Q&A with J. Hatcher Graham

September 18, 2013 

J. Hatcher Graham

Q&A with J. Hatcher Graham

City of Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Attorney; president of Rotary Club of Warner Robins

QUESTION: Rotary International celebrates 100 years this year. When was the Rotary Club of Warner Robins started?

ANSWER: In January of 1957. It was chartered here by Bill Wisse, one of, if not the first, lawyers in Warner Robins.

QUESTION: How did Rotary get its name?

ANSWER: Paul Harris started by meeting with three friends in 1913 in Chicago, and they would rotate where they meet, hence Rotary.

QUESTION: It started with four, how many members now?

ANSWER: There are 1.2 million worldwide with clubs in almost every country.

QUESTION: How many members in Warner Robins?

ANSWER: About 80 and we’re always glad to have more. We have a mix of old and young from all walks of life. We’d love to see more military members join. We recently put together a military affairs committee to stay abreast of how we can be of service to Robins Air Force Base.

QUESTION: What’s Rotary’s primary purpose?

ANSWER: I’d say the primary Rotary International thrust is something called Polio Plus. It has been for decades. Unless you’re over 50 or 60 you’ve probably never seen anyone in the U.S. with polio or in an iron lung, but in other parts of the world it’s taken longer to eradicate, but it’s being done.

QUESTION: How’s that going worldwide?

ANSWER: As of six months ago, it’s been all but eradicated except for in three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. They have a low but consistent number of cases. There was a new polio outbreak reported in Somalia six to eight months ago. You may notice those are dangerous countries to work in. In February, 14 polio workers were killed by various organizations in Afghanistan and Nigeria. Of course, Rotary hasn’t been solely responsible for eradicating polio, but we’ve played a part.

QUESTION: So other than in the countries mentioned, polio is stamped out?

ANSWER: Stamped out may not be the right word because polio is always there to rise again if people aren’t vaccinated. Treatment is two drops of vaccine in a child’s mouth, and they’re forever inoculated, but you have to do that generation by generation. If children aren’t inoculated it can spread again. That’s why Rotary International gave a $500,000 rapid response grant to the World Health Organization to help fight the large Somalian outbreak.

QUESTION: Locally, what projects is Rotary Involved in?

ANSWER: We’re also involved in other international projects like global clean water efforts and feeding children and homeless people, but more locally there are things like our district’s Medical Equipment Transport Service which collects and distributes medical equipment not being used here to places it’s needed around the world. Over $17 million worth has been distributed.

We’re involved in local causes and projects like giving every third-grader in Houston County a dictionary and reading in schools. Instead of giving speakers a club token, we donate a book in their name to libraries. We ring red kettle bells at Christmas, volunteer at the Special Olympics bowling tournaments and that sort of thing. We’re also part of Georgia Rotary’s Student Program and with Perry Rotary provide a scholarship to an international student to come here for a year of college.

QUESTION: When and where do you meet?

ANSWER: At the Wellston Center, 155 Maple St. We meet, have a speaker and a catered lunch at noon on Tuesdays. Anyone is welcome to be our guest and check us out, or they can call me at 478-953-5606.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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