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The Organizer
The Organizer

Between Jack Gwaltney the Founder and Tom Downing the Builder, there is one person very important to recognizing both men.for their Ruritan successes. Without this one person being successful in his own Ruritan position, then Ruritan's Founding would have been for naught and there would not have been a Ruritan National to build. That one person is President of the 151 Ruritan Club, E. Taylor Batten.

The success of practically any human endeavor rises and falls on leadership. To be successful, this new idea of farmers and town's people club must have the right leader. Jack Gwaltney is just 3 years out of college and young and unproven, but respected by local farmers and merchants because he is a local farm boy (neighboring Isle of Wight County). He is experienced with his Vo-Ag Advisory Council, Vo-Ag Classes, and evening Farmers Classes; however Gwaltney has no experience with any civic or community club such as Rotary or Lions, and has no organized leadership experience in the community. Tom Downing would be a good leader, but not being a local farmer nor having any local business connections, he cannot join the Holland Ruritan Club; and by not living in the Holland community he is an unknown, so people do not know nor have any reason to respect Tom Downing'S abilities. Holland School Principal HV White probably has the credentials to lead the new Club, but community school consolidation would not make him a favored choice. The right person would be the one respected by farmers and town's people alike, be learned and well conversant, have leadership characteristics and managerial skills, be organized, demonstrate a positive attitude to deal with people on all levels, and be very much acquainted with running community/civic club activities to organize the new Club. There is such a person in the community and he is part of a "Lucky set-up" arranged by Divine Providence (a phrase Tom Downing refers, to in later years). That person is E. Taylor Batten. He is Supervisor of the Tidewater Agricultural Experiment Station, member of Gwaltney's Vo-Ag Advisory Council, manager-leader with positive attitude, member of Suffolk Rotary Club, local farmer, and greatly respected by all throughout the community. ET Batten agreed to Chair the April 1928 Organizational Meeting of this new Group. He led the planning; he chose and appointed the committees; and then he followed through to ensure that this new "Business, Professional Men and Farmers Group" organized successfully. In May 1928, ET Batten was elected the first President of the first Ruritan Club, Holland Ruritan Club. His job was now to lead fellow Ruritans in organizing a most successful first Ruritan Club.

And what a success! Under President Batten's leadership and with support of fellow club members, the Holland Ruritan Club enjoyed interesting meetings; which included community topics, entertaining programs or appropriate speakers, and delicious luncheons prepared by local Ladies Groups. This new Ruritan Club of Holland brought fellowship and goodwill among men in the rural community, and attracted many invited guests from far and wide, even neighboring North Carolina. Several visitors left the meetings with copies of the Constitution and Bylaws to begin their own Ruritan Clubs. Such was the success of this new rural community club, the Ruritan Club of Holland, and the success of E. Taylor Batten, its first President and Chief Organizer.

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