The Establishment of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club: August 19, 1947
By Neal Beard
There was a distinct buzz in the air during the first half of ‘47. It had begun shortly before Christmas past and was gaining in volume every day. Neither the bees of spring nor the pesky flies and mosquitoes of summer were the culprits. The buzz was much louder than that! It was coming from the muted whispers of men sitting around the tables at the local diners and coffee houses, from the matter-of-fact gossip circulating in the local barber shops, and from the unguarded conversations leaking from the open office windows of business owners and civic leaders in every corner of town. Someone, it was said, was trying to start a new Rotary Club.
Even the Lions heard it!
The Lions Club immediately went on an aggressive membership prowl looking for new Lions to add to the pride—and they found plenty of them. By the 15th of February, they had added fifty new members. That made 102 Lions and that would be fifty less that this new-fangled Rotary Club wouldn’t get—if they could even get anyone at all. The prophet, Daniel, hadn’t faced that many lions when Darius threw him into the den.
Oral tradition has it that Harold Nance and Hiram Holtsford approached the Pulaski Rotary Club first asking for their help in starting a new chapter in Lawrenceburg. Some old timers, on the other hand, suggest that Rotarians from the Pulaski Club were the ones who approached Harold and Hiram. But regardless of who contacted whom first, an idea was firmly set in motion and an aggressive campaign was begun to recruit other like-minded men to join.
Rotary was said to be a very elite organization, one that was gaining popularity all over the United States and in many foreign countries. It had begun in 1905 in Evanston, Illinois—a suburb of Chicago along the west bank of Lake Michigan. Membership criteria were supposedly high and only well-to-do businessmen and upstanding citizens and civic leaders were invited to join. It was rumored that you had to be a mason before you could be considered for membership, but that wasn’t exactly true—at least not this time. Still, everyone wondered who the founding members of this new club would be. As it turned out they wouldn’t have long to wait.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, August 19, 1947, twenty-two Lawrence County businessmen met in the hot and muggy dining room of the Lawrenceburg Hotel Coffee Shop to listen to presentations from Pulaski and Lewisburg Rotarians; discuss the pros and cons of starting a new club; and eventually affix their names to a charter request that they would send by parcel post the following day to Rotary International in Evanston, Illinois for approval.
At that first meeting, after assurances from the representatives of the two neighboring Rotary clubs that they would be delighted to sponsor the proposed Lawrenceburg chapter, it was agreed by all present to step off on a new journey of community service. Seven men were immediately elected by secret ballot to serve as club directors. The seven then met in another room of the hotel to select officers for the remainder of the year, and after a short deliberation, they recalled the main meeting to order to present their slate.
Not surprisingly, a young educator turned lawyer, Hiram Holtsford, who also happened to be a member of Mimosa Masonic Lodge and the local Lions Club, was chosen to become the first club president.
(In May of 1947 Hiram Holtsford had successfully run for Commissioner of Finance in the City of Lawrenceburg election and for several years had been the co-chairman of the Lawrence County Fair and Park Association. Those two connections would play an important roll in the early history of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club.)
Hiram was far from being the only prominent citizen at that first assembly. Others present included J. Robert Hood, who would serve as the club’s vice president. He is remembered as a meek and well-mannered insurance salesman and an aggressive real estate broker and auctioneer who came to life when he stepped upon the auction block. Bob Belew and Edd Elder were elected secretary and treasurer respectively. Polk Hickman, F.F. Locke and Hobe Warren would serve as directors. Polk Hickman was the secretary treasurer of Lawrenceburg Federal Savings and Loan and the City of Lawrenceburg’s municipal government. F. F. Locke was the Law partner of Hiram Holtsford and a self-proclaimed horse fancier. Hobe Warren owned the Big Red Store in Appleton and had recently opened Warren Wholesale Grocery Company in Lawrenceburg. He also ran the mule barns in Lawrenceburg and Minor Hill, and owned the Appleton cotton gin.
The list continues with the elderly dentist A. G. Buckner—his wife, Claire, had passed away in mid-March at the age of 72. For Doc Buckner, the fellowship of Rotary would help fill the void in his life left by her death. Dr. Harold Nance, a young and energetic local veterinarian was there and, like Dr. Buckner, he would dedicate the rest of his life to the fellowship and community service goals of Rotary. Both Dr. Buckner and Dr. Nance would go on to serve as club presidents. Nance would eventually garner the distinction of being the oldest living charter member still on the club roster at the time of his death in 2005 at the age of 94. Dr. W.O. Crowder, Jr. was another charter member who also held the distinction, though notorious, of being the first Lawrenceburg Rotarian to be terminated by the board of directors—a casualty of the strict attendance requirements of Rotary. He missed four consecutive meetings!
Perhaps the names of some of the other charter members will ring a bell, names of men such as: Andrew Dugger, cashier at the First National Bank; Charles Freemon, owner of Freemon Funeral Home; Boss Holander co-owner of H & H Electric Appliances; and Wilson Warren, Wendell Coffey, Harry Berman, Floyd Bloom, John Craft, Mack Rutherford, Ben Smith, and Buddy Richardson.
W. L. Gladish was one of the twenty-two local businessmen there that night but would not become a member until April the 15th, 1949—it just takes some folks a little while to make up their mind.
At that first meeting, the board of directors set noon on Friday as their regular weekly meeting time—an hour and day that has yet to be changed—and agreed on the Lawrenceburg Hotel dining room as their designated meeting place. Over the years, as the club grew in size, it would meet at many different locations before finally settling into its own meeting spaces in Rotary Park in 1994.
The fledgling club received their official charter on September 3rd and set the evening of September the 25th, 1947 for their Charter Night celebration banquet. When that night came, over 200 people were in attendance including Will R. Manier—Past Rotary International President (36-37) who was also an attorney from Nashville, Tennessee. He spoke to the gathering and congratulated them upon receiving their charter. Other dignitaries from Rotary International were there as well, along with many Rotarians from all over Middle Tennessee—some presenting gifts of congratulations.
Minutes of the Rotary Club of Lawrenceburg
The first meeting for the purpose of organizing the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club was held on August 19, 1947.
The first meeting was held at the Lawrenceburg Hotel in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, being present at this meeting the following gentlemen representing two clubs.
From Pulaski, we had Bruce Farley, David Wade, Jr., and Buck Holt and representing the Lewisburg club were Bob McBride, Jr., Joe Gordon, J. Lee Moss, Monroe Carter, Nat K.Reiney and also were present the following gentlemen who later became charter members.
Those present were, E. I. Elder, G. A. Dugger, Harry Berman, Wendell Coffey, Charles Freeman, Jr., Wilson Warren, H. H. Warren, F. F. Locke, W. L. Gladish, Jr., Hiram Holsford, J. Robert Hood, H. A. Hollander, Floyd Bloom, Harold Nance, A. G. Buckner, W. O. Crowder, Jr., P. E. Hickman, John Craft, Mack Rutherford, Ben Smith and Buddy Richardson.
After a nice talk and complete information about the Rotary International by Bob McBride, and upon his suggestion we then had the election of seven members as a board of directors, which was elected by secret ballot. Those elected were, Hirom Holsford, President, J. Robert Hood, Vice President, Bob Belew, Secretary and E. I. Elder, Treasury.
Upon returning to the meeting we had a nice talk by our President, who gave the club the directors selection of officers, and gave several suggestions to be followed at later meetings, at this time it was discussed as to meeting place, and time, and was the choice of the club to meet each Friday from 12:00 P.M. to 1:00 P.M. at the Lawrenceburg Hotel Coffee Shop.
Our President then suggested we give our friends from Lewisburg and Pulaski a rising vote of thanks. After that the motion was made and carried to adjourn.
August 29, 1947
Our first meeting after the organization of the club was held at Lawrenceburg Hotel Coffee Shop on the 29th day of August. There was no special business brought before the club, their being just a principle gathering for luncheon at this time, each member seeming to enjoy themselves.
There was a meeting called by our President of the Directors to be held September 2nd.
September 2, 1947
There was a meeting held at the Blue and White Diner, all of the directors were present with the exception of G. A. Dugger, and the following committies were appointed: Club Service- Boss Hollander, Chairman; appointed to serve under Boss were Harry Berman, Program, Charles Freemon, Attendance, Harold Nance, Fellowship, Poke Hickman, Classification, Ben Smith, Membership, Wilson Warren, rotary Information. Dr. A. G. Buckner was elected chairman of International Service. On Community Service were appointed Floyd Bloom as chairman, Mack Rutherford, Youth, Wendell Coffey, Boy Scout, John Craft. Rual Ervan Work, W. O. Crowder, Cripple Children and Ladd Gladish, Trafic Safety.
September 5, 1947
We had our regular meeting Friday at noon at Hotel Coffee Shop on September 5th.
The only business brought before the club was the reading of the committies of their assignments and positions on the committies and their were some discussion in general on Rotary, that day having present four Rotarians from Pulaski club.
Meeting was adjourned with a request from our President that the Directors meeting in his office the following Tuesday night, September 9th.
September 9, 1947
We had a special meeting September 9th at Hiram Holtsford’s office to make plans for Charter night, their being present to help in the discussion and the arrangements, Nat Raney and Robert Laten from Ardmore.
The date set for Charter night was September 25th and all plans were formed in this meeting. We then adjourned.
September 12, 1947
We had our regular meeting at the regular place with good attendance, including two visitors from Pulaski, J. D. Coffman, Jr., and Arney Curry.
We had some talk about our charter night. Some plans were made and others changed. After a nice talk by J. D. Coffman, Jr., the alarm clock went off and the meeting adjourned.
September 19, 1947
We had our regular meeting at the same place, attended by one visitor from Pulaski, of whom I have forgotten his name, but who gave us a nice talk and congratulated us very highly upon the organization of our club.
There were some discussion as to Charter night but very few changes were made in the present plans.
After some nice talks from various ones and open discussion by the group, the meeting was adjourned.
September 25, 1947
This meeting was held at Lawrenceburg Gymnasium, their being present approximately two hundred including our own club.
The program came off as was planned in the future meetings without slip-ups at all.
We had the following program which was far above spectation:
Call to Order................................. Joe Gordon
President, Lewisburg Rotary Club
Singing led by............................ Jimmie Gearish
Accompanied by Mrs. Gearish at the piano
Invocation......................... Rev. Stuart H. Salmon
Special Piano Music..................... Roy Gene Frazier
Welcome to Guests Dr. A. G. Buckner
Introduction of Guests and Visiting Rotarians ............................................Bruce Farley
President Pulaski Rotary Club
Address–"Rotary Encircles the Globe"..Will R. Manier, Jr.
Past President of Rotary International
Singing Led by............................ Jimmie Gearish
Introduction of District Governor............. Nat Rainey
Address and Presentation of Charter...... Mort Greenstone
Acceptance and Response Hiram W. Holtsford
Presentation of Gifts
In addition the the stated program we had talks by Bob McBride and several other gentlemen from other clubs of which was enjoyed by all.
In the presentation of gifts present to Lawrenceburg club as follows:
The Nashville club representated by its president, Joe B. Sills, presented the club with a beautiful American flag. Next Joe Gordon from Lewisburg club presented the club with a Gong then David Wade, representing Pulaski, presented the club with pens for each member of the club and his address was excellent.
At this time the meeting was adjourned by Joe Gordon as master of ceremony.