’s clubs girded themselves for war service in 1940, as the conflagration spread throughout Europe.  Rotary carried on by sending its men to war and by supplying money and volunteers for relief work.  American clubs were stunned by the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  D. B. Aycock assumed the local club presidency and Gordon Matthews served as club secretary.

Syd Cameron became the 25th president of the Jonesboro Club in 1942.  Members and their families focused on the war effort and grew to know meat and fuel rationing coupons, bond drives, salvage campaigns and even saving the foil off the cigarette package.

Lloyd Goff was president in 1944 on our 25th anniversary of the club.  Rotary International held a streamlined convention that year, limiting attendance to only Rotary International officers.  Despite war conditions, 169 new clubs were formed and admitted to Rotary that year.

In 1945 the Atomic Age was ushered in and Earl Harrell started serving as secretary to the Jonesboro Club.  He served nine club presidents and held the position of secretary for nine years.  The club was increasing in membership and forced to move “upstairs” in to the El Patio Dining Room.

In 1953-54, D. B. Aycock was elected District Governor.  He was the third Jonesboro Rotarian to achieve this respected rank.  In 1955 Rotary International celebrated its Golden Anniversary. Rotarian Herbert Sanderson served as the club president for the golden anniversary and the club celebrated with an anniversary party at Hotel Noble.

Dr. Carl Reng, the president of Arkansas Stated College campaigned successfully for District Governor and became the fourth Governor from our club in 1944.  Jonesboro hosted two District Conferences back to back in 1965 and 1966.  These two Conferences were held in the Carl R Reng Center on the campus of Arkansas State College.  A long awaited milestone was reached in 1966 when the College was granted University status by the January session of the Arkansas Legislature.

In the late 1950’s the Rotary Baseball League was formed for the thirteen to fifteen year old age group.  This project was so successful that Rotary moved from the old City Water and Light Field to a better location at the County Fairgrounds.  Through the assistance of T. J. Robertson stadium lights were erected at a nominal cost to the club.  Employees of City Water and Light, REA, Marvin Melton and Lowell Simpson donated many man-hours.  These individuals and Rotary work parties built a first class Babe Ruth League Field at a cost of approximately $10,000.  The Rotary Club of Jonesboro financially endorsed the relocation project by negotiating a bank loan and paying it back over a three-year period by pledges.  Later the baseball project was taken over by the Jaycees.

In 1956 the club was instrumental in the formation of the Student Loan Foundation, which was incorporated with its own Board of Directors.  The Foundation made small loans to college students who needed emergency assistance to complete their education.  The money was acquired primarily by donations from individuals, business firms and industries as memorials.  Approximately 200 students benefited from this Foundation in its first ten years of existence.

In 1970-71, under President Alan Patteson, an Interact Club was formed at Jonesboro High School.  It was also the year that the club sponsored a defensive driving course.

The summer of 1975 saw our club undertaking the largest fundraising project to that time.  We voted to raise 30,000 as the cash match toward the construction of a proposed Youth Shelter Home for Craighead County.  Estimated cost of the building was $120,000.  The year 2005 marks it’s 29th year of expanded existence with locations at Harrisburg and Forest City and six outreach offices with a complement of 150 personnel and an annual budget of 5 million dollars.  It currently serves 106 youth both boys and girls.  Local Operation is located on Stadium Blvd.  It has been renamed Consolidated Youth Services.

In 1979-80, The Rotary Club of Jonesboro moved its meetings to the Ramada Inn.   

The Rotary Club of Jonesboro recommended in 1981 that a second club be started.  The new club was the Rotary Club of Jonesboro University which received its charter on June 29, 1981. The club assisted with the organization of the Rotary Club of Trumann Club which received its charter on May 24, 1984.  

Under President Bob Schuchardt the first Arkansas Sportshow was held at the fair grounds in 1986. Two years later the Sportshow moved to the ASU Convocation Center where it has become a huge success. That year, Ken Beadles served as District Governor.

In 1988-89 Jerry Brackett served as president.  During his term of office, the first women were admitted as members of the club and the club received the designation of “Club of the Year” in the District.

In early 1990’s an Interact Club was established at Nettleton High under the co-sponsorship of the Jonesboro and the University clubs.  In 1992-93, the club started developing the Rotary area of Craighead Forest Park.  The club celebrated its 75th Anniversary under President Joe Turney in 1994-95.  That was also the year of the first Rotary District 6150 RYLA Camp held at Walcott which was led up by club member, Marilyn Hummelstein as Camp Director.  In 1995 under the direction of Sportshow Chairperson Charles Jarrett, the club built it’s own trout tank and it became known as the “World’s Greatest Trout Tank”.

In the late 1990’s we moved from the Elks club to St. Bernard Auditorium on East Washington for our weekly meeting place.  With the assistance of Don Stone and Bob Warner office space for board meetings and storage space for our Sportshow equipment was made available on West Washington during President Willie Simpson’s Tenure.

For the 2000-2001 Rotary year, we ushered in the 21st Century with our first Lady President Marilyn Hummelstein.  We received Club of the Year Award that year.  Marilyn served as District 6150 Governor in 2005-2006.

In November 2002 we got our first dog member.  Well,………sort of.  We procured a German Shepherd dog at a cost of approximately $8,000 to work with the local police department as a drug dog and appropriately named him R. C. (Rotary Club).  Unfortunately within two years R. C. died of bacterial pneumonia.  In the spring of 2004 we replaced R. C. with an 18-month-old Belgium Malinois at a cost of $7,500.  GSE team exchange was with Argentina that year.

During the 2001-2002 Rotary year under Guy Patteson, III's presidency two endowment funds were established with the Craighead County Community Foundation.  Each was originated with $10,000.  One fund establishes an ASU Scholoarship that is jointly selected by the club and the ASU Foundation while the second fund generates income that can be used for any purpose as designed by the club.

In the spring of 2003 representatives of the three Jonesboro Rotary Clubs and local officials unveiled an admittedly ambitious plan to develop a park that will be the only one of its kind in the area and the largest in the state.  Named Jonesboro Rotary Centennial Park, the $570,000 project is being developed by the Jonesboro, Jonesboro University and Jonesboro Metro Rotary Clubs with the City of Jonesboro, Craighead County and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.  The park is a playground designed to enable children of all abilities to learn, explore and play together.  It will be 70% universally accessible and challenging for all children.  It is located at Craighead Forest Park and is to be dedicated in 2005, commemorating Rotary’s 100th Anniversary.  The Rotary Cub of Jonesboro pledged $50,000 dollars toward this project.

Bob Warner was awarded President of the Year at the District Conference in 2003.  President Bob was entitled to a Paul Harris Fellow and he designated his wife Mary Ellen to receive this award.  Chile was the GSE exchange team that year.

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