March 17, 1917, was no ordinary day . . . nor the individuals involved. They were business and professional leaders concerned, not only about their community, but about world events. They were dreamers, too, wanting to make a difference in their world. They believed their actions could help build a better world. They had been meeting as a civic club which was slanted just a little too much toward personal gain to suit these men. They gave up the charter they had purchased and set out to make a club suitable to them. Gregory Johnston was elected as the first president of the group. Eventually they settled on the name Civitan, a phrase coined from the Latin "civitas," loosely meaning citizenship.
It had been suggested by Jelks H. Cabaniss. "Builders of Good Citizenship" was a natural motto for the civic-minded group. Arthur C. Crowder was the Civitan who suggested this symbolic phrase.
The process to incorporate was begun, and on April 15, 1920, the group met at the Southern Club, and Civitan International was born. Officers elected were: Dr. Courtney W. Shropshire, president; Rev. J. A. MacSporran, vice president; John Fry, treasurer; and John Mix, secretary. Charter Number One went to the Birmingham Civitan Club, later designated as "The Mother Club of Civitan International."
In the following months clubs in Helena, Arkansas, Memphis and Knoxville, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida, were chartered. By June of 1921, when the first international convention was held in Birmingham, there were 30 clubs and more than 300 delegates at the convention.
From the very beginning, Civitan encouraged its clubs to seek out needs within their community and to fulfill those needs. Some truly outstanding projects were among those tackled by these far-sighted leaders. They found crippled children living in dire poverty and paid for operations to help them walk.
Civitans have built hospitals, parks and playgrounds. They served as big brothers to troubled youth. They registered voters. Civitans dreams were big, their sights high, their accomplishments great.
From the time Civitan chartered its first clubs, aid to those less fortunate was a notable project. Concern for retarded children was a natural expansion of the early effort to assist crippled children. By the decade of the 1950s, Civitan work in this area had made giant strides and a momentous decision was made to adopt the mentally retarded as a major emphasis project.
In 1960 the Civitan International Foundation was established by the executive board. That year a scholarship fund for needy college students was established.
Programs to honor outstanding members were created to collect funds and only interest from these funds would be used as scholarships.
Today another dream is a reality. The Civitan International Research Center was dedicated in 1992 during the Birmingham Convention. Civitans are once again reaching out to those in need in new ways -- this time not only to provide treatment but to look for ways to improve the quality of life and perhaps eventually prevent mental disabilities and other developmental disabilities.
Projects have always been a shining monument to the work and concern of Civitan clubs for their communities. Extraordinary projects are accomplished by ordinary citizens like you and me. The thought that a project costs too much does not stop Civitans from working hard for the community.
Civitans come from all walks of life and we're proud to have included the following notable Americans in our membership:
President Calvin Coolidge.President Franklin D. Roosevelt,President Dwight D. Eisenhower,President John F. Kennedy,President Harry Truman,Richard Petty,Cindy Harrell,Eddy Arnold,Bobby Eakes,Bo Jackson,Frank Thomas (Chicago White Sox, President Bill Clinton (Junior Civitan),U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black,U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ed Sanford,WWI General John J. Pershing,Thomas Edison
Civitan has become one of the worlds leading volunteer service organizations, with more than 40,000 men, women and youth in 24 countries.
You can find out more about Civitan by visiting it's website at http://www.civitan.org./
Duane Capps is the Civitan International President for 2016-2017. He is a member of the Southeast Guilford Civitan Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. Since joining in 1983, he has served in a leadership role at all levels of the Civitan organization. His most recent position at the international level was Senior Director of the Civitan International Board of Directors in 2012-2013.
Duane lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with his wife Lisa (also a Civitan). He has been an employee of Pella Carolina, Inc. for more than 35 years. Duane and his wife Lisa have two children, Melissa and Jacob; and three grandchildren, Kyra, Breanna, and Aleah.
5104 Field Horney Road
Greensboro, NC 27406-9726