500th Board Meeting
February 28, 2006 | Coral Gables, Florida
As the U.S. Chamber Board of Directors meets for the 500th time, we look back at some of the board's milestones.
- On April 22, 1912, 700 business delegates gathered at the Willard Hotel in Washington,DC to begin the process of creating a new national business organization—the "Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America."
- During this organizational meeting, Harry Wheeler was elected the first president of the U.S. Chamber. Wheeler was president of the Chicago Association of Commerce and vice president and director of the Union Trust Company of Chicago. Delegates also elected three vice presidents and the Chamber's first board of directors. In 1912, the original board of directors had 25 members.
- It took three meetings of the first board of directors to put the new organization's constitution and bylaws into final form.
- The U.S. Chamber's Executive Committee hired the organization's first staff on July 11, 1912. The committee named Dr. Elliot H. Goodwin as general secretary, and David A. Skinner as assistant secretary.
- In December 1924, the board held its first meeting at the new U.S. Chamber Building.
- In July 1942, the U.S. Chamber had 57 directors.
- In January 1950, the 249th board meeting was held in Miami Beach, Florida. This would be the 52nd time in the first 38 years of its existence that the board met outside of Washington, DC. During the period 1912 to 1950, the board met twice outside the United States—in Havana, Cuba, February 1927, and September 1948 in Victoria, British Columbia.
- The board even met twice on railroad trains—once going from San Francisco through St. Paul, Minnesota, to Chicago, and once from New York City to Washington, DC.
- After 1950 until 1998, the board would meet outside of Washington on only one occasion—Montreal, Canada, on June 18, 1953, in a joint meeting with the board of directors of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
- Board meetings present a time for work and a time for fun. In April 1946, board members meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey, were entertained by the Georgia Peaches of Georgia State Womans College.
- In 1973, Edward B. Rust, president and CEO of State Farm Insurance Companies headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, was chosen as U.S. Chamber president for 1973–1974. This was the last time the chief elected officer of this organization was to bear this title.
- In February 1974, Charles H. Smith Jr., chairman of the board of SIFCO Industries, became the first principal elected as chairman of the board.
- At the November 12, 1997, board meeting, important changes in the board's structure were proposed. At the suggestion of new U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue, it was recommended that the maximum size of the board be increased to 125 members. The purpose for this expansion was to strengthen federation relations and to broaden the involvement of the Chamber's diverse membership. State chambers and other federation partners were encouraged to suggest board candidates for consideration by the Chamber's Nominating Committee.
- In December 2005, the board had 112 directors.
- Throughout the U.S. Chamber's history, its board of directors has represented members, set policy, approved the organization's annual budgets, and approved the hiring of the Chamber's officers. Since its founding in 1912, volunteer leaders and directors have worked effectively and with great dedication with the Chamber's officers to advance the central purpose of this organization—to represent American business before Congress, at the White House, before federal regulatory agencies, in courts, in the court of public opinion, and in trade negotiations worldwide.
- On February 28, 2006, the U.S. Chamber's board of directors conducted its 500th board meeting at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Presiding was Board Chair Maura Donahue, President, DonahueFavret Contractors Holding Company, Covington, Louisiana.