On Thursday Dec. 12, 1929 David Clark of Charlotte, a Rotary International Director, and other Rotarians from the region gathered with a group of local men in the dining room of the North State Hotel to organize a Rotary Club in Lincolnton. Dr. I. R. Self, Dr. J. R. Gamble, James A Abernethy Jr., Frank H. Chamberlain, Thorne Clark, W. H. Childs and V. M. Ramsaur were elected directors. Chamberlain was named the first president of the club. That was almost 75 years ago.
The club continues to thrive today. Every Monday at noon some 80 to 90 Lincoln County citizens, many of them community leaders, gather at First Baptist Church for Rotary. Over lunch they have fellowship reports and learn who is sick. They celebrate new births and milestones with â€œhappy bucksâ€ that go to Christian Ministry, and they welcome outstanding high school student visitors. Mike Owen offers a fellowship report and tells hilarious lawyer jokes, but often gets put down by attorney Dick Jonas. Stephen Starnes leads the group in a not always harmonious song. Each meeting features a program, often dealing with a memberâ€™s own business, or with a community project.
Thatâ€™s the routine, but a lot more goes on with this organization than meets the eye. The club is a big financial supporter of Rotary International projects that deal with global health issues, such as providing vaccines for polio. Here at home the club is best known for providing Lincoln County students with low-interest loans to go to college, a program financed by its now famous annual auction. Rotarians generously donate to the Christian Ministry Christmas program, and have a variety of support roles in the community. Helping the Lincolnton Club in these efforts are the two other Lincoln County Rotary clubs it sponsored: the Denver Lake Norman Club, founded in 1994, and the Sunrise Club, founded in 2000.
As the Lincolnton club looks to a celebration of its 75th anniversary early next year, itâ€™s interesting to note how long some people have been members. The club recently recognized two men who have held membership for an astounding 50 years. Wayne Finger joined the club in 1953, and Efird Burris in 1955. They have been devoted members ever since.
Finger and Efirdâ€™s long tenure speaks volumes about Rotary. Itâ€™s a club that promotes the needs of the community, and links its members to international causes while fostering enduring friendships. Members tend to stay enrolled.
Congratulations Rotary Club of Lincolnton for 75 years of service to this community, and to Finger and Burris for being there for 50 of those years.