Beckley Rotary Club’s History

History of Beckley Rotary Club

On November 27, 1918, Clarksburg Rotary club’s Secretary, Mr. Kettering wrote to Rotary International to share that a Mr. C.O. Dunn of Beckley, was interested in the formation a local Rotary club. On December l, 1918, Mr. Dunn received notice that District Governor Fred O. Blue had been asked to follow up on this request.

Photo Credit: Jeff Miller

By January 28, 1921, no movement had occurred, so Rotary International asked John D. Steele – a member of the Charleston Rotary Club – to serve as special representative to assist in the formation of a Beckley club. It was not until the following October that action was finally taken with District Governor Roy Neville of Sharon, PA, appointing C.O. Dunn as Organizational Chairman. The Beckley Rotary club held its first meeting on November 3rd at the Beckley Hotel to determine local interest. The interest was such that by the next an application for a charter was sent to Rotary International. The Beckley Rotary club Charter signed by March l, 1922.

The 25 Charter members found the first year to be a rather uneasy time. Within six weeks of its instillation, 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, distinguished club members such as E.S. Pugh, Sr., Dr. J.H. McCulloch and Dr. S.M. Bledsoe joined, with club growth continuing from there. As of 2022, the Beckley Rotary club includes over 100 active members.

Adjustments overtime were necessary, including shifting the decades old tradition of weekly meetings on Friday evenings to Monday evenings. In 1978 a final meeting time change to Tuesday afternoons was made, remaining the meeting day and time honored today.

It is estimated that over 1,000 community members have been received into the Club. 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.

In 2022, The club celebrated its centennial, marking 100 years of service locally, within the district, and beyond. Monthly service projects with the goal of meeting or exceeding 100 items, volunteers, or $100 in support was implemented with success throughout the year.

District Representation

Throughout its 100 years, The Beckley Club has had a distinguished record with members representing and supporting at the district level. Seven 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); Harry R. Faulk (2013-2014); and Dan McCarthy (2022 – 2023)

The Beckley Club has sponsored three other Rotary clubs; Oak Hill, November 12, 1923; Fayetteville, March 8, 1924; and Mullens, April 22, 1924.

Youth Engagement

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.

Community Leaders

Club members have always been active within the community and its civic affairs. Beckley Rotary Club members have served as President of the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce more often than non-Rotary members. Distinguished Beckley Rotarian, Leslie Gates, served as the 1980 President of the West Virginia State Chamber of Commerce.

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.

Distinguished Rotarians

Leslie Gates’ contributions to West Virginia continued as she held the Presidency of the National Society of Professional Engineers and as a Trustee of West Virginia University.

Through his many years of professional growth and hard work, Leo Vecellio attained national recognition in his field of construction.

Paul Loflin, DDS has held local, state, national and international offices within Dental Associations.

Beckley Rotarians and Government

Many members have served on the Beckley Common Council and several as Mayor of Beckley. Past Rotary President, Hewlett C. Smith served as Governor of West Virginia (1965-1969). The list of community business leaders is legendary.

Legacy Members

The continuity of family membership has been significant. Five father and son pairs 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.O. 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. Former Secretary and Past President Gene Harvey is the grandson of Charter Member 0.C. Harvey.