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Santa Barbara Rotary Welcomes Great Granddaughter of Club’s First President

97 Years Ago Santa Barbara Rotary Was Founded, James W. Briscoe First President

Santa Barbara, California USA – WEBWIRE

The Santa Barbara Rotary Club was founded in 1917, and its first President was James W. Briscoe. We have now come full circle as Mr. Briscoe’s great granddaughter was recently in attendance at our weekly meeting at Fess Parker’s Double Tree Resort.

Brooke Elizabeth Briscoe Burney is four years old. She also rode alongside our current President, Katerina Zamyatina, on the Rotary float in the Old Spanish Days Fiesta parade. This event now becomes a part of Rotary’s history, as well as that of Santa Barbara itself.

James Briscoe had been a businessman in Oakland, California, and a member the Rotary Club there.  After he moved to Santa Barbara in 1914 to operate a ladies ready to wear business on State Street, he missed the fellowship and service aspects of Rotary.  Early in 1915 he wrote to Rotary in Chicago for permission to organize a club in Santa Barbara.  The reply written by Chesley Perry, the International Secretary and dated March 8, 1915, said “it would be very inadvisable to organize a Rotary Club in a city of only 13,000 people.  There should be enough classifications to make up to a membership of between 100 and 200 members, and that in a small city, jealousies would be engendered.” But Jim was a capable and persistent man, talking to potential members, and continuing to write to Chicago.  Finally in early fall of 1917, they agreed to let him try out the Rotary system on businessmen of the community.  On October 5th Jim invited five others to meet together at the Arlington Hotel to discuss the possibility.  They agreed to serve as an organizing committee, to meet weekly, and to invite others to join with them.  By October 19th the large group attending, voted unanimously that they organize the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, and appointed a committee to draw up a constitution and bylaws.  The next week the draft constitution and bylaws were presented and adopted. 

On November 2nd James W. Briscoe was elected the first President along with the other officers.  Charter night was held at the Arlington Hotel on December 14, 1917, with 35 charter members.  The charter from International Association of Rotary Clubs was dated January 1, 1918, but the club was fully organized with weekly meetings since November 2nd under the expert guidance of Jim Briscoe.  This was the first club in the tri-county area.

To learn more about the Santa Barbara Rotary Club please visit


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