The Downtown Durham Rotary Club was organized in November 1915 as the first civic club in Durham; became the first chartered Rotary Club in Durham in January 1916 with sponsorship from the Rotary Club of Raleigh; and was the fourth chartered club in North Carolina, following Raleigh, Charlotte and Asheville. It has subsequently sponsored and helped organize three of the 4 other clubs in the Durham/RTP area. The downtown club meets each Monday at 12:30 pm at the PNC suite on the Club Level of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards, and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. Paul P. Harris formed the world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA, on 23 February 1905. The name Rotary is derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices. Today there are approximately 1.2 million Rotary club members of more than 30,000 Rotary clubs in 163 countries.

Key projects and accomplishments of Downtown Durham Rotary 

Organized in November 1915 as the first civic club in Durham; officially chartered by Rotary in January 1916.

$100,000 Centennial Campaign 2005: fundraising goal achieved and surpassed with donations from Durham Rotary Club members to support three projects: The Durham Rotary Pavilion at the Museum of Life and Science – a 1,600 square foot facility that will prominently grace the gateway area of a new 17-acre exhibit campus; a Habitat for Humanity house; and the Durham Rotary Club Community Foundation. Proceeds from the foundation support annual projects including donations to fund college scholarships for Durham students, and donations to local non-profits.

Support of Rotary International’s Polio Plus Campaign: More than $88,000 was contributed in 1985 by members of this club and thousands more in subsequent years to support this project to eliminate polio from the world. Rotary International has achieved a 99.8% reduction of the disease as of 2005.

College Scholarships and Supporting Families and Children: The club is dedicated to assisting youth in Durham, especially those that are economically disadvantaged. Each year the club awards scholarships to deserving seniors graduating from Durham’s six high schools. The criteria considered include financial need, academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community involvement, character, and acceptance to an accredited post-secondary institution. Since the Durham Rotary Scholarship program began in 1996, the club has awarded a total of $74,000 in scholarships to support Durham youth. The club also conducts regular collections of goods for Durham Rescue Mission, the Volunteer Center of Durham, Durham Crisis Response Center, and Durham Public Education Network. The club provides funding for disadvantaged children to receive a meal and an opportunity to improve their reading skills through the Durham Public Schools Summer Literacy Program, in conjunction with the Durham YMCA, providing meals, library time and recreation for more than 500 students. Club members also support the “Take a Kid to the Ballgame” program annually.

Salvation Army support: the downtown club annually tops all civic clubs in the community in raising contributions through bell-ringing for the Salvation Army’s red kettle holiday campaign.

Habitat for Humanity: the club has constructed two Habitat for Humanity homes in recent years and will begin construction of another home in spring 2005. In addition to Rotarians volunteering to build, its helps raise the funds required for the project as well.

Rotary Park: In 1965, when the Durham Rotary Club celebrated its 50th Anniversary, it made a major gift to Durham of a Rotary Park at the intersections of Morgan, Mangum, and east Chapel Hill Streets. In the shape of a Rotary Wheel and centered with a fountain, the garden is maintained by the City, with many varieties of flowers, surrounded by dogwood and Bradford pear trees.

The Rotary Bandstand: The Durham Rotary Club’s first civic project was the gift of a bandstand, constructed in 1916 in a downtown Durham park, where weekend musical concerts were given. It was moved nine years later to Bennet Place historic site where it remains today. In 1990 the club made major improvements to the bandstand, as its 75th Anniversary gift to Durham.

History of Durham Rotary Club

On November 9, 1915 George W. Harris, the noted photographer of Washington, D.C., traveled to Durham. His enthusiasm led to the formation of the Rotary Club of Durham which was chartered on January 1, 1916 as club no. 196. Durham was the fourth Rotary Club chartered in North Carolina. The first District Governor of what is now District 7710 was M. Eugene Newsom of Durham who served in 1924-1925. Eugene Newsom then served as president of the Rotary International in 1929-1930 and much later in 1967-1968, Luther Hodges, then living in Chapel Hill, also served as the president of Rotary International. Thus, District 7710 can claim two very distinguished sons of Rotary. In addition, James M. Bates, Jr., Frank Jarman, H.C. Cranford, Jr.,, R. Haywood Hosea, and Art Christakos, all were District Governors of 7710 from the Durham Rotary Club. Joe Hackley, a former member of this club served as District Governor for 2002-2003.

Several projects throughout the years have been special for Durham Rotary including the formation of Rotary Park in Downtown Durham, the establishment of the Durham Rotary Community Fund, the buying and installation of an exercise course for the Lenox Baker Children’s Hospital at Duke University and the successful Polio Plus campaign. The club has sponsored the construction of Habitat for Humanity housing and awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships for college-bound Durham students. In addition, Durham Rotary is the annual champion for the Salvation Army bell-ringing program at Christmas.

In tribute to the club’s 75th anniversary in 1990, the club rehabilitated the band stand at Bennett Place, which had been given by the club to the City of Durham in 1916, at which time the structure was located in a downtown park.

Durham Rotary has sponsored and helped organize the other three clubs in the city: The North Durham, Southwest Durham, and Durham Sunrise.

The Nicholas B. Fagan Award

This award was established in 1985 to honor the memory of Nick Fagan, a long-time Rotarian and Secretary of Durham Rotary. Nick’s always-positive attitude, warm encouragement of his fellow men during bad times and good, his own labor and financial contributions on behalf of those less fortunate, and his tireless efforts on behalf of Rotary International exemplified the motto of Rotary, “SERVICE ABOVE SELF.” The Fagan Award may be presented once each year to a member of Durham Rotary whose deeds embody this motto.

Recipients of the Nicholas B. Fagan Award: 1985 J.B. Brame, 1986 H.C. Cranford, Jr., 1992 Marcus E. Hobbs, 1997 Arthur C. Christakos, 2000 Franc Barada & Reggie Ponder, 2011 Robert K. Yowell, 2013 Lois Cranford.

The structure of Rotary graphic