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District 7620 covers the area beginning with the Susquehanna River on the northeast; the Mason-Dixon Line on the north, the western boundary of Frederick County, Maryland on the west; the Potomac River and its estuary on the southwest; and the Chesapeake Bay on the east. RI may change these boundaries at any time.
Rotary began in what is now District 7620 with the chartering of the Baltimore club, the 48th Rotary club to be formed, on January 3, 1912. After a visit to Washington by Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, his club, Chicago, sponsored Washington’s charter on July 11, 1912. Total Rotary membership at the time was under 5,000, but Rotary already was international, with clubs in Winnipeg, Canada, Belfast, Northern Ireland, London, and Havana, which became the first non-English speaking club.
Rotary districts were established in 1915, with the Baltimore and Washington clubs placed in District 3, which covered all of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. George Harris, charter president of the Rotary Club of Washington, became our first district governor and later (1944-45) was our district’s first RI director. He had the unique distinction of attending every international convention during the first 50 years of his club’s existence, and he maintained perfect attendance.
In 1918 our area of District 3 became District 5, encompassing eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The Baltimore club, under the leadership of George Bahlke, sponsored nine new clubs, beginning in 1920 with Frederick. Annapolis and Havre de Grace soon followed, as well as many clubs now outside our district, including Easton and Cumberland.
As part of District 34, established July 1, 1922, we added part of West Virginia; New Jersey and some of Pennsylvania were excluded. Westminster became our sixth club. Beginning in 1927, Brunswick, Towson, Ellicott City, Bel Air, Catonsville, Rockville and Glen Burnie were formed before the Great Depression set in. Yet, between 1933 and 1938, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, College Park, Pikesville, Hampstead and Dundalk–all sponsored by different clubs–joined our growing Rotary family.
Paul Harris spent part of the summers of 1934-1935 on Sam Kaplan’s farm in Ellicott City, and returned to address the Baltimore club on December 31, 1934, at the Rennert Hotel. His subject was “Money and Material Things are not Necessary for Happiness.”
District 180 was created on July 1, 1939. We retained the same areas of West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, plus a different mix of Pennsylvania counties. Silver Spring and Sykesville-South Carroll were chartered before World War II. The next club to be chartered was Kingsville 1n1946. Later, Lake Shore, Elkridge, Parkton and Severna Park were added. District 180 was re-configured on July 1, 1944 by exclusion of the northern and western counties of Maryland.
In 1950, District 180 became District 267. Edwin Unger of the eastern shore’s Federalsburg Club was its first governor. Aberdeen was the first new club to join the District in 1950. Bill Hardy, of the Frederick club, became the youngest governor in the world in 1951, at age 28. He now resides in Ellicott City. Olney received its charter in 1951, then no more new clubs joined until Damascus and Southern Prince George’s (now Upper Marlboro) in 1956-57, under the leadership of PDG Ernie Wooden of Baltimore.
On July 1, 1957, District 762 was created from District 267; boundaries were set at the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River on the east, the Pennsylvania state line on the north and the Potomac River and Frederick County on the west.
District 762 had some outstanding leadership: PDG Ted Wilson of Baltimore became our second RI Director in 1960-62, serving as third vice president of RI. PDG Donald Chamberlin of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, formed three new clubs in 1960 (Potomac, St. Mary’s County-Lexington Park and Wheaton-Kensington), only to be outdone by PDG Raj Saini in 1985-86 with five new clubs (Columbia-Patuxent, Leonardtown, Mt. Airy, Parole, and Waldorf.)
College Park established the district’s first Interact club. In 1974, Henry Tate (Potomac) initiated a unique program to establish a Rotary Scholarship Fund for Gallaudet University, which has now grown to an endowment in excess of $200,000. This program has now been taken over by the clubs that are its most consistent contributors.
PDG Roland Cumberland of Southern Prince George’s (now Upper Marlboro) formed the first breakfast club, North Bethesda, in 1974. He also established the first district dues–$5.00 per member per year. He appointed PDG Dr. John Sever (Potomac) as our first GSE chairman, with the first GSE team exchange to/from Australia that same year. As Governor, Roland also started quarterly presidents’ meetings, well in advance of the first district Presidents-Elect Training Seminar (PETS) in 1987 by PDG Morris Pallozzi (Ellicott City). In 1978, under the leadership of PDG John Sever, we began participation in the Youth Exchange program.
Our first African-American club president was Tom Briscoe (Columbia) in 1976-77. In 1987, during the term of PDG Bill Luckan, women were first admitted into clubs in the district, a result of a US Supreme Court decision. JoAnne Dorman (Owings Mills-Reisterstown) became the first woman club president in the District in July, 1990. With Albert Kim’s serving as president of Woodlawn-Westview in 1999-2000, that club has the distinction of having had presidents of European, African and Asian heritage since its chartering in 1987.
General support of the Rotary Foundation began in 1963 when PDG Wilbur Baughman (Olney) became the district’s first Paul Harris Fellow. He served as the District’s first Foundation chairman. PDG Raj Saini (Columbia) became our region’s National Coordinator for Polio Plus, credited with raising $4,750,000, with almost $2,000,000 of that from our own district. As PolioPlus began immunizing the world’s children, PDG John Sever (the originator of the PolioPlus program) took on a key Foundation role as international vaccination coordinator. In 1990, PDG Jim Buchanan (1974 -1975) became the largest contributor in the world to The Rotary Foundation with a gift of over $3.2 million
All Rotary districts added a zero to their designation in 1991, and Judge Larry Margolis became the first governor of District 7620.
In 1992, Morris Gevinson built his friendly and effective team of club presidents a year in advance with pre PETS. A 4-Way Test Speech Contest was established, as well as the district 4-Way Test award in honor of Jim Houck (Timonium, Hunt Valley), who had been administering the program in local schools, as a club project, for over 30 years. A District directory format was established, a ten-year club extension plan was created, and a focus was established on Rotaract, with both Washington and Baltimore sponsoring Rotaract clubs that year.
In 1995, PDG Bob Nelson capped off his year by having RI President Bill Huntley of England make an appearance at our District Conference. PDG Bob’s leadership abilities have resulted in his having been selected to serve as RI President’s Representative to several other District Conferences, along with PDG John Sever and PDG Larry Margolis.
The 1993 visit of RI President Cliff Dochterman to President Bill Clinton initiated establishment of an NGO-government partnership to fund the remainder of PolioPlus’ cost. In 1996, due to considerable effort by PDG Sever, the US Congress and the White House recognized the unique NGO-government relationship that exists with Rotary in its drive to eradicate polio. This resulted in the US government contributing $90 million to the PolioPlus program. These funds, along with those from Rotarians and from other countries around the world, have generated in excess of $600 million. The anticipated certification of a polio-free world is expected in 2008.
During 1998-99, under the leadership of PDG John Murkey (Parole), the district’s leadership program took a major step forward, with the nomination of governors for three years hence. Governor Rob Brown, 1999-2000, (Towsontowne) continued this “forward leadership”. Following their years of service as governors, PDG Murkey and PDG Brown, respectively were appointed as RI representatives to the World Bank and the Organization of American States.
Catonsville-Sunrise, was chartered in May 2001, bringing the total number of clubs, for a short period of time to 65. As 2000-2001 came to a close, the Dundalk and Hampstead clubs (63 and 65 years old, respectively) gave up their charters, bringing us back to 63 clubs.
In 2001-2002, under the leadership of Andy Baum (Carroll Creek), and consistent with a major effort by RI (Global Quest for Membership), our primary goal was membership growth. Although the Germantown club resigned its charter, two new clubs were chartered in December – Central Prince George’s (District Heights) and West Anne Arundel County. The Lanham club reorganized itself as Northern Prince George’s and the Langley club expanded as Takoma-Langley Park. During Governor Andy’s year, the district hosted an international conference in Washington, DC “Rotary Expansion in Russia: Cold War Healing” under the leadership of Raymond Raedy, our current Governor, guests from numerous Russian Rotary clubs, Canada, Europe and throughout the United States were present, and included RI President Rick King, as well. Also, under Governor Andy, five clubs earned Community Assistance Program grants, of $2000.00 each from The Rotary Foundation, for furtherance of their specific and unique projects in their respective communities.
Each of our governors and club leaders brings time, talent and energy to help the program of Rotary continue to grow. Changing times are upon us, but Rotary provides a special opportunity to provide “Service Above Self” to those in need throughout the world. We must, and will, respond to the needs of the hungry, the homeless and those without health care to provide hope to improve the human condition and leave this world a little better for our having served Rotary and the people of the world.