The Rotary Years – 1925 to 1942

While in Lima he had his first personal contact with Rotary.
He was apparently trying to organize a Rotary Club in Lima, when he was advised by Chesley Perry, the Secretary of the International Association of Rotary Clubs that a Mr. Pezet was on his way as a Special Representative of the Association to do exactly that.

James H. Roth sent a letter, dated June 9, 1919, to Chesley Perry acknowledging the request and offering his cooperation.









More than a year went by, and finally on January 13, 1921, Mr. Roth sent a letter to the International Association requesting the admission of the Rotary Club of Lima. There were ten charter members, including James H. Roth and a man who later became R.I. President: Fernando Carbajal.




In June 1925 Chesley Perry, General Secretary of Rotary International, asked James Roth to become Rotary Special Representative in Spain and Portugal for a period of one year. He was very successful in organizing the Rotary Club of Lisboa, Portugal and 4 more clubs in Spain. He also participated in the organisation of the Rotary Club of Stockholm, Sweden.

He was very proud to tell that during his
time in Europe, he had been received by
Pope Pius XI in private audience.
Click for larger image





After one year, he returned to RI headquarters in Chicago, and spent some time there, before receiving the honor of being the first R.I. employee to become Special Commissioner for Central and South America.

It was July, 1926; for the next 16 years he traveled from one country to another, occasionally staying in one place for a few months, working diligently on behalf of Rotary International.
By now he is no longer Mr. James Roth, the American; he became “Don Jim” to all of his friends, most of them Rotarians now.
One of the first Rotary Clubs he started was San José, Costa Rica.

He then proceeded to San Salvador and to Guatemala, thus adding two more clubs in Central America.

In April of 1927 he received this letter from Rotary International (the name had been adopted in 1922), requesting his help in forming a new club in Asunción, Paraguay.

It is important to note, at this point, that traveling in those years was not an easy task.
All travel between Rotary headquarters and the countries in Central and South America was by boat. Within
the countries, it was either by train or by car or by horse drawn carriages. No paved roads, no air conditioning, dusty in the dry season, muddy in the rainy season. El Salvador to Paraguay was a long journey.

During 1927 James H. Roth, now called simply Don Jim, was extremely active. To the Rotary Clubs mentioned before, add Guayaquil, Ecuador and Bahia Blanca, Argentina.

Guayaquil is where he had started his diplomatic career. Now, he was back representing Rotary International.

He presided the inaugural session of the Rotary Club of Bahia Blanca, Argentina in December of 1927. As usual, the ceremony was well covered by the local press, and thus contributed to the spread of the Rotary movement.



The Rotary Clubs west of the Andes were all part of R.I. District 64. The first District Assembly took place in Valparaiso, Chile, October 1, 1927. It was called then Executive Convention. Don Jim represented Rotary International at that District Assembly. The first District Conference was in Santiago, Chile, from March 31 to April 1, 1928. Don Jim represented Arthur H. Sapp, President of Rotary International.
Several more Rotary Clubs were formed during the year 1928, including:
Brazil:- Campos, Porto Alegre, Petropolis, Pelotas and Rio Grande
Argentina:- Paraná
Colombia:- Medellín
Don Jim continued traveling through South America, and new Rotary Clubs were established in the following years.
Once in a while, a few lines about him and his work would appear in The Rotarian.

He finally retired in June, 1942. and “The Rotarian”, November 1942
His health had never been very good, and the extensive traveling had taken its toll. He had been at the service of Rotary for 18 years, during which time he had formed, or made a substantial contribution to the establishment of over 170 new Rotary Clubs in Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
As for the total number of clubs, the number given is not verifiable; however, some accounts by Rotarians in South America give a number of over 200.
Unfortunately, Rotary International’s files dating back to late 1920’s and early 1930’s are not well organized, and verifying the validity of that claim would be extremely time consuming. Whether the number of new clubs is 175 or 206, it is irrelevant. The truth is, Don Jim’s contribution to the growth of Rotary in the region is unmatched.

While living in Brazil, Don Jim had developed a love for the country and had made many good friends. It was no surprise, then, that after his retirement he would become the secretary for the American Brazilian Association of New York, to continue the work of good understanding and friendship he had been doing for Rotary.
In the following years his commitment to Brazil led him to become first vice-president for the Society of Friends of Brazil, based in New York and sponsored by Columbia University.
At Paul Harris death, Armando de Arruda Pereira, past President of R.I. who resided in Brazil, was unable to attend the funeral. He asked Don Jim to represent him and the entire country.

In 1948 he was honored by the governments of Brazil and Ecuador, in appreciation for his work and dedication.

These decorations were reported in the Rotarian in January 1948

In 1950 he made the decision to return to his old home in Ventura. He was 63 years old now, and wanted to live a quiet life. It did not last long, though. He started, with other retirees, the Retired Professional and Businessmen Club and the Ventura County Historical Society, of which he was president.
At one time or another, he had been an honorary member of more than 20 Rotary Clubs, including the one in Ventura.
In November 1967, perhaps sensing his end, he wrote his last will and testament.
On August 29, 1968, he passed away.

The last known picture of Don Jim.