Our History

Serving Our Community Since 1912
Rotary Club of Houston was established in August 1912 by a group of visionary leaders inspired by the Rotary movement, which was gaining momentum across the United States. Robert Cornell, a prominent newspaper executive, introduced the idea of Rotary to Houston after meeting a member of the newly formed Minneapolis Rotary Club at an advertising convention in Dallas.
Cornell quickly recruited leaders and professionals who shared his passion for community service and fellowship. The club's inaugural meetings were held in the Mecca Cafe, where members discussed the concept of Rotary and its potential impact on the local community.
Despite initial challenges, such as debates over membership fees and dues, the Rotary Club of Houston gained momentum and attracted new members from various professions and backgrounds. Within a year of its founding, the club celebrated a significant milestone with a grand banquet at the newly opened Rice Hotel, symbolizing its growing influence and stature within the city. The club met there for the next seventy-three years.
In September 1963, the Rotary Club of Houston became the world's largest Rotary Club with 773 members, two more than the founding Chicago club's total. Rotary International credited Houston with bringing Rotary to numerous other Texas cities as far away as Amarillo. By 1985, when the Houston club reached its zenith with 941 members, there were 34 neighborhood Rotary clubs throughout Houston, 24 of which the Houston club had sponsored.
Over the years, the Rotary Club of Houston has steadfastly committed to service, fellowship, and community engagement. From its humble beginnings in a downtown cafe to its present-day status as one of the world's largest and most influential Rotary clubs, the Rotary Club of Houston has left an indelible mark on the Houston community and beyond.

"Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world, it will be known by the results it achieves."

Rotary founder

Rotary’s Official MottoS

"Service Above Self"

"One Profits Most Who Serves Best" by Arthur Frederick Sheldon.

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Eradication of polio

In 1979, Rotary began a project to immunize six million children against polio in the Philippines. The effort’s success led to Rotary making polio eradication its top priority.

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Rotary Club Archives

Find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on how we can help you connect to Rotary history.

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Our ongoing commitment

Rotary members have not only been present for major events in history — we’ve also been a part of them. Three key traits have remained strong throughout our history:

We’re truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today, members in nearly every country work to solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.

We persevere in tough times. During World War II, Rotary clubs in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally, and after the war, Rotary members came together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.

We’re committed to service, and we’re not afraid to dream big and set bold goals. We began our fight against polio in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. Today, polio remains endemic in only three countries — down from 125 in 1988.