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HISTORY OF THE SAN ANGELO ROTARY CLUB

By Gus Clemens V

 

     In July 2001, the Rotary club of San Angelo could look back with pride of 75 years of promoting the ideals of Service Above Self and providing a weekly opportunity for fellowship and good will among members of the San Angelo community.

     A distinguished membership is among the first things that come to mind when someone thinks about the Rotary Club of San Angelo.  The club consistently attracts San Angelo leaders, U.S. Congressmen, city and county officials, leaders in the business and industry, heads of religious and charitable organizations, distinguished educators and professionals who find a home in the Rotary Club of San Angelo.

     The Rotary Club of San Angelo organized under the sponsorship of the Fort Worth Club and Rotary International's special representative Claude C. Wild.  The club held its first meeting on Wednesday, July 7, 1925, and officially became a member of Rotary International of Friday, September 24th.  It received it Rotary International charter as a club no. 1919 on Wednesday, November 17th at the night meeting on the roof garden of the St. Angelus Hotel (now the site of WellsFargoBankBuilding).

     At the November 17th meeting, Rotary District Governor Bill Edwards of Denton presented the club charter at a ceremony attended by 113 Rotarians and their wives from towns across Texas.  The clubs 25 charter members included: Fred After, Claude Broom, Branham Beasley, Dr. A.W. Clayton, George Cox, H.E. Jackson, Sam Jacobstein, D.J. Hostettler, C.C. Cabernet, Dr. W.P. Menzies, Ed Nunnally, Robert Massie, Homer Story, Rupert Ricker, Herbert O'Brannon, R.A. Stephens, Herbert Taylor, and Dr. H.R. Wardlaw.

     Each of these men played a significant role in the development of the San Angelo Rotary Club and the history of San Angelo.  A brief account of just five charter members serves to illustrate both the quality of the original membership and the caliber of San Angolans who followed in their footsteps.

     Louis Farr managed three of the largest ranches in the ConchoValley, served as Mayor of San Angelo, and as a vice president of the Central National Bank.  Farr's activities involving young people motivated the Boy Scouts of America to name its camp near Mertzon "Camp Louis Farr".

     Robert Massie engaged in sheep ranching in association with J.M. Shannon, and then returned to the lumber business.  His West Texas Lumber Co. operated branch yards throughout West Texas.  His construction company built the Cactus Hotel on the location of his San Angelo Lumberyard.

     Rupert Ricker provided a profound influence on San Angelo and Texas.  As a young attorney just returned from service in World War I, Ricker put together paperwork needed to secure mineral rights to vast tracts of West Texas land.  Upon that land, the Texon Oil and Land Company drilled their first well, named Santa Rita, the discovery well of the vast Permian Basin petroleum region of West Texas and Southwest New Mexico.  The resulting oil boom transformed San Angelo from a regional agribusiness center to the oil capital of West Texas during the 1920's and 1930's.

     Although not a charter member, mention must be made of O.C. Fisher, who joined the club in 1933 and served as club president in 1938-1939.  He later served as a long time U.S. Congressman while maintaining an honorary membership in the San Angelo Rotary club.  O.C. Fisher Reservoir on the NorthConchoRiver is named in his honor.

     The list of distinguished people associated with the Rotary club of San Angelo included many who made long time contributions to the club's success.  Rotarian Ralph Masterson provided piano music during club meetings for 48 years.  Rotarian Ed Nunnley served as club secretary and editor of the Brand for 17 years.  Ethel Willis serviced as the club's executive secretary from 1949 to 1982.  Rotarians Albert L. Keys and Hiram Phillips held memberships for 50 years.  Eugene Alexander currently has held his membership for 54 years.  AngeloStateUniversity president L.D. Vincent was a long time member of the club.

     The Rotary Club of San Angelo has been active in civic endeavors throughout its 75 year history.  The club sponsored Boy Scoot Troop #9 since 1937 and supports various area causes, particularly the Salvation Army and educational opportunities for young people, including exchange student programs and college scholarships.

     The club engaged in various fund-raising efforts in order to raise money for its charitable efforts, including the production of variety shows and "suit sales" during the 1950's.  A semi-annual fish fry was the principal fund-raising event for more than 20 years beginning in 1970. The club held the annual "Shrimp Fest" until 2006.

     Within the world of Rotary, the Rotary Club of San Angelo helped organize the Ozona, Ballinger, and San Angelo West Rotary clubs.  The founding of additional Rotary Clubs in San Angelo promoted an unofficial name of the club - the San Angelo Downtown Rotary Club - but the official name remains the San Angelo Rotary Club.

     The club has produced four district governors:  R.A. (Dick) Wagner, Dr. Raymond Davness, Joe Aycock, and Wayne Merrill.  It admitted its first female member, Goodfellow Air Force Commander, Colonel Mary F. Felts, in 1987.  In 1996, the club elected its first female president, Lori Williams Francks, a third generation Rotarian.