Sir Frederick James


Sir Frederick E. James, originally from London, (he was knighted in 1941) was no stranger to Rotary. He had been president of the Rotary Club of Calcutta in 1924-25 and 1925-26. It was his job as Vice President of the United Planters Association of South India, that brought him to Madras — a fortunate move from Rotary’s point of view.

It must have been a great encouragement to Davidson to find another so devoted to the extension of Rotary in India. Sir F. E. James is described as having been ‘a man of high character and pleasing personality, a good speaker and, most important of all, he possessed a comprehensive knowledge of Rotary.’ .There is no doubt that Davidson could have single-handedly established Rotary in Madras but in this city of 530,000 people, Davidson found one valuable ally: Rtn. Frederick James. Like Davidson, James lived out the then Rotary motto ‘He profits most who serves best’. He was a member of the State and Central Legislatures in India for over 20 years. He served as General Secretary of the YMCA, Calcutta, from 1920 to 1928. His tenure in India was Rotary’s gain.

The first meeting of the Rotary Club of Madras was held on May 10,1929, at the Connemara Hotel. The 30 charter members included James and represented the leaders of society and industry. All but three were present at that first meeting. The first President of the Club was Rtn. C.G. Armstrong, Chairman of the Madras Port Trust; the first Secretary was Morton Chance of the Hotel Chain. The Club was chartered on July 19,1929 when all the members were non-Indian but soon after this Raja Sir. M.A. Muthaiah Chettiar was inducted into the club.

Subsequently, Davidson recommended that Rotary International appoint Frederick James, Honorary Commissioner for Rotary International for the Middle Asia Region. In 1932, James organised the first Convention of Rotary Clubs in India, Burma and Ceylon. The convention was held at Calcutta for what was called ‘Provisional District ’A’. It is a matter of pride that the first Director of Rotary International from India, was none other than Frederick James of the Rotary Club of Madras. He served in this post from 1933-34. James added another first to his credit when he became the first Governor of District 89 in 1936-37 and served a second term in 1938-39. The first district conference was also held during his tenure as Governor in 1937. James was also the RI President’s representative at various conferences in India.