History of Rotary in Columbia TN
The first Rotary Club in Columbia was the Noon Club which was founded on Feb. 29, 1924, at the old Bethel House Hotel.
That first meeting with only 15 members, was the direct result of much diligent work on the part of three individuals; the late Walter Hastings, E.E. Loftin, and Will R. Manier. Guests came in from Nashville, Lebanon, Gallatin, Lewisburg, Shelbyville, and Pulaski to attend the historic event.
The Noon Rotary remained strong for the first 7 years but was impacted negatively by the great depression. As a result, on Nov. 1, 1931 the Noon Club was temporarily suspended. The suspension was granted by then District Governor, Dr. John Hill, and lasted a matter of months. The suspension was lifted in February of 1932.
At that time, the club resumed operation with 25 dedicated members, who were eager to renew club efforts to make a significant difference in our community and world. “Service Above Self”, both then and now.
Over 90-years since that initial meeting, the Noon Rotary Club continues to meet weekly, just one block from the site of the old Bethel House Hotel location.
The Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club was founded roughly 73-years later, in July of 1997, as a spin-off from the Columbia Noon Rotary. The Charter dinner and ceremony were held at the First United Methodist Church on July 10, 1997. Attendees included the District Governor John Butler, many members of Columbia Noon Club, members of various other neighboring clubs, and the 41 charter members of the Columbia Breakfast Club. The Noon Club generously contributed $1,000 to assist the new Breakfast Club.
Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club became Rotary International club number 50609. One of 65 clubs in Rotary District 6760. Membership includes local business leaders, community leaders, neighbors, and global citizens. All uniting for the common good.
I recently discussed the founding of the club with Dr. Eslick Daniel who is a not only a founding member and Paul Harris Fellow, but he was the first President of the new Columbia Breakfast Club. He began the discussion by stating that he was about to share with me a “cautionary tale.” Naturally, my interest was piqued. Dr. Daniel went on to expound that he began his Rotarian work with the Columbia Noon Rotary, however, juggling mid-day meetings with working a full day, became a struggle. As he mentioned this to a few club members, he suggested that being able to have morning, breakfast meetings, that would not interfere with work schedules, would be preferable for him. Oh but you truly must be careful what you ask for because the next thing he knew; Dr. Daniel was allotted the challenging responsibility of starting up the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club.
Unofficial club meetings were held at Shoney’s Restaurant as he, and other founding members, worked for approximately 6 months, to establish the official Breakfast Rotary Club. Today, most club meetings are held on Friday mornings at 7 am in the historic Memorial Building on West 7th Street, in beautiful downtown Columbia TN.
Shown next is the front façade of the building, which was built in 1907-1908 as the Columbia Post Office. In the late 1940s, a new Post Office was built and the building was donated to the community as a memorial to our Veterans, and for their use as an assembly hall. Over the years the building has been home to the Maury County Public Library, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Veterans Service office.