Harris, Paul Percy

Harris, Paul Percy

(1868–1947) lawyer, founder of Rotary International; born in Racine, Wis. He grew up in Vermont and then went to Iowa where he received his law degree (1891). He moved about for five years and then settled in Chicago and practiced law. As a non-native who felt isolated, he began to bring three Chicago business acquaintances together for informal meetings; in 1905 he called their meetings the "Rotary Club" because they originally met in rotation at their offices. The idea spread to other cities and by 1910 the National Association of Rotary Clubs was founded, with Harris as its president (1910–12; emeritus president to his death). He tirelessly preached a secular gospel of sociability and service and the clubs spread throughout the world until Rotary International was founded in 1922.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.