Beckley Rotary Club’s History

History of Beckley Rotary Club

On November 27, 1918, Secretary Kettering of the Clarksburg, WV Rotary Club wrote Rotary International that Crude Overton Dunn of Beckley was interested in the formation of a Rotary Club in Beckley. On December l, 1918, C. 0. Dunn received a letter from R.I. stating that District Governor Fred 0.Blue had been asked to follow up on this request.

Photo Credit: Jeff Miller

Nothing was done about this, and on January 28, 1921, R.I. requested John D. Steele, a member of the Charleston Rotary Club, to serve as special representative to assist in the formation of a club in Beckley. It was not until the following October that action was taken, and at that time District Governor Roy Neville of Sharon, PA, (we were then in district 6) appointed C. 0. Dunn as Organizational Chairman and a meeting was set for November 3rd at the Beckley Hotel to determine the interest here. The interest was such that the next Friday, November 10, application for a charter was voted to be sent to R.I. The charter membership list closed December 2, 1921, and the Charter was dated March l, 1922.

The Beckley Club has had a distinguished record in the district. Six members have been elected District Governor: Dr. A. U. Tieche (1936-1937); E. E. Bibb (1952-1953); Joseph X. Fazio (1972-1973); Thomas J. Hayes (1978-1979); Harry Altman (1983-1984); Robert B. Sayre (1995-1996) and Harry R. Faulk (2013-2014).
The Beckley Club has sponsored three other Rotary clubs; Oak Hill, November 12, 1923; Fayetteville, March 8, 1924; and Mullens, April 22, 1924.

The Crippled Children’s Clinic and the annual Woodrow Wilson Football Banquet were originated and sponsored for many years. Five exchange students have been hosted, and three have been sent to other countries. Youth activities have been important, including sponsoring one or more candidates to Mountaineer Boys’ State and Rhododendron Girls’ State each year. A.U. Ticche took a group of students to a Community Affairs Forum in Cincinnati in 1986, and frequent tours to Washington, D.C. were led by Rotarians in earlier years.

Club members have been active in civic affairs. More than half the Presidents of the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce have been members of the Club, and we furnished the Presidency of the West Virginia State Chamber of Commerce in 1980, when Leslie Gates served in that capacity.

Leslie Gates has also held the Presidency of the National Society of Professional Engineers, and is a Trustee of West Virginia University. Leo Vecellio attained national recognition in his field of construction. Dr. Paul Loflin has held local, state, national and international offices in Dental Associations. Many members have served on the Beckley Common Council and several as Mayor of Beckley. Past President Hewlett C. Smith served as Governor of West Virginia (1965-1969). The list of community business leaders is legendary.

The continuity of family membership has been significant. Five father and son members have served as Club President: John G. Beard, 1931-32, and son Jack, 1964-65; Dr. A. U. Tieche, 1933-34, and son Albert, 1971-72; Floyd Sayre, 1936-37; and son Robert, 1972-73; E. S. Pugh, Sr., 1954-55, and son E. S. Pugh, Jr., 1961-62; and grandson Mayor Emmett S. Pugh, Ill, 1994-95; Alex George, 1959-60, and son Zan, 1983-84. E. 0. Larrick was President of the Beckley Club and his son was President of the Oak Hill Club. Also, E. E. Bibb and his brother, Clarence, served as President. Matt Powers and both his sons-in-law, J. W. Word and J. W. Walters, served as President. Harry Altman and his son served the same year as President of the Beckley and Pikeville, KY, Rotary Clubs. Walt Griswold’s brother served as President of other Rotary Clubs. Former Secretary and Past President Gene Harvey is the grandson of Charter Member 0. C. Harvey.

The 25 Charter members found the first year to be a rather uneasy time. Within six weeks one member died and another was transferred from the city. Twelve of the charter members were lost the first year – by death, resignation and transfer. Among the new members that first year we find the names of E. S. Pugh, Sr., Dr. J. H. McCulloch and Dr. S. M. Bledsoe and the club continued to grow. We now have 83 active members!
Meeting as we did on Friday night for more than half a century cost the club some Members, including Coaches Jerome Van Meter, Ross Irle, and R. B. Terry.

The only club to meet on Friday night in the District, the meeting was changed to Monday night in 1974, and in 1978 to our present meeting day of Tuesday.

An estimated 1,000 plus members have been received into the Club. Each would merit special comment. The leading members to sponsor new Rotarians were E. E. Bibb, Charles Lewis, Walt Griswold, Joe Fazio and Gene Harvey.

The fellowship and program of Rotary has been binding, and lasting friendships and community advancement are part of the heritage of this Club.’

The Beckley Rotary Club achieved another milestone in 1993 when we inducted our first female members Nancy Pat Lewis-Smith, Kimberly Mann- Harris and Brenda McNutt.

For many years of exemplary and humanitarian service to the City of Beckley and surrounding communities the following Rotarians have been honored with the annual “Spirit of Beckley Award” sponsored by the Beckley-Raleigh County YMCA.

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