The Genesis and Genius of District 25
Dr. Louis E. Tompkins was a very determined man. You could see it in his face and the way he walked. With his short-cropped hair and his Germanic features, one would think he was a football coach or a successful farmer. Only his hands would indicate his true profession.
As he walked back to his office on that cool Fall day in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1948*, this very busy and successful dentist was very happy. He had just received word from Toastmasters International founder, Dr. Ralph Smedley, that the widely scattered clubs in the whole state of Texas and part of Louisiana had been granted their charter as Toastmasters District 25. For three years Dr. Tompkins had been a faithful attendee at Toastmasters International conventions, having begun as a charter member of the Wichita Falls Toastmasters Club, which was started in April 1945. Because he knew the Toastmasters organization at all levels and had spearheaded the drive to obtain the district charter, Dr. Tompkins was named as the first District Governor of the new district.
*Confirmed charter date of District with Toastmasters International – 7/1/1948
There were only twelve clubs in the district, and because of the large area the district encompassed, it was going to be difficult to govern them. Up to then, many of the clubs operated independently of each other. The structure of the meetings was different from club to club. Dr. Tompkins knew the job was going to be difficult, but he was excited about the challenge. He knew what Toastmasters training had done for his life and he wanted to share it with others and to help the organization grow.
He sent a telegram to the president of each club, informing each of them of the good news, urging them to increase their membership, and start making plans for their first district conference.
Dr. Tompkins visited several of the clubs during his term, which lasted more than a year, trying to mold the clubs into the desired structure. When their first District Conference was held in Dallas in 1950, the district had 19 clubs. At that conference, Joe A. Shirley was elected as the new District Governor.
By the time Dr. Tompkins handed the reins of the district to Joe Shirley, it was clear to him that the district was too large. Many of the clubs were in the northeast part of the state and the Shreveport Club was large, and some clubs were in Houston and several more in far west Texas. There were hundreds of miles between the clubs of north and west Texas, with no clubs in between. Discussions with the leaders of the west Texas clubs revealed a desire to establish their own district and plans were made accordingly.
In 1953, District 25 voted to split into two districts with the creation of District 44 in the western part of the state, effective July 1, 1954.
District 25 was still enormous. The successful creation of District 44 proved that smaller districts could be governed more effectively and provided more opportunities for leadership training. So, just three years later, on September 15, 1956, at a District Council meeting at the Melrose Hotel in Dallas, Texas, District Governor Vic Ballowe gave a status report on dividing the district once again. The division was formally established on July 1, 1957. It was given the number “56” by International, and the new northern district was allowed to retain the number “25”.
In August 1957, the geographically smaller but more efficient District 25, with 41 clubs and 781 members, hosted the International Convention in Dallas, Texas. International Director J. O. Grantham from Waco, Texas, and Bob Smith from Dallas, who had attended the 1956 International Convention in Detroit, Michigan, headed the Steering Committee for the International Convention.
(Note: The International Convention was not held in Dallas again until 1990 when District 25 with 203 clubs and 4,258 members hosted the event, with DTM Bob Lanz as Convention Chairman.)
District 25 grew at a healthy rate until it peaked in 1966 with 61 clubs and 1,237 members.
After that year, except for minor increases occurring in isolated years, the number of clubs and the total membership suffered a fairly steady decline until it bottomed out in 1976 with 41 clubs and 872 members.
Under the leadership of Dick Dodds, in 1978 the number of clubs increased to 48 and the membership jumped to 1,039.
From that point on, District 25 has enjoyed tremendous growth with the increase in the number of clubs each year usually exceeding the total number of clubs in existence at the time of its founding in 1948.
Surely we owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Tompkins and hundreds of other past District 25 leaders. We now drink from these wells “we did not dig”. But we are a part of the continuing history of this great District. We are all making history. We are forming and framing the future. Let us make it one of which we can be proud!
On November 2, 1991, the District Council once again voted to pursue dividing the District. Keeping Dr. Tompkins’ home club, 305 Wichita Falls, in District 25, the Eastern section is to be designated as District 50.
Effective July 1, 2008 clubs in the Abilene and San Angelo areas (part of District 44) were added to District 25.
Effective July 1, 2010 clubs in the Temple/Killeen areas were moved from District 25 to District 55 (Austin).