Paul Harris – Founder of Rotary

Paul P Harris, founded the Rotary movement with a firm belief that businesspersons could meet periodically in a spirit of camaraderie not only to enjoy each other’s company but also to enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances. The Rotary movement came into being on 23rd February 1905 after he discussed this idea with three of his clients Sylvester Schiele, a coal merchant; Gustavus Loehr, a mining engineer and Hiram Shorey a merchant tailor. The first meeting was in Gustavus Loehr’s office at 711 in the Unity Building.

Born on 19th April 1868 at Racine, Wisconsin, United States of America, Paul Harris was the second of the six children of Cornelia and George Howard Harris. He moved to Wallingford to live with his paternal grandfather and studied at the Vermont Academy of Sextons River from where he graduated in Law in 1891 from the University of Lowa. He began his career as a newspaper reporter, took up teaching in a business college, was a stock company actor, worked as a cowboy and salesman for a granite firm and ultimately began practicing law in 1896 in Chicago.

Although he quickly established a good practice in law, he felt lonely due to lack of friends in the city and thus gathered his clients Sylvester Schiele, Gustavus Loehr and Hiram Shorey to start the Rotary movement.

Paul Harris married Jean Thomas from Edinburgh, Scotland on 2nd July 1910, the same year when the Rotary movement started by him five years before, became an International movement. His marriage with Jean lasted for 37 years only because death snatched him away. Jean lived for another 16 years before she j oined her beloved Paul for eternity. Paul P Harris, Sylvester Shciele, Gustavus Loehr and Hiram Shorey formed the nucleus around which Rotary clubs kept being organized in subsequent years to finally reach across the boundaries of nations.

Paul name the club “Rotary” because members were to meet in rotation in their different places of business. He was the president of his club in 1907-08.

Paul was honoured and decorated immensely some of them were:

  • Director of Laws (University of Vermont)
  • Silver Buffalo Award (Boy Scouts of America]
  • Order of Southern Cross (Brazil] Order of Merit (Chi]
  • Order of Cristobal Colon (Dominican Republic]
  • Officer of Legion of Honour (France) Order of Sun (Peru)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa (College of Law, Lima, Peru)

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