Chartered on September 23, 1937, the Rotary Club of Lillington has helped to make a better community. Working with the schools and helping build facilities for civic clubs and other events, the Rotary Club of Lillington has been a supporter of youth and education in our community and in the world.
The Town of Lillington is the seat of government of Harnett County, located in the southernmost part of Rotary District 7710. Located on the banks of the mighty Cape Fear River, Lillington was named for Revolutionary War hero, General Alexander Lillington, hero of the pivotal Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. Lillington, located about 30 miles south of the Capital City, celebrated the centennial of its incorporation in 2003.
The Early Years: 1937- 1955
Rotary International issued a charter to the Rotary Club of Lillington with 22 charter members on September 23, 1937. J. Shep Bryan, District Governor and a member of the sponsoring Rotary Club of Dunn, presented the charter at a banquet held in the Lillington Municipal Building. Rotarians from six adjoining clubs attended this meeting. Of the original 22 charter members, one N. Frank Lewis, Jr. is still a member, 67 years later!
The charter officers of the club were: Neill McKay Salmon, President; Joe P. Smith, Vice President; Everett Stout, Secretary-Treasurer, and Joel Layton, Jr., Sergeant-at-Arms. The Board of Directors was composed of Reid Ross, R.K. Footman, E.B. Cameron, Neill McKay Salmon, and Everett Stout.
The Lillington Club’s membership has fluctuated from a high of 31 to a low of 17 members. During the first years of the Club’s history at least 50 per cent of the men of the town 30 years of age and older were, at one time or another, members of the Club. The membership of the Club was made up of business men, professional men and ministers, with the professional men being in the majority, until 1994, when the first woman was proposed, and became a member.
Service to the local community was a hallmark of the early Rotary Club of Lillington. During the 1940s and early 1950s, the Club helped sponsor the Lillington Cannery, a service much needed in the community in those days before widespread refrigeration was available, as well as by farmers for miles around. Local families canned many thousands of pounds of meats and vegetables in this facility during the years when the Cannery was in operation.
Another early project was the so-called “Pig Chain,” where Club members obtained and donated young pigs to farm boys and girls in the rural areas of the community, with the understanding that one of the piglets from each litter would be given by the original recipient to a deserving young person on another farm. This was intended to both provide income and sustenance to farm families during the Great Depression and the World War II years, and to improve the breeding stock of the area’s farms.
The Rotary Club has sponsored the local Boy Scout Troop 61 since its inception, and has provided support and helped supply scoutÂ¬masters and other executives for the troop. Troop 61 is the oldest continuously chartered Boy Scout Troop in the Oconeechee Council.
For many years, the Rotary Club of Lillington served the community as a kind of Chamber of Commerce for the town until a regular Chamber of Commerce was organized. The Club in those days functioned as an agency helping to bring industries and business to the community, and lending its aid in all causes looking to the betterment of all the people of the town.
Rotary took the leading role in the improvement of the playgrounds of the local schools during the 1950s. A large sum of money was raised and much needed playground equipÂ¬ment was purchased and installed on the grounds, adding much to the enjoyment of the pupils as well as to the beauty of the school. Club members were also instrumental in helping to create and landscape a parking area for school buses at the schools which was more easily accessible for the pupils, which added greatly to the safety of the pupils as well as adding beauty to the school itself.
It was the Rotary Club that promoted the idea of building a Lillington Community Building for the town, and then assisted in raising the money to build the building and find furniture and equipment for it. Later it arranged to get air-conditioning and heating units installed.
The Middle Years: 1956-1987
As the Rotary Club of Lillington settled into its role as the leading civic and service organization in the community, it continued to promote and participate in many worthwhile community, district and international projects. It was during these years that C. Reid Ross, retired Harnett and Fayetteville City Schools Superintendent, became District Governor of District 773 (now District 7730).
The Rotary Club’s focus widened to include district projects, Rotary International projects, and support for The Rotary Foundation while continuing its strong presence and support for the local community. For a number of years, the Club contributed annually to the Boys’ and Girls’ Home at Lake Waccamaw, by providing a “shopping spree” just before Christmas each year to one of the residents there. This allowed the young person to outfit him- or herself, and to buy gifts for their loved ones.
When the various churches in the community opened a thrift store to help provide clothes and other household items for families in need, the Club provided a badly needed clothes washer and dryer to the program.
The Club also began a program of contributing regularly to the Rotary Foundation during this period. The Polio-Plus endeavor, the goal of which is to eradicate Polio from the earth, became a serious focus of the Club, which had both members and relatives who had suffered from this dreaded disease.
During these “middle years,” the Club engaged in many community service activities such as the Lillington Fourth of July Festival in the Park, widely recognized as having some of the finest fireworks in central North Carolina, and the local festivals sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
In 1980, the Club began a local scholarship program to provide educational assistance to graduates of Harnett Central High School. This program, begun with only two scholarships each year, has grown to include five university-level scholarships and five additional community college and technical school scholarships. The Club, in 1984, sponsored Lynn Marshbanks of Buie’s Creek as its first successful Ambassadorial Scholar. Miss Marshbanks, now as successful attorney, studied for a year in England thanks to The Rotary Foundation.
In 1985, the Rotary Club of Lillington, to honor the namesake of Harnett County, Cornelius Harnett, began sponsoring the Cornelius Harnett Charity Ball. Now recognized as the foremost social evening in the area, this ball has continued to grow year by year, and is a significant source of funds for the Club’s many projects.
In its more than 67 years, the Rotary Club of Lillington has had many meeting places, most of which are no longer operating. Places such as Rastons CafÃ©, the Hotel Lillington (old Caviness Hotel), Lillington Teacherage, the Killiegrey Hotel, various church fellowship halls, the Lillington School cafeteria, the Burwell house, the Lillington Community Building, Two-way CafÃ©, Speedy’s Restaurant, Wade’s Restaurant, and Sirena’s Courtyard Restaurant (now Root’s Front Street CafÃ©) have hosted club meetings. The Club has also enjoyed the catering services of many local ladies, among them the women of Lillington Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches, who took turns feeding the Club. At another time, during the period of food rationing during World War II, the Club met at the town library in the Burwell House, and each member brought sandwiches and a soft drink. Individuals also “fed” the Club when it met in the Lillington Community Building, including Mrs. Vera Caviness, Mrs. Eloise Harrington, and the Ladies of the Spring Hill United Methodist Church.
Modern Times: 1987-2004
In the years since its 50th Anniversary in 1987, the Rotary Club of Lillington has become an even stronger force promoting education in Harnett County. The Club began two additional projects in the area of education, an award to honor outstanding teaching and a new academic scholarship program. Beginning in 1989, the Rotary Club of Lillington’s Harnett County Teacher of the Year Award carries an unrestricted cash award of $500.00 and is awarded annually to an outstanding educator. In 1997, the Club created its own endowed scholarship program, named for Past District Governor and Charter Member C. Reid Ross. The C. Reid Ross Educational Endowment has grown substantially as a part of the North Carolina Community Foundation and now awards a scholarship that is renewable annually for four years to a student who is planning to become an educator.
Over the past few years, the Club also became a significant supporter of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International; currently the Club has 31 Paul Harris Fellows, signifying that $1000 has been contributed to The Rotary Foundation in their names. All members of the Club are Foundation Sustaining Members, signifying that they are committed to contribute at least $100 per year to the Rotary Foundation, the largest private educational and humanitarian foundation in the world.
The Club’s major fund raising efforts are the Cornelius Harnett Ball, a charity ball held each year featuring live music, great food, a silent auction, and much socializing. These events, and the recently established Rotary Club of Lillington Parent-Child Golf Tournament held at Keith Hills Country Club, raise enough money to carry out the Club’s charitable programs.
Some programs that have been, or are now supported by the Rotary Club of Lillington are:
- The C. Reid Ross Educational Endowment Scholarship for prospective teachers
- The Lillington Rotary Club Scholarships for local high school graduates
- The Campbell University Professional Golf Management Scholarship
- The Rotary Club of Lillington-Harnett County Teacher-of-the-Year Award
- The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International and its PolioPlus Polio Eradication Project
- The Rotary Youth Leadership Award and Conference
- Rotarians Against Drugs
- Harnett County Habitat For Humanity
- United Way of Harnett County
- Boys’ and Girls’ Homes of North Carolina
- Boy Scout Troop 61 of Lillington, NC
- Installation of roadside historical markers honoring Cornelius Harnett and Alexander Lillington
- “Welcome To Lillington” sign program
- The Lillington Centennial Celebration of 2003
- The Annual Lillington Fourth of July Celebration
- Harnett County Library
- Equus Heals – Equestrian training and therapy for disabled children
- Oak Ranch – facility for troubled youth
- Harnett Central High School Project Graduation
- S.A.F.E. of Harnett County
- Cougar Character Awards
- Buddy Backpacks for Harnett County
For much of its history, the Club was active in Rotary District 773; since becoming a part of Rotary International District 7710, members of the Club have served every year on various District committees. In 2001, the Club found itself in the unique position of having two of its members, Bill Hobbs and Glenn Hood, serving District 7710 as Assistant Governors. In 2005, Hood will assume the post of District Governor of District 7710.
In the 67-year history of the Rotary Club of Lillington, the goal of the Club has been to make the community, state, nation, and world a better place in which to live. Club members have worked to educate others, to eradicate terrible diseases, and to create a climate conducive to greater peace in the world. Much remains to be done, and the Rotary Club of Lillington will continue to provide “Service Above Self” as it strives to achieve these goals.
Presidents of the Rotary Club of Lillington
Neill McKay Salmon, 1937-38, J. Stedman McLean, 1938-39, J. A. Walker, 1939-40, Joel Layton, Jr., 1940-41, Dr. Alvin W. Peede, 1941-42, L. M. Chaffin, 1942-43, Hilton Longnecker, 1943-44, J. Stuart Melvin, 1944-45, Alexander R. Burkot, 1945-46, Rev. Samuel F. Hudson, 1946-47, Dr. W. B. Hunter, 1947-48, Howard W. Watkins, 1948-49, C. Reid Ross, 1949-50, Malcolm Fowler, 1950-51, Daniel D. Dean, 1951-52, George M. Norwood, Jr., 1952-53, Robert B. Morgan, 1953-54, Dr. J. K.Williford1954-55, Henry H. Hamilton, 1955-56, David A. Huffines, 1956-57, W. K. Sexton, 1957-58, Glenn T. Proffit, 1958-59, J. R. Baggett, Jr., 1959-60, George M. Norwood, 1960-61, Roger C. Johnson, 1961-62, James L. Roberts, 1962-63, R. Melvin Turlington, 1963-64, Jimmy Cashion, 1964-65, George McCotter, 1965-66, R. A. Gray, 1966-67, I. A. Wortman, 1967-68, William H. Randall, 1968-69, Troy Byrd, 1969-70, Edward H. McCormick, 1970-71,Harold W. Lloyd, 1971-72, Roger Montague, 1972-73, William D. Powell, 1973-74, Dr. John B. Dunn, 1974-75, David B. Carter, 1975-76, Ivo A. Wortman, 1976-77, Roger C. Johnson, 1977-78, Harold W. Lloyd,1978-79, M. Glenn Hood, 1979-80, Daniel Spangler, 1980-81, Steven C. Skinner, 1981-82, R. Larry Currin, 1982-83, Thomas C. Edwards, 1983-84, Collett G. Davis, 1984-85, Henry Thompson, 1985-86, Dallas H. Pope, 1986-87, Joseph Boone, 1987-88, Gerald Smith, 1988-89, Grover A. Smith, 1989-90, Jeff G. Roberts, 1990-91, Thomas McClay, 1991-92, Charles A. Adams, 1992-93, James P. Davidson, 1993-94, John E. Wilbourne, 1994-95, Gerald Seifert, 1995-96, M. Glenn Hood, 1996-97, Ronnie W. Faulkner, 1997-98, William A. Hobbs, 1998-99, Kenneth D. Little, 1999-2000, Cameron C. Barr, 2000-01, R. Larry Currin, 2001-02, Thomas Holmes, 2002-03 and 2003-04, Jeff Paschal, 2004-05, Dr. Chris Chao, 2005-06, Peter Goolsby, 2006-07, Leon McKoy, 2007-08, Peter Strickland, 2008-2009, Bill Hobbs 2009-2010, Karen Kratz 2010-2011, Jason Wunsch 2011-2012, Tom Woerner 2012-2013, Glenn Hood 2013-2014, Bill Hobbs 2014-2016, Karen Kratz 2016-2017, Tom Woerner 2017-2018.
(Information for this article was obtained from documents prepared by the late L.M. Chaffin and Roger C. Johnson, and interviews with several other Rotarians by M. Glenn Hood.)