Historic moments -- A tradition of song is born
Jenkins at the 1942 RI Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Rotary Images
The tradition of singing at Rotary club meetings began in 1905 with Rotarian Harry L. Ruggles, of the Rotary Club of Chicago.
New Rotary clubs formed, and the practice of singing at club meetings caught on. Ruggles's company published an unofficial Book of Songs -- a collection of patriotic tunes, familiar standards, and Rotary songs (many penned by Rotarians) -- to help clubs make singing a regular part of their meetings.
The first official edition of Ruggles's songbook, Songs for the Rotary Club , was published in 1920 and provided lyrics only. Editions with musical notation appeared in 1925.
Later editions offered advice on incorporating music into Rotary club meetings. The 1933 book of songs encouraged Rotarians to add singing to their weekly meeting agendas. The 1935 edition advised clubs to sing prior to lunch and to select a song leader on the basis of personality, not musical talent. Walter R. Jenkins, of the Rotary Club of Houston, served as the official song leader at RI Conventions from 1931 to 1966.
For more Rotary history, visit Rotary History and Archives .
Purchase a copy of Songs for the Rotary Club: Lyrics Book (031) and Songs for the Rotary Club: Words and Music (033) at shop.rotary.org.