Paul P. Harris

paulharrisFounder of Rotary

Paul P. Harris (1868-1947), a lawyer, was the founder of Rotary, the world’s first and most international club. Paul Harris was born in Racine, Wisconsin on April 19, 1868. The second of six children, his parents were George N. Harris and Cornelia Bryan Harris. Married to Jean Thomson Harris (1881-1963), he had no children. He received the bachelor of physical culture and LL.D degrees from the University of Vermont and the LL.B degree from the University of Iowa. He received an honorary Ph.D. in 1933 from the University of Vermont.

Paul Harris worked as a newspaper reporter, business teacher, stock company actor and as a cowboy. He traveled extensively in the U.S.A. and Europe selling marble and granite. In 1896, he went to Chicago to practice law. In 1900, after dinner with a lawyer, Harris was impressed by the fact his friend stopped at several stores and shops in the neighborhood and introduced him to wonder why he couldn’t make social friends out of at least some of his law clients… and he resolved to organize a club which would band together a group of representative business and professional men in friendship and fellowship.

On February 23, 1905, Paul Harris formed the first club with three of his law clients: Silverster Schile, a coal merchant; Gustavus Loehr, a mining engineer; and Hiram Shorey, a merchant tailor. The nucleus was formed for the thousands of Rotary clubs that were later organized. Paul Harris named the new club “rotary” because the members met in rotation in their various places of business.

When Paul Harris passed away on January 27, 1947, there were more than 6,000 rotary clubs worldwide. Today there are over 29,969 clubs in 163 countries and geographical regions with over 1,176,169 members.

Paul Harris devoted much of his time to Rotary. But he also was prominent in civic and professional work. He was the first chairman of the board of National Society for Crippled Children and Adults in the U.S.A. He was decorated by the governments of Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France and Peru. The Boy Scouts of America gave him the Silver Buffalo Award.


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