A Look at the Starkville Rotary Club Through the Years
The Starkville Rotary Club was organized March 4, 1924, and received its charter April 21 of that year. At the organizational meeting in the office of Dr. D. C. Hull (who was president of the college at the time) at Mississippi A & M College, a constitution and bylaws were adopted.
Original officers elected were D. C. Hull, president; J. W. Eckford, vice president, G. T. Golson, secretary-treasurer; and U. S. Gordon and J. R. Ricks, directors,. All this was routinely reported in the local press.
The charter-receiving banquet, however, was something else. It moved the reporter to eloquence. “The lights of no banquet hall ever shone in richer splendor over a gathering of representative men and fair women than that cast from the ceiling of the Masonic banquet chamber,” he began—and still had enough superlatives left to fill a half column of type. The original account, giving details of this historic event, is reproduced in the box.
Charter members were Simon Blumenfeld, Wirt Carpenter, J. W. Eckford, Graham Golson, R. J. Goodman, U. S. Gordon, Baker Harrington, D. C. Hull, R. C. Jarnagan, W. W. Magruder, Guy Nason,
H. D. Oakley, James P. Reed, J. R. Ricks, Boyd Smith, R. S. Wilson, R. K. Wier, and Zeno Yeates.
The new Rotarians got off to a fast start in promoting Starkville. In less than a year, The East Mississippi Times of March 17, 1925, proclaimed in a four-column headline of inch-high type, “Starkville Rotarians Milk Memphis: Oktibbeha County Holds the Calf: Borden Cans the Juice.” Ten Starkville Rotarians, some accompanied by their wives, distributed cans of milk at a district convention in Memphis. Labels on the cans boasted that in Oktibbeha County “the grass and clover grow greenest, the girls are prettiest, and the birds sing sweetest.”
This demonstration of the founders’ enthusiasm ensured that the club would survive and grow. And grow it did, to become the second largest club in the district—exceeded only by Jackson. Visitors are always surprised to find this Rotary club larger than similar clubs in cities three and four times the size of Starkville.
In 1990, Arnold Moore, who had transferred from Youngstown, Ohio, felt that Starkville Rotary should have women members. This practice was adopted by the Council on Legislation of Rotary International in 1989 but had not reached Starkville. He asked Lida Barrett, Dean of Arts and Sciences at MSU (University representation), and Jean Amos, owner of Coldwell Bankers Real Estate Agency (City representation), if they would consent to having their names presented for membership. It took three months for Starkville Rotary to consider and become accustomed to the idea but finally, they were approved. This began the invitations to women to become members and since that time, about one-third of the new members have been women.
The Rotogram of June 1, 1992, reported that there were 13 women members of the Starkville Rotary Club who were among more than 36,000 female Rotarians in more than 7,000 clubs worldwide. Currently, there are 20 women members (approx. 12%) who do more than 12% of the work, judging from the offices held and awards given. All over the world there are more than 40,000 female members.
The annual banquet was named the “Rotary Ann Banquet” until 1989, giving honor to the spouses who were special guests and to all women. The 1990 banquet was renamed “Rotary Annual Banquet,” giving recognition to women members and spouses who were then both women and men.
Fostering good City-University relations, the Club balances its membership between Mississippi State University staff members and local professional and business men and women. Each year, half the officers and directors are University professionals and half are from the city. The presidency rotates annually between campus and city, and although this balance is carefully maintained, all members blend together in such good fellowship that few are aware of its existence.
Several revisions of bylaws have been necessary over the years and, in 1996, they were again revised to be gender neutral and to be more inclusive and explicit related to committee work in the four areas of Rotary service.
Over the years, the club has moved through a succession of meeting places, generally seeking larger quarters, but sometimes because members were dissatisfied with the food or its price. One disgruntled member in the early days is reported to have quit the Club because he “just didn’t feel the meal was worth 60 cents.” Later, a committee, appointed to complain about the food, was told by the management to hunt another meeting place—he was tired of losing money feeding Rotarians with their big appetites. But each in their time—The Bell Cafe, Davis Hotel, Stark Hotel, M.S.U. Grill, Midway Tea Room, and Holiday (now Ramada) Inn—have contributed to the growth and success of the Club through their food services. Without such facilities, there would be no Starkville Rotary Club.
John Mitchell recalled that when the Club met at the M.S.U. Grill, members were served by student waiters in formal jackets, which was very impressive. The Club outgrew the Grill and later the Midway Tea Room as well. Then the Club moved to the Holiday Inn because there was more room and members thought the food would be better since “Scottie” from Scotland had been hired as Chef. Scottie never got the hang of southern cooking, however, and food improvement was not to be had.
John remembered that Dean Rhoades, Dean of the School of Education, was invited to attend a Rotary meeting by his Associate Dean Merrill Hawkins, who was a member. On the way back to the University after the meeting, Dean Rhoades complained about the quality and lack of food. He commented about the sorry job the Inn did and wondered who was Chairman of the Food Committee. Dr. Hawkins sheepishly admitted that he was in charge of food.
Over the years, The Rotogram has enjoyed great leadership. Garnett J. Thomas was editor for seven years but resigned on June 30, 1991. Keith Remy, then secretary, agreed to serve until a new editor could be found and is still The Rotogram editor in 1999.
Good programs and sound financial management have given the Club a unique advantage in
membership. For the last 40 or more years, membership has been limited to the seating capacity of the dining halls available to us in Starkville. In order for it to grow at all, the total membership currently is permitted to exceed the dining capacity by 15-20%, since this is the usual absentee rate. If all members enrolled appeared for lunch, along with the usual number of guests, some could not be seated. This happens a few times each year when the speaker is of special importance to the members. In this case, additional chairs are brought in, those who have finished eating push back to the corners, and the dining facility scrambles for more food. This situation is usually predictable and seems to work pretty well. Nevertheless, membership is not stagnated, because each year some members are lost by death, resignation, or movement from the community and replacements are added. But when Rotary International urges an expanded membership drive, this club has to pass.
Membership attendance from the beginning has ranged from 75%-85%. Some of the problems mentioned in the early minutes are still with us—namely, deliquent dues, members leaving early, updating the roster, collection of old accounts, evaluation of classifications, updating bylaws, absenteeism, and making up meetings. In the early years, the dining room was filled with smoke as members lit up after their meal, a common practice of the day. In 1988, Rotary adopted a policy of asking people to go outside to smoke and soon members who smoked chose to smoke before or after the meeting.
Fellowship has always been a major goal and there have been many methods of achieving that—namely, awards, the annual banquet, the breaking of bread together once a week, the presentation of new members and Paul Harris Fellows. One of the best practices, which has been used intermittently, has been that each new member must give a very brief bio of himself/herself and one old member.
Active in district affairs, the Starkville Club has furnished five District Governors and for a long time had a sixth one in its membership. W. S. “Stacy” Anderson in 1964-65, Henry Leveck in 1970-71, Merrill Hawkins in 1981-82, Garnett J. Thomas in 1977-78, and Bill Foster in 1998-99, were elected from the local club, and the late B. P. Brooks had been a district governor before moving to Starkville.
A memorable event at the District Conference held in Jackson in 1991 was the distribution of packets of 8 to 10 seeds from a large southern magnolia tree on Commerce Street in Aberdeen, MS by District Governor Lee Duddleston (1990-91). The tree had been planted in 1938 by Rotary’s founder, Paul Harris. On April 13-15, 1978, the Starkville Rotary Club hosted the District 6820 Conference at the University Ramada Inn when Garnett J. Thomas was District Governor. We are hosting this year again (April 30-May 1, 1999) because Bill Foster, our active member, is District Governor.
Service to the Community
Members readily attest to the benefits of good fellowship and inspiration they receive in Rotary, but assessing the value of the Club to the Community over the past 75 years cannot be quite so precise. There are, however many specific examples.
The emergency room in the new Oktibbeha County Hospital was equipped through a $2,500 grant from this Rotary Club. The Club also gave $1,500 for specialized eye equipment in the hospital. For many years, Rotarians throughout this part of the South maintained a hospital for crippled adults in Memphis and participated in a kidney dialysis machine project.
Individually, and as a Club, Rotarians have taken leading roles in the United Way, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity’s beginning in 1987-88 and continuously since, Civic Coordinating Council, Chamber of Commerce, District 6820 Medical and Educational Fund for the burn center in Greenville, and other civic undertakings.
Each Christmas season, the Club provides bell ringers for one or two days to collect money for the Salvation Army. The Club supports the Christmas parade by preparing the “Santa Claus” float each year. It has become a tradition for new members to have the honor of building the float on cold December nights.
Senior citizen projects have been completed from time to time. In fall 1990, the Rotary “Peephole Project” was a tremendous success: The Club ordered and installed 50 door viewers during 2 weeks in October. (This project was coordinated by Don Epley, Chairman of the Senior Citizens Committee.)
The Club is a leader in environmental concerns which have caught fire in Starkville, resulting in a 10 year commitment to “Keep America Beautiful.” Alderman are urged continually to tighten environmental laws. In addition, the Club has participated intermittently in the litter campaign in Starkville by adopting a road for frequent pickup of litter.
Support of law enforcement has been continual. In 1990-91, the Club contributed to help the Oktibbeha County sheriff purchase a polygraph unit.
In the past, medical education received attention by the Club’s participation with the Medical Education Foundation Committee and contributions to the District 6820 Medical and Educational Fund.
Air Bully, a project initiated by Rotarian Walt Bishop, has received support from both the Club and from many members. It is unique in its promotional effort of Starkville and Mississippi State.
Vocational service has been stressed from the beginning in the fields of trade and professional ethics and employer-employee relations.
Service to Youth
Work with youth has always been emphasized. This Club initiated the Little League Baseball Club in Starkville in 1951, and has sponsored teams and provided leadership for the volunteer Starkville Baseball Association, which manages the program. In 1961, when it was apparent that younger children needed some way to participate in the program, Rotarians Clyde Muse and W. W. Littlejohn devised the game of T-Ball and added it to the summer baseball program. Today the game of T-Ball is played all over the world with essentially the same rules as the original ones implemented by these leaders. In 1997, when the new Sportsplex was being built, Starkville Rotarians contributed $15,000 to sponsor three fields-the largest contribution of any civic group.
Rotary has sponsored Boy Scout Troop 14 for 71 continuous years. It is the oldest continuous Scout Troop in this 10, county area. Two hundred or more boys have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in this troop, which has been very popular in Starkville for many years with about 65-70 boys at any one time.
The histories of scouting in Oktibbeha County and the Starkville Rotary Club are intertwined because of this sponsorship. The Oktibbeha County scout movement grew from the Boys’ Club of the city high school. In the spring 1923, a group of the Boys’ Hi-Y and other clubs under the guidance of Mr. Guy Nason held a camp at Camp Pushmataha on the river near West Point, Mississippi . At this camp Mr. Mason discovered the need for continued work and on returning home, the organization was begun. The first meeting was held in the Chamber of Commerce rooms with John Moore, John Edward Yeates, Roy Chester Jarnigan, Clarke Morris, Alfred Block, Wilburn Maxwell, John Page, M. H. Moore, Eustace Williams, Fred Price, William Herbert, and Frank Hogan as charter members and Marshall McKell as the scoutmaster. Little progress was made until C. E. Cain, who was a subsequent scoutmaster, secured the services of P.W. “Pip” Miller of Meridian and the interest of Col. Grinstead of the Troup Committee. They joined the College with the City for membership potential and secured the sponsorship of the Starkville Rotary Club in 1928.
Meetings were held in the basement of the Presbyterian Church with John Moore, John Edward Yeates, Roy Chester Jamigan, and Clarke Morris as Patrol Leaders at one time or another. In 1934 Troop 14 entered for the first time and won the Council Jamboree, which was held at Columbus, MS. A beautiful loving cup which was won at the Jamboree is still displayed by Troop 14. Shortly after 1934, the troop was divided to form a second troop, Troop 27, which is still functioning at this date.
During the 1930s a group of businessmen headed by Dr. Long built a scout hut on land held by the American Legion about 5 miles north of the city. It remained the meeting place for several years but was given up in favor of the basement of the Presbyterian Church because of its distance from town.
Several generations of Rotarians have had sons in Troop 14. J. B. VanLandingham joined the troop shortly after it was established in 1928. His son, David, and David’s son, Steve, were also members of the troop, which makes three generations to be members of Troop 14. J. B., David, and David’s wife, Sherrie, are currently Starkville Rotarians as well as Rotary Foundation Paul Harris Fellows.
One interesting incident in which Troop 14 helped occurred during the mid-thirties when a tornado hit Tupelo. Troop members took their bicycles to Tupelo and served as messengers for the city during the first clean-up week until communications were restored. This troop has indeed touched the lives of many boys and young men and has an outstanding record under the leadership of several scoutmasters, including Rotary member, Gladden Brooks, who served many years. To remind us of the significance of this activity, members of Troop 14 do the colors at the Club’s annual banquet. In addition to Troop 14, the Club has supported the Explorer Boy Scouts and the Boy Scout Camp.
Rotarians have supported the Leadslingers, a group of R.O.T.C. boys learning marksmanship. High school and college students are often guests at Club meetings. In recent years, the R.O.T.C. unit at the high school has been highlighted through informational programs at regular meetings. The program honoring the “Student of the Month” and the “Teacher of the Month” from Henderson Junior High was started in the early 90’s and each month the strength of the public schools is highlighted. Recognition is also given to outstanding students from the Starkville Academy.
Other youth projects have included support for Toys for Tots, MSU Special Education Fund, participation in the Miss Hospitality pageant which was held in Starkville, Starkville High School Debate Club, National Very Special Arts Festival, youth basketball program, computers in schools, Faces of Hope literacy program at Henderson School, and Starkville High School “close up” fund to send three students to Washington, D.C. to observe government. Rotary gave an assistive listening device to Armstrong Middle School called frequency modulation equipment.
The Club has sponsored Cub Scout Pack 14 since 1987-88, and gives honorary membership status to the cubmaster and to the scoutmaster of the Rotary-sponsored Scout Troop 14. The Club has contributed to the Swim Association, gives academic scholarships for college, contributes, to the youth soccer organization, Starkville Educational Foundation, MSU summer scholars, Moor Attendance Center, District Youth Affairs Forum, and established an Interact Club at Starkville High School.
In 1990–91, the Club became a Mississippi State University Patron of Excellence by establishing a $1,000 scholarship to MSU for 10 years to be given to a graduating senior from Oktibbeha County Schools. Letters of appreciation were received from President Donald W. Zacharias, Alvin Hunt, President of the MSU Development Foundation, and Billy Ward, Vice President for Administration, MSU. This has now been increased to two $1,000 scholarships.
In 1990-91, support was given to the Ronald McDonald House in Jackson, which was started in 1988 with significant leadership by Starkville Rotarian Bill Cunningham. This house provides a place to stay for families who have children in the University Hospital.
In international service, promoting understanding and goodwill between people of all nations has been emphasized. Ambassadorial Scholars and international Group Study Exchanges of young business and professional people are financed through the Rotary International Foundation. The presence of international students at Mississippi State University affords local Rotarians an unusual opportunity to promote international relations. Local club members traveling abroad find the familiar Rotary wheel a welcome sign in hotels where both language and customs seem strange to the traveler. And, travel they do, as well as attend Rotary, often returning with a banner from that club. The club has 138 banners in its collection from clubs in foreign lands (86) as well as from other clubs in the United States (52). A complete list of these as of April 1, 1999, is shown in Appendix C. Our own Club banner, which was revised in 1990–91 to its present design, has been shared with these clubs in exchange.
Starkville Rotary has participated in disaster relief, the most recent of which was hurricane relief from Andrew in South Florida. When asked, boxes have been collected and sent to other disaster areas as well.
In 1985, when Rotary International launched its 20-year crusade to help immunize every child against polio, the public health community doubted the organizations’s long-term commitment as well as its ability to do the job. Today, Rotary has convinced the early skeptics and enhanced its international reputation as a private sector service organization. Over the past decade, Rotary International has worked with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF, and other partners in helping to immunize over one billion children against polio. As a result, as many as four million children have been spared from a lifetime of polio. Rotary estimates that it will spend $400 million on the campaign. Most of it from the investment of the original $247 million. But, no one will ever be able to put an exact figure on the hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer service invested by Rotarians throughout the world in their effort to turn the dream of polio eradication into reality. The Starkville Club sent $18,000 to Polio Plus. We matched $500 with member’s $500 for Paul Harris Fellows and designated it for the eradication of polio worldwide.
In 1990 the Club helped fund the Rotary International Float in the Rose Parade and supported an international student reception in the MSU ballroom. In addition to these general International projects, Starkville Rotary Club has been involved in Rotary Foundation Scholar programs, Group Study Exchanges, World Community Service projects, Matching Grants projects, and Rotary Youth Exchange.
In 1985, we were host club for Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar Susana Goggi, who came to Mississippi State from Argentina on a one-year graduate scholarship in seed technology. She returned to MSU to complete her M.S. degree and was offered an assistantship to earn the Ph.D. She remained on the faculty at MSU to direct the University’s collaborative sorghum and millet research efforts here and in Africa and Latin America. Susana is now the manager of one of the nation’s top seed testing laboratories at the Seed Science Center of Iowa State University.
In 1985, Rotary Foundation offered a 3-year Freedom from Hunger scholarship under its 3- H (Health, Hunger, Humanity) program. Fifty scholars from developing nations were selected for the 1986-87 academic year-two came to Mississippi State. Juan Narvaez, Monterrey, Mexico, and Anil Bahl, Bhopal, India, earned degrees in seed technology and food science, respectively, in 1990. The Freedom from Hunger Scholarship was discontinued in 1995 because its cost was jeopardizing other scholarshp programs. Before it was terminated, however, we were the host club for eight additional FFH scholars from India, Thailand, Sierra Leone, and Taiwan. All attended our weekly meetings as their schedules permitted; all were participants in District 6820 Conferences each year.
Juan Narvaez, Ph.D. 1990, is teaching seed technology and agronomy at the Universidad Autonoma Agraria Antoni Narro in Satillo, Mexico. He was also a faculty member at the Institito Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores in Monterrey, Mexico.
Anil Bahl, M.S. 1990, is quality control manager in a dairy food manufacturing plant operated by the Hershey Company in Savannah, Georgia.
Songsakdi Chuntiraponsa came to MSU in 1989, earned the Ph.D. in seed technology in 1992, and is a professor at Rajamagala Institute of Technology and Agriculture at Kasetsart University in Thailand. He has authored a Thai textbook on seed production and quality. M.S. Patil earned his Ph.D. in plant virology in 1992 and is on the plant pathology faculty at the University of Agricultural Science in Dharwhad, Karnataka, India.
Wipakorn Chalaprawat came to Starkville in 1989 and studied here for a year before transferring to the University of Missouri. She now teaches nutrition to underprivileged children in Bangkok.
Ihtti Wongpichet came from Thailand in 1991 and completed his Ph.D. in seed technology in 1994. He is on the faculty of agriculture at Ubon Ratchatani University in Thailand. Sidney Williams also arrived here from Sierra Leone, West Africa in 1991. He was here until 1994, completed a second B.S. degree and came withn a few hours of finishing the M.S. degree in agricultural education before his scholarship ended. His whereabouts are not known.
Chandrashekhar Nimbal was with us from 1992 until 1994 when he earned the Ph.D. in weed science. At last report, he was on an extended post-doctoral research assignment at the University of Kentucky before returning to his faculty in India.
Another Indian scholar, Basavaraj Suligavi came to MSU in 1993 to study environmental economics. We assisted him in getting his scholarshp transferred to Iowa State University where there was an established program in his field of study.
Our final FFH scholar was Ching Wen Chan, who did graduate study in chemistry from 1994-1996 before returning to Taiwan. He is a food chemist with several patents for artificial flavorings he developed. ,
This year, we are hosting a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar from Japan. Makoto Yamamoto is a graduate student in aerospace engineering.
In 1995, two local citizens nominated by our club were selected by District 6820 for Rotary Foundation Scholarships. Wendy Cole of Starkville, who was a French teacher in West Point High School (now at MSU), was awarded a Cultural Scholarship to study for 3 months in France during summer 1996. Sam Allen, a graduate of MSU, was awarded an Ambassadorial Scholarship to the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, for graduate study in 1996-97.
Group Study Exchange
Since 1989, Starkville Rotary Club has hosted a Group Study Exchange team every year but one. These have included teams from Japan, Argentina, Mexico, The Netherlands, Finland, France, and two from India. These teams of either five or six members, were hosted in homes of Rotarians during periods of up to 3 days while they toured local businesses, industries, and learned more about the United States and the South. In 1997, Wendy Cole of Starkville, was selected to represent the District on its Group Study Exchange team that spent a month in southern France.
This year, Starkville Rotary Club and District 6820 are participants in a unique Group Study Exchange experience. With special authorization from Rotary Foundation, we are having an all-Rotarian exchange with the three Rotary clubs that have been established in St. Petersburg, Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Six Russian Rotarians (four men and two women) are spending our 75th Anniversary month of April in our District. They are in Starkville for an extended stay of 5 days, 2 days hosted by Rotarians and 3 days as participants in the District 6820 Conference hosted by our club. A Starkville Rotarian, O. A. Cleveland, was selected as one of six Rotarians to spend the month of May in St. Petersburg. O . A. is a past president of our club and is an internationally known agricultural economist who has been working with former Soviet Bloc nations since the demise of the Soviet Union.
World Community Service
Starkville Rotarians participated in 1995-97 in a World Community Service Project where Rotarians from District 6820 joined a team from Mississippi that went to Honduras to administer dental health care, drill water wells, and build churches in a remote rural area. Members of our club who were volunteers with the Honduran project included Joe Sherrard, Linda Karen Smith, Tommy Wakeman, and former member Sue Smith. Rotarian Lloyd Rose has provided dental care on a similar church mission team that goes to the same region.
Rotary Matching Grants
In 1998, Starkville Rotary Club joined with Rotary Clubs from Bulls, New Zealand, Wooster, Ohio, and Soroti, Uganda, to obtain a matching grant from the Rotary Foundation. The grant will supply 60-80 bred heifers to widows in the Soroti region who lost husbands and fathers in the Rhwandan invasion, and who are attempting to support families on small parcels of land.
Rotary Youth Exchange
The club’s most recent international involvement has been with high school students in the Rotary Youth Exchange program. In 1996-97, our club hosted Sarah Loiseau from Blere, France. Sara lived with three host families during her year, was an excellent student at Starkville High School, and is now completing her second year at the University of Tours, France. Ruth Crowell, daughter of Rotarian Ren and Marianne Crowell, was the first Rotary Youth Exchange student from Starkville, She spent the 1996-97 year having an excellent cultural experience and studying her junior year in high school in Belgium.
In 1997-98, we had an exchange with Finland. Teal Waterstrat of Starkville spent his year in Finland and Johanna Laaja was hosted by our club. Johanna became a familiar face at Rotary Club meetings and was a key member of the Starkville High Girls’ Basketball Team. She lived with four different host families during her year in Starkville.
This year (1998-99), Luis Garcia Mogollon, has been with us. Although he had already completed high school at his home in Venezuela, Luis attends classes at Starkville High School to sharpen his English language skills and learn more about American history and culture. No Starkville youths were interested in participating in this year’s program.
In the summer of 1997, two Starkville young people participated in Rotary Youth Short-term Exchange, going to the Netherlands for four weeks and then returning with their Dutch counterparts for four weeks in our community. Stephanie Sherrard’s Dutch “brother” was Danny Bakker; Elizabeth Sparkman’s Dutch “sister” was Corrina van der Drift.
People and Fellowship: The Rich Lifeblood of the Club
In the early years, Club members had a unique asset in their secretary-treasurer, W. W. Littlejohn, who joined the Starkville Rotary Club in August 1943. Wartime conditions and other problems had reduced the club to 13 members, many of whom were behind in their dues. D. W. “Deacon” Aiken, who says he was elected president to “bury the club,” prevailed on Littlejohn in 1944 to take over the office of secretary-treasurer, a position he held until 1990-91 with one brief exception. In 1956-57, Garnett Thomas took over to allow Littlejohn to move up to vice president and president.
The late Henry H. Leveck, a long-time Rotarian and past district governor, who had a great sense of humor, told the club that the members still would not know how much money was in the Club treasury since Littlejohn had hand-picked one of his former students, Garnett J. Thomas, to serve as secretary-treasurer while he was serving as vice president and president.
After this period, Littlejohn returned to the secretary’s task, which he performed faithfully and well until 1990, when his health prevented his attendance; he died at Thanksgiving 1991. In all these 46 years, Littlejohn maintained a perfect attendance record, making up every absence. He even scheduled his appendectomy just after a Rotary meeting so he could be present when the Club met again a week later. When physical health prevented him from no longer serving, no one knew “anything about anything” related to club finances or Rotary procedures. The Club had four directors who served one-year terms but did not meet on any regular basis.
Because he kept meticulous separate records for Rotary and held the impeccable trust of everyone who knew him, he could verbally answer any question of the financial status of the Club and whether or not the Club could afford to do this or that. Therefore, there was no need to prepare reports that no one would read and did not want. At the end of the “Littlejohn” era, however, the leadership decided there was not another “Littlejohn” to take his place and therefore, the jobs of secretary and treasurer should be separated. Both offices became elective for 1-year terms. No one should serve more than 2 consecutive years and monthly financial reports, including budget and actual, should be presented to and discussed by the Board each month.
This procedure has been practiced since that time. At the same time, the Club bylaws were extensively revised expanding the Board of Directors to eight members serving staggered 2-year terms and providing for mandatory monthly board meetings.
There are many “Littlejohn” stories which express the “character and flavor” of the Club. Tip Allen writes that when he was president of the Starkville Rotary Club during 1983-84, the late Dean W. W. Littlejohn had been secretary-treasurer for many years and knew the operations of Rotary backward and forward and then some. The Dean was of great assistance to incoming presidents of that period. If they had some question about Rotary procedures, they simply checked with Littlejohn. Shortly after taking office as president in July 1983, the Dean emphasized to Tip the importance of ending the club meeting promptly at 1:00 p.m. This, he noted, was a long-standing Rotary tradition which could not be ignored. He pointed out that it was the president’s responsibility to inform a guest speaker of the one o’clock rule and to take measures to bring the program to a close if he/she went overtime.
One sunny day, the Club had a rather prominent speaker and Tip carefully informed him of the 1:00 p.m. rule before he began his address. When one o’clock rolled around, the speaker was still going strong. By 1:05, he showed no sign of nearing a close and some Rotarians were getting restless, to say the least. Of course this was no problem for the “slip-out boys”; they had been long gone. By 1:10, Tip knew that he had to get up nerve to stop the speaker and his oration. However, he never had to intervene; the speaker system suddenly went dead. At first, Tip thought there was a mechanical malfunction. But, he quickly realized this was not the case, because our illustrious secretary-treasurer had simply “pulled the plug” on the speaker system. Subsequently, the address quickly ended.
Whether this speaker realized that Littlejohn had pulled the plug on him is unknown. However, for many years there was sort of a standing joke in the Starkville Rotary Club that if a speaker went overtime, Littlejohn would pull the plug.
Jack Harder writes that the Starkville Rotary Club floundered financially somewhere in the
late 1940’s. At that time, Littlejohn said he would bring the club back to solvency if he could be both secretary and treasurer. Littlejohn did what he said he would do, but as a part of this return to solvency he would never give a full financial report to the Club. Bill Simmons writes that Dean Littlejohn said, “We can afford that,” or “We can’t afford that.” When Bill asked why he didn’t prepare financial statements, he said, “Over the years I’ve saved up $7,000 in a savings account to be used when we come up short. If I told the Club we had $7,000 in savings, they would spend it all in one year.”
David VanLandingham did a great job as president. Three months into his term, Mr. Littlejohn had a stroke and could not communicate. Needless to say, we had to start all over again (since Mr. Littlejohn had run the Club for many years)—build a roster, assess financial condition, and establish a better leadership system.
D. W. Aiken, who celebrated his 91st birthday in October 1992, joined Rotary in Kosciusko in 1927 and transferred to Starkville in 1941. He was still active in the “chain gang” at football games in 1992, and is remembered as the state’s “winningest” high school coach and the University’s first vice president of student affairs. “ Aiken Village” (married student housing at MSU) is named for him. Pat Lane remembers Dr. Aiken and how he always felt free to stand and voice his opinion on anything that was discussed at the meeting. His “opinions” were usually “right on target,” usually very humorous, and were followed by a large round of applause.
He was 94 when he left our club to move to Meridian to be near his grandson. Pat says, “He was forever asking me who he could date (and even had me call Bernice Parvin for him). Once he moved to Meridian, I called him to see how he was doing. He said he was okay but that all the women there were too old; but, he had his eye on the granddaughter of a “chick” who lived there in the retirement home.” Starkville Rotary remembers him as president in 1945, and the member who proposed longtime secretary W. W. Littlejohn for membership. We were honored when Dr. Aiken returned to join our 75th annual banquet Feb. 15, 1999. He was 98 years old!
There have been many other very dedicated members of Starkville Rotary through the years. An example of this is Jean Overcash who attended 17 Rotary International conventions held in England, Germany, Canada, Mexico and many other places of the world. He became a Rotarian in 1951 in Jackson, TN, and the following year moved to Starkville and joined here. He had perfect attendance for 35 years and not much absence after that. There are other similar examples.
Current members who have been members for 40 years or more are special “longtime” friends. They include: Harry Simrall (1946), Broadus VanLandingham (1947), Wilmot Thompson (1949), Emmett Black (1950), William Ward (1950), Erie Staggers (1952), Garnett Thomas (1952), Paul Jacob (1953), Fred McCrory (1955), Horace Harned (1956), Chester McKee (1956), Gladden Brooks (1957), Ed Martin (1958), George Ramsey (1958), and Scotty Wofford (1959).
Weekly meetings have generated many memories—some sad, some happy, some serious, some humorous. Chester McKee writes that on November 22, 1963, when John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, this Club was meeting at the Stark Hotel downtown. Someone dashed into the meeting, interrupted the program and announced that the President had been shot. “We didn’t know how serious it was or that he was in fact already dead. A hush settled over the group, then some snickers were heard (from opponents no doubt)—upon which Rev. Robert H. Walkup (Bob) jumped up to ask the Club to pause while he led us in a very tremendous prayer. That swift action was most appropriate.”
When L. L. Mullins Sr. was program chairman, he was much involved in the trees and water of Oktibbeha County. He had programs on 4-H, Beca Furs, Oktibbeha Farm Bureau, the Mississippi Agricultural & Forestry Museum, National Tree Planting Week, Mississippi Tree Farmers, Forest Farmers, National Tree Farmer of the Year, and Oktibbeha Tree Planting Week. Members complained that we were having too many programs on soil and water. L. L. was outraged because he said you couldn’t know too much about it; it was too important!
Rotarian Stacy Anderson was noted for his outspoken long-windedness. When Stacy rose to speak there would be many sighs as we prepared for one of his commentaries. When he as District Governor, Stacy established the “Stacy Anderson Award,” which he personally presented to the club he determined best supported the District Conference. He determined the winner with a complex formula known only to him (considering size of club, number of members, percent of members attending the conference, miles traveled, and who knows what else). The attendance award has continued after Stacy’s death.
Stuart Vance recalls that Dr. McCrory introduced Lester Spell, a veterinarian and the current Agriculture Commissioner in Mississippi, for a program and Lester told the story of how he lives on his farm just south of Jackson. His neighbor has a large cattle farm that backs up against the Pearl River. His neighbor loves to go to the sale and buy whatever looks good-mules, horses, goats, jackasses-and put them out on the pasture. His neighbor called him one afternoon and asked if Lester could help him. He was coming down with the flu; he had a cow that was going to calve that afternoon; and, he wanted Lester to help with the delivery. Lester had a young veterinarian who had just graduated and was shadowing him for experience. They would be glad to help–let the young vet do the delivery and Lester would be the nurse for him. Stopping at the neighbors house for directions, they were told, “Take this dirt road through the pasture as far as you can go, then get out, cross the creek and you will find the cow over in a patch of trees. But, be careful, I have a pair of Brama bulls over there that are pretty trashy, they’ll get after you.”
The two vets loaded up with needed supplies and headed out. It was getting late in the afternoon and beginning to look like rain. They crossed the creek and found the cow. They delivered the calf, got both of the animals on their feet and the calf nursing. Lester remembered and then told the young vet, “My neighbor has a cabin upon that hill over there. It’s the highest point on the Pearl River between Jackson and the Gulf Coast–over 300 feet high. Would you like to see it?”ey climbed the trail as darkness came nearer and a light rain began to fall. Upon reaching the crest they could look down at the beautiful river rolling below. The young vet picked up a stone and hurled it into the river below, but he heard no splash. Turning to Lester, he commented that they were so far above the river, you couldn’t hear a ripple.
As the two started down the hill, they both stumbled over a crosstie. The young vet turned to Lester and said, “I bet if we threw this thing off you could hear it hit the water!” Relenting, Lester agreed to carry one end of the crosstie to the crest of the hill. As the two men began to swing the crosstie back and forth, “one, two and three,” and released their missile, they heard a rustle in the brush. Recalling the warning of the bulls, Lester hollered, “LOOK OUT!” As the two hit the deck a goat dropped his horns and came right between the two and went over the cliff! The two men began the hike back in the dark and rain. They hadn’t planned to say a whole lot about the event to the sick neighbor. They stopped by his house to report on the delivery and told him that mother and baby were fine. “Did you see the bulls?’ “No.” “Did you see my goat?” They told him about the rush of the goat through the brush that vaulted over the hill into the river, and he responded, “That wasn’t my goat. I had mine on a 60-foot chain tied to a crosstie!”
Merrill Hawkins writes that his firsthand knowledge of the Starkville Rotary Club goes back to 1965, when his family moved to Starkville. He had just finished a year as president of the Vicksburg Rotary Club and became a member of the Starkville Club soon after he came to Starkville . The weekly meetings were then held in the Midway Tea Room on University Drive on Fridays. When the Holiday Inn was built, meetings were changed to meet there and the day was changed to Monday.
Harry Simrall writes that he became a member of the Starkville Rotary Club in January 1946, and served as president in the early 1950s. W. W. Littlejohn was the secretary-treasurer. The Club met at the Stark Hotel, then moved to the basement meeting room in the cafeteria at MSU, then to the Midway Tea Room and subsequently, to the Holiday (now Ramada) Inn. One of the interestings things in these early years was that the Club had a program committee in “name,” but in fact, it was the duty of The Chairman to obtain a program each week for the entire year. He remembers this quite clearly, since he served as the chairman for one entire year in the late 1940s or early 1950s.
Erie Staggers likes to tell the story of how Mr. Copeland (the physician’s dad) used to borrow Erie ‘s pen to sign up. In his later years, he would borrow Erie’s pen and then insist that the pen was his own. After Erie had lost 5 or 6 really nice pens to Mr. Copeland, he started bringing cheap pens to “loan” to Mr. Copeland each Monday at Rotary.
Stuart Vance writes about his most unforgettable Rotary program. “The time was the late 1960s. We were at war in Vietnam. Rotary was meeting at the relatively new Holiday Inn and the meeting room was packed. Extra tables had been set up because some Rotarians had invited guests to hear our speaker. Rotarian Bob Brannin brought his wife Kitty Sue because the speaker’s mother had been reared with Bob in Aberdeen. There was indeed ‘a sense of presence’ in the room that day.
“When Marine Major Bill Leftwich took the podium, a hush fell over the room and hardly a soul stirred until the front-line veteran finished telling his story of what was taking place in Vietnam . Many of our all-male membership could well relate to the story he told because they, too, had known the horrors of war and were frustrated with America fighting a war we couldn’t win.” Stuart further says, “Bill Leftwich had been a classmate of mine at Memphis Central High. He was captain of the football team, president of the student body, a leader in every effort-truly one of the finest boys I had ever known. Upon graduation he entered the U. S. Naval Academy , where he roomed with Ross Perot. Bill had served two tours of duty in Vietnam and had designed and supervised construction of the Vietnamese Village at Quantico Marine Base to add realistic training for the troops before shipping out to the Far East.
“I had followed Bill’s career and when I learned that he was stateside, I called Sen. Stennis’ office and asked if it would be possible for Major Leftwich to come to Starkville to speak to Rotary. It was arranged and probably approved by Rex Buffington. His address was received with much interest and was well covered by press and TV stations. All of the Rotarians seemed to appreciate this special program.
“Shortly after this trip to Starkville, Maj. Leftwich left for a third tour of duty in Vietnam. At a stopover in Guam, he was taken on a helicopter tour of the island. Bill Leftwich was killed in the crash of that helicopter-a great career cut short. Many said that if he had lived he would have been Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps. Subsequently, a destroyer was built and launched in his honor at Pascagoula. I will always remember this program because a great American came to speak to Starkville Rotary.”
Upon examining a program dated November 12, 1964, recording the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Club, we note that Raymond Goodman was the only charter member who was still in the Club and that U.S. Gordon, the third president and also a charter member, was a special guest. Notations were made that the Starkville Rotary Club was at the age (40) when life begins. It was Ladies Night held in the Union Ballroom at MSU and Lewis Bowker was president. Mention was made of the thirtieth anniversary, also held on a Ladies Night in the College Cafeteria, with Harry Simrall as president and with Burrow Brooks making one of his inimitable speeches. Stacy Anderson, who later became District Governor, arranged the whole thing.
This 75th anniversary is a time to remember, with respect and admiration, the visionary men who founded the Club 75 years ago, and the dedicated officers and members who have steered its course of progress and service. Space does not permit recognition of all the officers but a reflection on the past presidents gives an awesome feeling of the breadth and depth of leadership enjoyed. View the list of past presidents.
Diamond past president pins are given to club presidents as the year ends. This practice was started by Frank Chiles in 1990–91, and the club has now caught up by presenting all living past presidents a pin.
Strong in human resources, welded together by a hearty good fellowship, the Starkville Rotary Club confidently moves into its second 75 years of service.