Rotary mourns two past presidents

James Lacy who was RI president during 1998–99 passed away on Oct 4 at age 92; and PRIP Richard King (2001–02) on Oct 11.

James Lacy, also called Jim, was a dedicated public servant, successful businessman and a devoted family man. I met him in November 1989, when I was confirmed as the RI President for 1991–92. He was the best person to be an assistant moderator in the 1991 District Assembly. My aide-designate and friend George Arceneaux Jr suggested James Lacy. I met him and his wife Claudine and I was impressed and agreed. Thereafter, I contacted him many times, and he became a moderator in my year as RI President. We met the couple for family, business and Rotary life.

PRIP James Lacy looks on as PRIP Rajendra Saboo administers polio drops to a child on a National Immunisation Day.

Jim Lacy joined RC Cookeville, Tennessee, US, in 1964. He was club president in 1978–79, DG in 1980–81 and RI Director in 1988–90.

Jim was born in Cookeville, Tennessee, east of Nashville, the state capital, and spent most of his life here. At the Cookeville Central High School, he met Claudine Carrington and they got married in 1948.

Jim’s first business enterprise was selling automobiles. In 1950, he and Claudine moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he soon earned distinction as Pontiac Automobile’s youngest sales manager. In 1952, he responded to his country’s call to service and spent two years in the military. He declined an opportunity to become an officer because it would mean more time away from his young wife.

By 1956, the Lacys were back in their hometown of Cookeville. Jim became very successful as a real estate developer, while Claudine helped with decorating custom-built homes. Jim was a well-respected businessman and decided to seek election to the House of Representatives of the Tennessee General Assembly, the legislative branch of the state government. He won the election in 1965 and served two terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

PRIP Lacy (5th from R), PRIP Saboo (L) and PRID Sudarshan Agarwal (R) with RI directors at a meeting with the then Prime Minister of India I K Gujral in 1997.

In 1986, Jim decided to sweeten his life with the purchase of a candy company in Paducah, Kentucky. The company — Gilliam Candy Brands, Inc — makes hard candy (boiled sweets), peanut brittle and taffy. “Everything but chocolate and jellies,” he would say. Although the couple’s home remained in Cookeville, they commuted to Paducah every week to oversee corporate operations.

Over the years, Jim expanded his enterprise tenfold by buying other candy companies with manufacturing plants in New York, Kansas, Kentucky and Georgia. He had the highest regard for the well-being of his employees, and was very proud of the fact that each company he acquired retained its management.

Jim had many fond memories of his Rotary service over the years. One of the highlights, he said, was leading a Group Study Exchange (GSE) team to England (now District 1110) in 1977. This opened his eyes to the internationality of Rotary.

Jim came to Chandigarh in January 1997 for PolioPlus, visited our home and met all the past governors of my district. The late PRID Sudarshan Aggarwal arranged our meeting with I K Gujral in the prime minister’s office.

PRIP Saboo and Usha with PRIP Richard King and his wife Cherie at the Saboos’ residence in Chandigarh.

Later, Usha and I invited Jim and Claudine to visit the Taj Mahal, Agra. Thereafter, we stayed for 2–3 days, visiting other places.

In December 1997, Jim and Claudine were the guests of honour at the sixth Rotary India Award organised at the FICCI Auditorium, New Delhi. In July 1998, Dr Clarice Broome, acting Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented the Champion of Prevention Award to Jim in appreciation for continuing his extraordinary contribution toward the global eradication of polio.

In January 2004, at the launch of National Immunisation Day (NID), Jim presented the Rotary Polio Eradication Champion Award to Sushma Swaraj, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, in New Delhi. “India has seen a tremendous decline in polio over the past year,” said Jim, as India recorded 233 polio cases in 2003, down from 1,400 in 2002.

No matter how many cars we have in our driveway, or how many accolades we receive for the things that we do — no business success will ever register if we fail mankind.

Richard King
RI President (2001–02)

Rotary Centennial Sculpture, presented to the city of Knoxville in April 2005, honours RI’s commitment to the children of the world as exemplified by three outstanding Rotary District 6780 leaders, Bill Sergeant, who headed Rotary’s global polio eradication campaign, and past RI presidents James Bomar and Jim Lacy who championed serving all children. These three Tennesseans are global volunteer leaders who worked together to take the fight against polio to new heights.

“I started to think about how Rotary and The Rotary Foundation started with a dream. A dream is something that comes from the heart, and you make it happen with your hands,” Jim said, adding, “Through action, you make your dreams come true. After several brainstorming sessions with staff, I finally decided on the theme, ‘Follow Your Rotary Dream’.”

Richard King

Richard D King joined RC Niles (Fremont), California, in 1968 and his love for the service organisation, of which he was a member for over 50 years, remained as strong as ever.

A 1996 file photo of PRIP Rajendra Saboo with PRIP James Lacy (seated, left) and PRIP Richard King (standing, second from right) at the RI headquarters, Evanston, USA.

Rick adopted the Charles Dickens line, “Mankind is our Business”, when he assumed his role as RI President in 2001–02. He was humbled to serve as President in the year he was selected. He said, “The lesson ‘humble’ is to admit the challenges we face and to seek help as soon as we get stuck. This will enable us to move faster and achieve more.”

We both walked a significant part of our Rotary journey together and our togetherness was a source of Usha’s and my fondness for Rick and Cherie and we are fortunate to call them our friends.

It looks like yesterday when we first met in Delhi in 1980 during his visit to our then District 310 as a leader of a GSE team. I was a past governor then but could even then spot the leadership potential in Rick. He returned home from that first GSE experience a changed man.

Everyone told Rick, “You’ve got to meet Raja Saboo.” When we met, he urged me not only to talk about Rotary service, but do it too! My speeches over the years have demonstrated my commitment to the work of Rotary and it was a great lesson for Rick.

Next I heard Rick address at RC San Francisco during my visit as RI Director in 1981. And the next opportunity was in 1982, when as RI Director I represented RI President Stan McCaffrey and addressed Rick’s club at his District Conference. That was the beginning of our association and over a period of time, we went through our significant Rotary journey. It has been my pleasure to share Rick’s companionship and camaraderie.

A dream is something that comes from the heart, and you make it happen with your hands. After several brainstorming sessions with staff, I decided on the theme, ‘Follow Your Rotary Dream’.

James Lacy
RI President (1998–99)

I also cannot forget how Rick defended the RI Board’s decision with candor to uphold absolute righteousness at the 1990 Portland Convention. He also talked about how regardless of one’s personal success, nothing in the end matters if we can’t help people while we’re here.

Another occasion I recall is when I was the incoming RI President at the 1991 International Assembly in Anaheim, USA. President Paulo Costa and his wife Rita insisted that my wife Usha and I join them on the stage. I was to dance with Rita, Usha with Paulo. It was a great honour but we felt uneasy. Both of them being proficient in dancing made it easy for us to dance with them for a few minutes. By the time Cherie, Rick and more couples came on the floor, we withdrew to our seats.

One of the nicer traditions in northern and central India is to touch the feet of elders to show your respect and seek their blessings. When Rick visited India, he observed this and whenever we met, Rick touched my feet, seeking blessings.

 Rick always motivated and touched people with his eloquence and heartwarming presentation. His humanitarian services were recognised by his district.

Over the years, Rick stayed in our home, and we stayed in his. I asked him and Cherie to represent me in Africa. While there were many highlights in our journey, what made our camaraderie so rich was the little thoughtfulness that he extended to Usha and me, with such huge respect.

I cannot forget how Rick defended the Board decision at the 1990 Portland Convention with absolute candor to uphold the righteousness.

Rick was one of the best speakers in the Rotary world. His moving and inspiring presentation about the good Rotary does in the world offered a great opportunity to introduce Rotary to our family, friends and colleagues, and for new members to get a deeper understanding of Rotary.

Rick said Rotarians were important and among the nicest people on the face of the earth. Let me end, by quoting Rick: “I am convinced that no matter what we do in our own lives — no matter how many cars we have in our driveway, no matter how many degrees we have hanging on the walls in our offices, no matter how many accolades we receive for the things that we do — no business success will ever register if we fail mankind. It’s the only business we’re going to take when we leave this world.”

The writer is a past RI president

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