Club History

Chartered April 5, 1930

The Rotary Club of Lenoir (P. O. Box 1834, Lenoir, NC 28645, Charter No. 3306) began in what was District 194. Because of the growing number of clubs over the years, the District changed to District 280, then to District 767, and now is District 7670.

In the summer of 1929 a group of Rotarians from Hickory came to Lenoir to explore the prospect of organizing a Rotary Club. In February, 1930 they came back and contacted H. W. (Harry) Courtney as a key man to help get the club organized. Harry referred the group to Robey Robbins who had been a Rotarian in Waynesville. The two men contacted others they thought might be interested. On Saturday, February 22, 1930, a group interested in forming the club met and agreed to have a dinner meeting on February 24, 1930. Twenty-one signed up to become charter members at the dinner meeting. J. Gordon Ballew was elected the first President and W. Clyde Suddreth was elected the first Secretary-Treasurer. It was announced that the first regular meeting would be held at the Carlheim Hotel banquet room at 12:30 PM on Friday, February 28. The original 21 members were W. A. Jenkins, R. C. Robbins, J. Gordon Ballew, George Steele, David Walter Turner, Lester Myers, W. Clyde Suddreth, Elisha S. Harris, Raymond L. Rowan, J. E. Shell, Silvio Martinat, Paul P. Yates, R. Marvin Smith, Richmond G. Bernhardt, Frank Womack, D. W. M. Roberts, J. Lee Nelson, Jr., C. L. Wilson, H. W. Courtney, B. F. Williams. The club was accepted as a member of Rotary International on April 5, 1930, the official date of the beginning of the Rotary Club of Lenoir. Four other men, Frank Mooney, R. Douglas McCulley, Ernest W. Smith, and J. Roy Moore, became members on charter night bringing the charter membership to 25.

The club met initially at the Carlheim Hotel. The Lenoir Community Building, built by Rotary with the help of WPA labor, afforded a new meeting place in 1935. Because of heating problems, however, the club had to move back to the Carlheim Hotel. During the 1968-69 year, the club moved from the Carlheim Hotel to the Holiday Inn, and then to the Lenoir Country Club in 1975. After the Lenoir

Country Club closed, the club began meeting at the Cedar Rock Country Club, where the club met until April 24, 2009. The club’s new meeting place is First Baptist Church, 304 Main Street, NW, Lenoir.

During the 2008-2009 year the club established a website for the club. The web address is The club has been involved in all aspects of the life and the needs of the community. The first project after the charter was to join with the Kiwanis Club and the Chamber of Commerce to secure an airport for Lenoir. Support of the Boy Scouts began in the 1931-32 year, when property was purchased and a Boy Scout Hut was built as a place for the scouts to meet. The club promoted all scouting program activities. For several years the club held a Boy Scout Merit Badge Show. The club purchased Eagle Scout Kits and recognized Eagle Scouts in the county and has contributed annually to the scouting program.

The club established and sponsored a 4-H Calf Chain Program. This program began with the purchase of 13 heifer calves. 4-Hmembers grew the calves to maturity and donated the first heifer offspring back to the club to give to another 4-H member to perpetuate the chain. The project lasted for over 20 years, and over 165 calves were placed. The 4-H member also agreed to keep his/her calf in show condition, and calf shows were held by the club. These shows were the origin of the Caldwell County Fair.

The club supported the Caldwell County Library, first with a book alcove and then with annual contributions to purchase books. During World War II the club was very involved in the war effort. Many members were in the armed forces, in civil defense, on war boards, and assisted with bond drives and relief efforts to Rotary families in bombed areas. The club furnished the lounge for the W.A.V.E. Redistribution Center of the U. S. Special Naval Hospital at Asheville and made regular donations to the Red Cross.

Very early, the club began a program to aid deaf children in the county and at the School for the Deaf in Morganton by purchasing hearing aids and testing the hearing of students in the county. It was an ongoing program for more than 20 years.

Caldwell County was especially hard hit by the polio epidemics of the 1940's and 1950's, and the club participated in the local polio fund by making contributions and sponsoring the March of Dimes Meter Campaign, where all dimes put in parking meters in Lenoir were donated to the polio fund. Later the club had a highly successful campaign to raise funds for the RI Polio Plus Program. The club raised $44,000 during this campaign. A variety of other contributions to community projects have been made by the club:

  • $1,000 was given to help build a Community Center in 1947?
  • $1,000 was donated to help build Caldwell Memorial Hospital in 1948?
  • $6,000 was given to Caldwell Memorial Hospital to furnish a ward and a private room?* Over $5,000 was donated to scholarship funds at CCC&TI?
  • $1,250 was given to Hibriten High School for band and athletic programs?
  • $500 was donated for lights for the Little League Field at Lower Creek?
  • $2,000 was given to help build the Lenoir Senior Center?
  • $20,000 was raised to help build Lenoir soccer field, now known as the Rotary Soccer Complex?
  • $5,000 was raised through a "Cycle to Serve" bicycle weekend, and given to Healthy Caldwellians. This project is ongoing to support non-profit groups in the county.
  • Contributions were made to the hospital for the Emergency Red Light Program for Senior Citizens and for hospital delivery services?
  • The club supported building a public swimming pool.
  • The club installed shelters and benches on the Greenway as a Rotary Centennial project.* The club holds a food drive each year to help stock the pantries of the several local non-profits.
  • In support of environmental issues, the club has participated in "Clear Sweep," an effort to clean the streams and streambanks, as an ongoing project.

The club sponsored a CPR training program. Twelve instructors were trained and 407 people certified in basic CPR. There were 248 trained in first aid for foreign body obstruction of airways. A “Resusi-Anne” was purchased for the Red Cross CPR program.

The club began support of Little League Baseball in 1952, and was honored in 2002 for fifty continuous years of sponsorship of a team. This is ongoing.

Beginning in 1955, the club participated in the Foreign Student Exchange Program, and for many years hosted groups of exchange students on an annual stopover in Lenoir. The Club has hosted Rotary inbound and outbound exchange students over the years, the last being in the 2006-2007 year.

The club has supported "Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust" (C.A.R.T) since its inception, and the members have contributed $28,145.62 for the research.

The club has participated in student loans and scholarships since 1953. For several years this was handled as a loan program to college students, but evolved into a scholarship program that now annually awards two nursing scholarships to CCC&TI students, one which honors Dr. Jane Carswell Roberts and the other which honors the memory of Dr. Baxter Troutman? four college scholarships to high school seniors, one of which is an endowed scholarship in memory of deceased member, Ed Tutor, for someone who excels in baseball? one music scholarship to a middle school student? and eight summer day camp music scholarships, one awarded to a student at each of the middle schools. The club has also participated in the "I Have A Dream" scholarship program through CCC&TI. The club has honored scholars through the years by inviting valedictorians to lunch, and by giving medallions to NC Scholars in the county.

In 1955 the club began to sponsor handicapped and special needs children to Camp Sky Ranch in Blowing Rock. Later the camp was held at Green Mountain Park in Caldwell County for about 60 children. The camp was later moved to Davenport A+ School. The club now supports the Special Olympics by buying, preparing, and serving lunch for hundreds of participants in the annual winter and spring games.

The club began hosting a Christmas party for underprivileged children in 1956, and continues to host an annual party with Santa and Mrs. Claus and presents for approximately 65 elementary school children.

Members have for several years participated in a successful club literacy project, a tutor/mentor program at West Lenoir Elementary School of Technology, and the club supports the school with supplies and other needs. The club helped fund a project for all fourth graders to take an educational trip to the beach. Many of the students had never seen the ocean.

For several years the club has participated with the other two Rotary clubs in the county in providing dictionaries to all third grade students in the Caldwell County School system.

The club sponsored Interact clubs at both Hibriten High School and West Caldwell High School for many years, and now sponsors the Interact Club at Hibriten. The club has sent many students to the Rotary sponsored Leadership Camp at Brevard. For many years the club has sponsored the C. W. "Soup" Porter Relays at Hibriten High School, named in memory of a member who was a past president of the cluband past District Governor.

The Club has sponsored the “free Enterprise Program” by placement of teachers into industry during summer vacation for hands-on-experience, and has sponsored a “Junior Achievement Program” that taught students business practices. The club has also sponsored “job shadowing” on many occasions.

Over the years, the club has sponsored a "4-Way Test Program" by placing copies of the 4-Way Test in businesses and schools. Individual copies have been made available to business people in the county and students in all the high schools. Members have also given assembly programs to students on the 4-Way Test. Most recently in conjunction with the third grade dictionary project, the club has emphasized the 4-Way Test that appears on the book plate in the front of the dictionary.

In 2009 the club joined with HonorAir of Hendersonville to provide World War II veterans in Caldwell County an opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. These are veterans who, because of physical or financial limitations, may otherwise never see the memorial.

Since the club was chartered there have been 241 Paul Harris Fellows, 63 Benefactors, five Major Donors, and three Paul Harris Society members. The club has ten Honorary Members, and all of them are Paul Harris Fellows and three are Benefactors.

The club has made substantial contributions to PolioPlus - $44,000 was raised in 1987-88, and since then contributions of $6,200 have been made for a total of $50,200. The club has contributed $500 to RI Hunger-Plus and $542 to Afghan Relief. Dental equipment was donated to other countries on two occasions. Approximately $5,000 was contributed to RI’s 3-H Fund. Medical equipment was donated to Guatemala and contributions have been made to an Indian and an African Water Project. In addition the club has contributed over $10,000 to the Wheelchair Foundation, and purchased three Shelter Boxes at a cost of $2,700. The club has hosted many Group Study Exchange teams from other countries.

All of the club presidents have distinguished themselves, as demonstrated by the contributions the club has made to the community and world projects over the last 84 years. Other members not elected to office have worked just as diligently to make club projects successful.

The club has on many occasions been honored as District "Club of the Year." The club has hosted the District Conference several times and, in 1954-55, celebrated its 25th and Rotary’s 50th anniversary by hosting Rotarians from the District and beyond when RI President Herb Taylor and his wife, Gloria, visited Lenoir. In 2005, the club recognized Rotary International’s Centennial year and the Lenoir club’s 75th anniversary with special projects, celebrations, and recognitions. A representative of the Hickory club, the sponsoring club for Lenoir, made a contribution to the club in recognition of the milestone.

Seven club members have served as District Governors:

Macon Williams, President in 1945-46, became DG of old District 194 in 1947-48.

C. M. Abernethy, President in 1947-48, served as DG of District 767 in 1957-58.

C. W. "Soup" Porter, President in 1956-57, was DG for District 767 in 1965-66.

Guy Bailey served as DG of District 767 in 1981-82. He was a member and President of the Granite Falls club, and later joined the Lenoir club and served as President in 1997-98.

Fred Barnes, President in 1984-85, served as DG of District 767 in 1991-92.

George "Bill"Armfield, President in 1986-87, served as DG of District 7670 in 1998-99.

Charles "Chuck" Troutman, President in 2001-2002, served as DG of District 7670 in 2005-06.

The club began with 25 charter members, but then had some lean years during the Depression. One story that has been told over the years concerns Elisha Harris, a very active member and President in 1934-35, who stood on the street in Lenoir the day of a meeting and recruited five men to attend and join the club because the club needed that many members to keep its charter. The war years also affected membership, but the club has remained strong and the membership steady. Records show the club at a high of around 130 members and for the last several years average membership has been around 80. The club has been instrumental in the organization of several other clubs – Morganton (1940-41), Valdese (1947-48), Boone 1948-49), North Wilkesboro (1964-65), and Caldwell County (1981-82). The club also assisted Hickory in getting the Granite Falls Club organized in 1936-37.

Click here for a list of our Past Presidents of The Rotary Club of Lenoir