Club History

The Rotary Club of Green Bay was formally recognized by Rotary International in early 1917 as Club number 279. We are proud to be one of the first 300 Rotary clubs worldwide. The genesis of the Green Bay club started years earlier, when a group of German immigrants formed a swim club. They would gather weekly and take a cruise on the river to swim, picnic, and enjoy the day.

As this club morphed into the Thursday Swim Club, additional citizens, especially those not of German heritage, joined for the weekly cruise, swim, and party. The cruise began and ended near the Walnut Street Bridge. Several of the thirteen founding members were a part of this club. It was through connections to that group of swimmers and through their common business interactions that the original Founders got to know one another.

Early in 1917, word reached Green Bay of the new businessman’s club called Rotary, which had been organized in Chicago by Paul Harris in 1905. Once the idea was proposed, James H. McGillan, an attorney, accomplished speaker, and enthusiastic organizer, took the lead in pushing the formation of the club and getting the charter. O. F. Brandt, an insurance man, had an important part in the work as well, and continued to carry on as a devoted Rotarian and as an organizer of other clubs in the district.

There were thirteen in attendance at the first meeting at the Beaumont Hotel on January 29, 1917. The application for a charter was approved February 9, 1917, and Green Bay began Rotary Club No. 279.

The early days of Rotary in Green Bay were largely devoted to the organization of new clubs. This was natural since the Rotary idea was spreading rapidly and the national office in Chicago was encouraging existing clubs to sponsor additional clubs in their respective districts.

Rotary prospered in Green Bay from the beginning and its members quickly found that they could make important contributions to the welfare of the community through the direct sponsorship of various projects. During World Wars I and II and the various conflicts since, Rotarians have been active in bond drives and as workers in campaigns to support the Red Cross. Throughout its history, the Green Bay Club has given liberally to such activities as Boy Scouts, camps, the YMCA, little league, schools, scholarships and more. It is estimated that contributions between the years 1917 and 1967 totaled more than $50,000.

In 2017, our club celebrated 100 years of service. Click on the items below that were created to celebrate this event.

Today, more than 100 years later, the Rotary Club of Green Bay spans the entire community, including membership and service. We know there is more to do and are ready to do it. The next five, fifty and one hundred years will see further diversity of membership and community service. Our hope is that our efforts in the community will encourage you to consider Rotary membership. Together we can continue to serve the local and international communities for the next 100 years.