Rotary In Hawai‘i: THE DISTRICT 5000 HISTORY

By Gary Siracusa, RGHF Member PDG

Like over 90% of everything that comes to Hawaiʻi, Rotary arrived in Hawaiʻi aboard the ship Lurline in 1915, just 10 years after the beginning of Rotary in Chicago. One of the benefits of Rotary is fellowship and the Hawaiʻi Rotary connection grew from the social acquaintance between V.O. Lawrence, a member of the No.3 Rotary Club of Oakland, CA, and James L. Coke, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Hawaiʻi. As they sailed together from San Francisco to Hawaiʻi, they talked about Rotary and how to introduce Rotary to Hawaiʻi.

The Commercial Club atop the McCandless Building in downtown Honolulu was the first regular meeting place of the Rotary Club of Honolulu in 1915.

Upon arrival in Honolulu, Justice Coke invited a number of local professionals and businessmen to meet with Lawrence and himself at the old Commercial Club. After the objectives of Rotary had been explained by Lawrence, the group decided to organize the Rotary Club of Honolulu. The charter was dated July 1, 1915, and twenty-eight members had the distinction of membership in the 170th club admitted to Rotary which at that time had a total membership of approximately 20,000 members.

In June 1920, Charles C. Graves, President of the Rotary Club of Honolulu, made a trip to Hilo on the Big Island and invited about twenty businessmen to dinner. As a result, an application was made to Rotary for a charter. The request was granted on December 1, 1920, and with 16 members, the Rotary Club of Hilo became the second club in the Territory of Hawaiʻi and the 795th in Rotary.
The Secretary of the Rotary Club of Honolulu, John Caldwell, spent two years working on the formation of a third club again on Oahu in the Wahiawa-Waialua area. He was assisted by Steven Bowen of Wahiawa and on May 27, 1937, Club President Steven Bowen received the charter for club no.4168, the Rotary Club of Wahiawa-Waialua.
The Rotary Club of Kauai was admitted on August 23, 1937, as club no.4378 – John Caldwell along with fellow Rotary Club of Honolulu members Wayne Stewart and Charles Loomis teamed up on organizing this club and the charter President was W.P. Alexander.

The Rotary Club of Honolulu assisted with the formation of the Rotary Club of Maui with David C. Rattery as its first President, received their charter on November 4, 1937, as club no.4478. Later, in 1950-51, the assignment of charter club numbers was discontinued as the number of Rotary clubs swelled to over 7,000. Rotary was now represented on all four major islands in Hawaiʻi.

It was about this time that Rotarians in the Territory of Hawaiʻi petitioned for the organization as a district; up until now, we were part of California District 104. At its January 1938 board meeting, Rotary International approved the split of District 104 and all the clubs in Hawaiʻi united under the new designation of District 100. Wayne Stewart, past president of the Rotary Club of Honolulu became the first District Governor for D100; Rotary came of age in the Territory of Hawaiʻi with only five clubs and 231 members. In 1950, District 100 was redesignated as D150 and again changed in 1950 to D500. The current designation as D5000 occurred in 1991.
The 6th club in the Territory of Hawaiʻi – the Rotary Club of Waikiki - was organized once again through the efforts of a committee from the Rotary Club of Honolulu. Frank Cleve was the charter president and the club held its first meeting at the Green Lantern Restaurant on Kalakaua Avenue (later known as the Wagon Wheel Restaurant).
One of the most significant events for District 500 was hosting the 60th International Rotary Convention in May 1969. It was a colossal undertaking for the geographically spread District and involved hundreds of Rotarians from throughout the State. At that time, it was the 2nd largest Convention held in the United States and attracted 14,684 attendees from 66 countries. The President of Rotary International that year was Kiyoshi Togasaki of Japan.
Credit for the award to Hawaiʻi of the 1969 convention should go to Morley Theaker of the Rotary Club of Honolulu; he was instrumental in the effort to bring the convention to Hawaiʻi and after securing the support of local Rotarians, personally carried the formal invitation to Chicago where he met with R.I. President Carl Miller and convinced him of the ability of the Hawaiʻi Rotarians to host the event. Carl later moved to Hawaiʻi and became a very active member of the Rotary Club of Honolulu.
In 1990, the American Red Cross honored the Rotary Clubs of Hawaiʻi for outstanding community and public service, presenting the District with its Humanitarian Award. This was the first time that one international organization was honored by another international organization with a national award here in Hawaiʻi.
One of the first to suggest the addition of the keyway to the Rotary Wheel was Charles R. Frazier. The Rotary International Board of Directors approved the addition of the keyway in 1923. Without a keyway, a gear is just an idler spinning, incapable of transmitting power.
District 5000 has approximately 1,600 member Rotarians in 53 Clubs located on the five islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, and the Big Island. We are part of Zone 26/27.

In remembrance of PDG Clarence McIntosh,
who provided the early history of Rotary in our District.