He began his law practice in 1896 in Chicago. In 1905, Harris organized the first Rotary Club "in fellowship and friendship" with three clients, Silvester Schele, Gustavus Loehr, and Hiram Shorey . His initial goal was to create a club of professional and business men for friendship and fellowship. Early on, Harris realized that Rotary needed a greater purpose. While Harris served as president of the Chicago Rotary Club in 1907, the club initiated its first public service project, the construction of public toilets in Chicago. This step transformed Rotary into the world's first Service Club.
Harris had great ambitions for the growth of Rotary, and very early in the organization's history new clubs were started, first on the west coast, and then all over the US and in Europe. By the time of Harris' death at the age of seventy-nine, Rotary International had grown to more than 200,000 members in 75 countries. Rotary International currently numbers 1.2 million members world wide. The motto of Rotary International is "Service Above Self". While the club provides a venue for both business and social networking, the primary focus is on local and international service projects.
Paul Harris Fellows
Individuals who have contributed more than $1000 to the Annual Program Fund, the Polio Plus Fund or the Humanitarian Grants Program of the Rotary Foundation are recognized as Paul Harris Fellows. Additionally, individual Rotary clubs may from time to time recognize individuals with honorary Paul Harris Fellows. These honorees are individuals who meet high professional and personal standards set forth by Paul Harris. Paul Harris recognition is not limited to Rotarians. A Paul Harris Fellow receives a special certificate and a gold pin. At the discretion of the Fellow's club, the Fellow may also receive a gold medallion on a blue-and-gold ribbon.
Over its past 85 years, the Rotary Club of East Hartford has honored many individuals, both Rotarians and non-Rotarians, with an honorary Paul Harris Fellow Recognition. Current members of the club nominate candidates for consideration, and members who are Paul Harris Fellows vote each year on the recipients. Both the Paul Harris Fellows honored by the Rotary Club of East Hartford, and the Paul Harris Fellow club members, are listed on the link in the upper left corner of this page.