Club History

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The Rotary Club of Miami is the fifth oldest Rotary Club in Florida, having received its charter on March 1, 1917, after being sponsored by the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.  The history of the club is closely related to Miami’s early founders.  Its first president was Dr. James Jackson, who participated in the early development and many civic aspects of the new City of Miami.  Upon his death in 1926, the community recognized Dr. Jackson for his many outstanding contributions by establishing Jackson Memorial Hospital in his honor. Other important members in the club through the years included Frank B. Shutts, Crate Bowen, Frank B. Stoneman, John Clausen, Edward B. Douglas, Rodney D. Burdine, and Dr. Bascom Palmer, to name a few.

For the first 50 years of its existence, the club had representatives of local and state government, banking, airline, business and religious establishments as part of its membership.  This allowed the club to partner with the public and private sectors in much of the community’s early development.  The Rotary Club of Miami was active in bringing to Miami the YMCA, Boy Scouts of America, Humane Society, Lighthouse for the Blind. Several members of the club were signatories to the founding documents for the University of Miami.   

As mentioned earlier, our club has had a continuing relationship with Jackson Memorial Hospital. The Rotary Club of Miami, together with several other groups, was instrumental in getting TB and Cancer wards established at JMH in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. Our club member, Dr. Bascom Palmer, established an Eye Institute at Jackson Memorial Hospital in the 1940’s and 1950’s that has been recognized for the past nine years as the top eye hospital in the United States.

Our club also helped establish one of the largest burn centers in the South in cooperation with the City of Miami Fire Department.  Many burn victims require grafts of skin, or other tissue.  Through the efforts of two renowned Rotarian’s, Dr. Joseph H. Davis and Dr. Theodore Malinin, the first Sterile Autopsy Suite was created in 1984 for the purpose of harvesting bone and tissue at the Dade County Medical Examiner Department. The Rotary Club of Miami spearheaded a drive to raise over $100,000 to equip this suite that has helped over 1 million patients around the world.  The Bone and Tissue Bank is now part of the University of Miami.  The Rotary Club of Miami continues to support the Bone and Tissue Bank and in 2011 raised $10,000 at the grassroots level and assisted in arranging for an $88,000 donation from the Batchelor Foundation to pay for a new, state-of-the-art digital x-ray machine.  The machine is in use and providing superior bone and tissue grafts to surgeons.

As far back as the 1940’s, the club has been providing scholarships to high school, college and post-graduate students from the Greater Miami area.  In the 1980’s, a longtime member of the club, Thomas Brown McClelland, established a medical scholarship trust fund to be administered by the Rotary Club of Miami, for qualified Miami-Dade County high school students.  His desire was to assist them by providing funds toward their education. To date, over $6 million has been distributed to over 950 medical school students.  There is more detail under the “Thomas Brown McClelland Scholarship” tab.

The club also provides a yearly award of $1,000 to the outstanding police officer in the City of Miami Police Department. This award was established by Dr. Jack Griffitts, a long time member of our club.  There is more detail under the “Griffitts Award” tab.

In the 1990’s, a generous donation from John and Grace DeLury funded the Wm. R. Robbins Jr. Interact Scholarship Fund at Miami Senior High School. The Rotary Club of Miami disperses the funds to deserving graduating seniors to help with college expenses.

The Rotary Club of Miami has a long history and impressive legacy, but today we do not claim credit for past accomplishments.  Times change, needs change and we adapt how we help.  Our goal is to add to the long history and rich legacy by making a positive difference in our community, as well as, by helping each other through networking with friends.  The club has supported hundreds of charities and helped thousands of people through its many community service projects and philanthropy in almost a century of service, and looks forwarding to continuing to do the same for centuries to come.