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Chamber of Commerce (Richmond, Ky.) (1931-) | Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

Name: Chamber of Commerce (Richmond, Ky.) (1931-)

Historical Note:

The Greater Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce was established in late 1931. A group of concerned progressive minded civic and business leaders with conservative fiscal views desired a Chamber that could "deal effectively with local civic problems and it would be the instrument, thru which the business welfare of the city could be promoted."1 (See the Richmond Register, November 18, 1931, p. 1). Chamber's of Commerce experience rapid growth throughout the United States during the 1920s in response to greatly expanded business and industrial activities. Creation of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce was in part a response to this development and also a reaction to the growing economic depression which gripped Kentucky and the nation. Richmond Mayor William O'Neil, cashier of the Madison Southern Bank and active Chamber supporter, felt that the "time is here when Richmond and Madison County must present a united front to the world if we hope to hold the business we now have and get that which should come to us."2 (See the Richmond Register, November 27, 1931, p. 1)

The initial organizational meeting of the Chamber was held on November 17, 1931 at the Hotel Gibson. Postmaster Burton Roberts assumed the position of chairman for the organizational campaign. Roberts appointed five captains--George Fawkes, manager of Kentucky Utilities; G.L. Borders, insurance agent; William DeBardeleben, manager of Woolworth's; J.W. Elder, Elder Dry Goods Company; and H.B. Willoughby, Willoughby Coal Company-to seek members and solicit funds for the Chamber. A community dinner held at the First Baptist Church in early December 1931 helped to generate interest and growth in the new Chamber. By the time of the Chamber's first general meeting on December 14, 1931 there were approximately 160 individuals, firms and associations who had become charter members.

On December 23, 1931 officers and a Board of Directors were selected by the membership. Original Board members included--B.E. Willis, G. Marshall Brock, David J. Copeland, H. Bennett Farris, George W. Fawkes, J.W. Hamilton, W.P. Millard, Burton Roberts, George T. Ross, H.B. Willoughby, Allen H. Douglas, and Keen Johnson. The first offices elected were-President - H. Bennett Farris; Vice President - Burton Roberts; Treasurer Allen Douglas; and Secretary - Marshall Brock. A full time secretary, Frank H. Shaffer of New Castle, Pennsylvania, was also employed. Chamber headquarters were located in the Hotel Glyndon and remained there until 1975 when it was relocated to its present location at the corner of Irvine and First Streets.

Through the years the Chamber has experienced a remarkable degree of consistency and stability largely due to the able direction provided by its executive directors--C.D. Oldham, Howard L. Colyer and Sue Chenault. The Chamber has had four different names through the years--Richmond Chamber of Commerce (1932-1945), Richmond Board of Trade (1945-1961), Richmond Chamber of Commerce (1961-1975), and Greater Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce (1975- ).

Although through the years the Chamber has witnessed many striking changes in the history of Richmond, its goals remain virtually unchanged. The Chamber has stood for improving the community's economic status by encouraging business and industry to locate in Richmond, it has actively promoted Madison County's unique historical and scenic tourist attractions, strongly encouraged the development of a county airport facility, helped to control fraudulent business and advertising schemes, and served as a liaison between the Blue Grass Army Depot and Eastern Kentucky University and the community.

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