The Rotary Club of Lynchburg was organized on February 3, 1917, sponsored by the Roanoke Club. Lynchburg Rotary Club was the 280th club to be organized, and became affiliated with the International Association of Rotary Clubs on March 3, 1917.

The Club's initial projects included victory gardens, War Bonds drives and other events to support the war effort. With peace in November 1918 and the increased use of the automobile, the growing need for an adequate highway construction program occupied the club's attention throughout the '20s and '30s.

One pioneer civic project occurred in December 1919, when the Club advanced $750 to underwrite a campaign to bring the Boy Scouts of America to the area. More that $18,000 was raised in a week and enabled the Boy Scouts to open a local office with a Scout Executive. The same Rotary spirit has continued in the Club's allocating funds throughout the years for construction projects at Scouting and “Y” camps to make it possible for underprivileged boys and girls to attend.

Our Rotarians raised money to fund the Salvation Army in 1921 in Lynchburg. We have continued our support.

The Depression Years, 1929-1939, brought forth an outstanding array of speakers and lectures from faculties of Randolph-Macon, Sweet Briar, and Lynchburg Colleges as well as experts from other cities. In 1935, the German Ambassador, Dr. Hans Luther, addressed the Club and spoke eloquently of Hitler's peaceful intentions.

Twenty-one members of the Club served in World War II.

“Service Above Self,” the Rotary motto, did indeed exemplify the Club's first fifty years. The Club spent $50,000 supporting a Bedford County family of seven orphans, legally adopted by the Club and personally administrated by Rotarian John Bell Winfree. The Club's members assisted the children, saw them all graduate from high school and college, and unofficially supported them as they found professional careers.

Growth and expansion of Rotary ideas is revealed in Lynchburg Rotary’s sponsorship of six other clubs: Danville, Lexington, Bedford, Altavista, Fort Hill (now disbanded), and Lynchburg Morning Club during the first 75 years. Forest was our seventh sponsored club in 2002. The Lynchburg Rotary closed out the first half century with a membership approaching 170 and with a keen awareness that: “he profits most, who serves best.”

Seventy-one years after the founding of the Club, the president of Randolph-Macon College, Linda Lorimer, became the first woman member in 1988. Eight years later Belle Wheelan, PhD, President of Central Virginia Community College became the first woman president. The Club's membership is now roughly 30% female, and the club has had eleven female out of 102 presidents.

All during the Club's history the members have supported Rotary International projects via Paul Harris memberships and donations to the Polio Plus campaign. Since 1917 the Club has donated over $300,000 to Rotary International projects.

During the past twenty-five years the members of the Club have been more direct in having fundraisers for substantial community projects. In 2003 the challenge was made to the Club members to join with the Rotary Morning Club to raise $100,000 for a skateboard park in downtown Lynchburg. In three years the Club's three-quarters' portion, $75,000, of the project cost, was completed. 

Since 2003, the Rotary Club of Lynchburg has donated over $325,000 to various projects throughout Lynchburg, as well as members time and talent. These funds supported: the Rotary Centennial Skatepark, the Academy Center of the Arts, Lynchburg Rotary Club All Inclusive Playground at Riverside Park, the Lynchburg Dog Park, restoration of a certain portion of the Daily Bread Center, the Habitat for Humanity Anniversary House, and the Mercy Care Project in Africa.

In 2003 the Club developed a project between the Lynchburg Rotary Club and the Mzuzu Malawi (of Central Africa) Rotary Club. To assist with costs the Club employed its first Rotary International Matching Grant Project. The members of the work team designed, purchased, and installed an Electric Motor Driven Maize Grinding Mill in a newly constructed brick building on the edge of the Mzuzu, at the Malawi Children's Orphanage complex. The Maize Mill is self-sustaining. The on-going operational expenses are underwritten by providing milling services to near-by residents, for a competitive fee, in addition to milling grain for the Orphanage. At the formal Maize Mill Dedication Ceremony, Dr. Harold Riley, Robert Roberts, Biff Bowen, Dr. Joe Clark and Bill Perkins represented the Lynchburg Rotary Club.

Our world health projects have included the following: partnering with the Smith Mountain Lake Rotary to supply medical equipment for youth and elderly care facilities in Africa; partnering with our French sister city to provide clean safe water to a depressed area in Latin America; and contributing funds for a project which provided deep tube wells for 47 communities in Bangladesh.

In the past quarter century our Club has been involved in a variety of service projects. For example:

  • Building the Rotary Championship Disc Golf Course at Peaksview Park;
  • Organizing downtown and city clean-up projects;
  • For 12 years the Club hosted a Russian Educators Cultural Exchange that was sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center of the U.S. Library of Congress;
  • Making “Christmas in April”, now known as “Rebuilding Together” a major force to restore homes for 13 years;
  • Since 1992 we have sent citizens on five Group Study Exchanges and have hosted four Group Study Exchange tours. We were delighted to sponsor high school students for a year’s study in Brazil and Italy, and to host students from Belgium and Germany.

Another long-standing project of the Club has been Café Bon Ami at the Lynchburg Art Festival. The profits from Café Bon Ami help support the Sister City of Lynchburg-Plus's programs and citizen exchanges. A number of our Rotarians have been hosted, as we have hosted, delegates from France and Germany. The first Sister City match was with RueilMalmaison, France, the second was with Glauchau, Germany.

Each spring we enjoy meeting two Ethics Awards' seniors from each of the local public and private high schools. We have awarded to the honorees $50 savings bonds, or one $500 college books scholarship, or, most recently, Rotary Medallions. Each January we meet the two or three enthusiastic students whom we co-sponsored, with the Morning Club, to the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards seminar.

As a follow-up to our members' work in 2003 in Malawi, in 2017 club members initiated a project to supply solar powered lights in Mzuzu, Malawi. With light students can study at night, work and home can be a much safer place to be. Several of our member visisted Malawi in 2018 to distribute solar powered lights to the village, which were purchased by the club.

Today, the Rotary Club of Lynchburg is concentrating on Literacy as our primary service project. in 2019, the club purchased and delivered books to every 1st nd 2nd Grade student in the City of Lynchburg, for them to take home and read during the summer. To support this project, the Club holds an Annual Bingo Night to raise the funds needed to purchase the books. The Club has also taken two blocks on Court Street in downtown Lynchburg as part of the Lynchburg City Downtown Street Clean Up Program, and club members meet monthly to clean the streets on those blocks.

Over the past 25 years Neville Rowland, Bill Goodman, Jim Martin and most recently, Shannon Watts have served as District 7570, Area 5 Assistant Governors. The Rotary Club of Lynchburg has been awarded the Governor's Gold Club Award seven times since 2012, when the Gold Club program was started by District 7570.