Posted by Jim Fitzgerald
By 1919, Paul Harris had patiently and skillfully crafted his vision of Rotary into a rapidly expanding, well organized, and effective organization, whose purpose was to coordinate and support over 500 clubs in six countries.  
During those fourteen years much had been happening behind the scenes; the new organization had chosen a name (Rotary), a motto (“He Profits Most Who Serves the Best”), a logo (a spoked-wheel), had adopted “Ideals”, had established a constitution and bylaws, had begun to hold conventions, and, having a lawyer at the helm, had begun to establish rules and guidelines for clubs to follow.  
It had also begun to establish “traditions”. 
Administrating and controlling this vast empire in the early 20th century was an enormous task, made more difficult because of the perceptions, or misperceptions of what clubs should “be”. 
Paul’s vision of a club “for professionals with diverse backgrounds where they could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities,” had resulted in a serious problem of perception. 
 
Many of the early clubs, including his own club, Chicago Number One , wanted to add an additional element, “exclusivity”, or even “secrete” to the vision.
Their argument, which prevailed in the early years of the organization, was that the main purpose of the club should be “Profit” first, “Service” second.  They supported that argument by stating that the system used in determining whether or not someone was “qualified” for membership, proved their point, which was the stipulation allowing only one person, per business or profession, to be a member of the club at the same time.  Paul’s point of view was that this stipulation was to guarantee “Diversity”, first and profit second. In a letter to Mr. M. E. Martin, June 3, 1911, Paul Harris address the problem:
 
My Dear Mr. Martin:
Mr. Chesley R. Perry, National Secretary, recently called to my attention your letter of the 26th inst., addressed to him. I note with sincere gratification the report of progress and the optimism and enthusiasm which characterizes your letter. It portends good things, and I feel sure that some day the Rotary Club of Dallas will take its place well up in the ranks of Rotary, and that it will well represent our territorially greatest and one of our most progressive states.
 
In regard to the policy of secrecy, we suppose, of course, that you mean that such policy will prevail only until you become organized, and during such period the plan is probably good. Eventually all Rotary Clubs must come out into the light and building toward that end, must at such time be good enough and strong enough so that they can bear the strongest light of day and most careful inspection.
Your new experiences are old experiences. Pretty nearly every club has about the same thing to go through. It has even occurred to some of our newest clubs that they should remain secret organizations; the thought, of course, being prompted by the suggestion that members might lose caste in their neighborhood or be ridiculed by their competitors if their connection with an organization, one of the purposes of which is to benefit the members individually, become known.
 
There is but one answer to this, and that is to preserve the equilibrium between public and individual activities, and then you will never have occasion to be ashamed of your organization nor afraid to have its purpose fully known. The business benefits will not be lessened. They will eventually be greatly increased by such policy.
The National Association will always be glad to help you…
With kind regards and best wishes, I beg to remain,
Yours very truly,
Paul P. Harris
 
The Rotary club of Marshall embraced both elements of the argument but followed Paul’s suggestion to preserve the equilibrium between public and individual activities and balance both the privileges and obligations of a Rotary Club. Fortunately, we have an almost unimpeachable, though possibly somewhat biased, source for this conclusion, which was recorded in the newspapers of the day. 
 
As most clubs at that time, the Marshall club had the cream of Marshall’s business and professional men. 
 
The man who built the Hotel Marshall was a charter member.  The manager of the Hotel Marshall was a charter member.  The Banker who made the loans was a charter member. The publisher of the newspaper was a charter member, and so on. The Rotary club met in the Hotel Marshall for their weekly meetings for 46 years in the hotel. The Hotel Marshall hosted all the club’s social and fundraising events throughout the period.  It was a very profitable arrangement for the hotel, but, it was also a very good deal for the club because the hotel was “The place” to conduct business at the time, and the food and service, the very best. 
 
The newspaper publisher got a lot more advertising by being in the club, but the club got a free clip in the newspaper every week and huge front-page spreads when the club hosted big events or celebrities.  And, when the newspaper needed support for their public or civic issues, who better to have on its side that the most respected and influential men in the city.
 
School Superintendents have traditionally been a member of the Rotary club, and in return the schools and its students have benefitted from the support of the club.
The vision that Paul Harris had for Rotary in 1905, has been realized over and over, in thousands of clubs, in hundreds of countries, for over a hundred years and counting.  So too has the vison of the Rotary Club of Marshall Texas, where we are “Celebrating a Century of Changing Lives in Marshall and beyond”, at our Celebration Banquet, August 24, 2019.