Robert James Shalders
One of the Early Leaders of Rotary
Shalders was a diplomat at the American Embassy in Rio de Janeiro and when the Rotary Club was founded there, Antonio Augusto Teixeira, a friend of Shalders in Rio, visited the Rio Club, where Shalders had become its secretary in the early 1920s.
Antonio Augusto didn’t want to return to his base in Montes Claros without first visiting his friend.
Shalders, upon witnessing his friend’s enthusiasm for Rotary, smiled and made his friend a challenge.
He challenged Antonio Augusto to found a Rotary Club in Montes Claros, if he had the courage and perserverance to do this.
The two friends became very enthusiastic about the aims and principles of Rotary and determined to spread the ideas of the movement further.
At the time, Shalders was particularly interested in visiting Montes Claros, to see and taste the best of what the little city had to offer: sun-dried beef and a native tropical fruit, the pequi, which is a staple food rather than succulent and sweet.
Antonio Augusto wanted to honour his agreement with his friend Shalders to found a Rotary Club in Montes Claros so he contacted the principal leaders of the city – a city of little more than five thousand inhabitants – the Rotarian philosophy was presented along with the advantages of having Rotary international representation inMontes Claros.
The result was enthusiastic and immediate.
“If Rotary was good for Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, it would be even better for Montes Claros”, exclaimed the lawyer Alfredo Coutinho, immediately applauded by all present.
A distant city, in the Interior and isolated, always eager for news from the outside world, Montes Claros would never dream of letting a chance like this slip through their fingers.
A dream… more than a dream… that fell out of the clear blue sky.
Shalders promised that he himself would be in Montes Claros, travelling the thousand miles from Rio, to preside at the; first meeting.
Intense discussion followed and soon the details were decided and the day set for the inauguration.
In the intervening years, Shalders, an enthusiast of the principles and ideas of Rotary and who had already helped to found the Rotary Club of Rio de Janeiro (1922), had also helped organise the clubs of São Paulo (1924) and Santos (1927).
In mid-1927, he was working with the Automobile Club of Minas Gerais, in the flourishing city of Belo Horizonte.
His contact with the company, gave him the opportunity to create more Rotary clubs in Brazil.
He brought together a select group of sympathizers interested in the creation of a Rotary Club of Belo Horizonte. with Reginald Gorham, a former member of the Rotary Club of Rio de Janeiro, responsible for coordinating the initial instructions for future Rotary members of the new club.
On September 13, 1927 the fifth club in Brazil (the fourth in seniority) began.
The first formal session, was held at a dinner, at the Automobile Club of Belo Horizonte.
During the dinner,the Governor of the Province, Donato Gaminara revealed the practical usefulness of Rotary in the development of cooperation of all human activities, and exchanges in the spirit of altruism and kindness.
After this, Shalders himself wrote on September 5 1928, to John Estevam de Siqueira, Branch Manager of the Bank of Commerce and Industry of Campinas, asking him to found a Rotary Club in that city.
The letter reminded him of Mario and Horacio Costa, engineers of Mogiana Cia de Estradas de Ferro, Augusto and Fernando Nogueira Filho, manager of the Banco Noroeste.
This invitation did not create the same success as an identical request by Joaquim Gabriel Penteado and John Monteiro.
Later, Robert Shalders went to Campinas himself for two days and joined Hermas Braga, to visit every corner of the city, without any discussions about his goals.
The Rotarians did not tell him that James H. Roth, Special Commissioner of Rotary International, had already planned to create the RC Campos (RJ), on 5 October 1928.
Jim, was known as the “Friends of the Brazilian Rotary”, and the mayor of the city Orozimbo Maia, knew that Roth was sure to accept the command for the foundation of the club.
Resulting from a request to attend Campinas, Miguel Arrojado Lisbon (Director of Rotary International 1931-32), and Samuel Leon de Moura, Governor of District 72, (the only district in the country) from the RC of Santos, the third Governor of Rotary in Brazil, then started the work of organizing a new Rotary Club in what was known as the cultural capital of the state of Sao Paulo.
Shalders assisted them.
By now Shalders was working as the commercial representative of SKF, the manufacturer of bearings.
He remained based in Rio and worked hard at expanding Rotary’s influence in Brazil.