James W. Houck, Sr 1906-2006

Jim Houck lived a life of accomplishment through service to others. 

In 1930, Jim secretly married his wife, Betty. Another secret Jim had was his great fondness first for dandelion wine, and then later for other types of alcohol. Because he wanted to meet Betty’s expectations, he knew he needed to turn around his life. 

This led him to a commitment to the Oxford Group, a Christian Fellowship organization, on December 12, 1934 where he met Bill Wilson, who would later organize Alcoholics Anonymous. The ethical precepts of the Oxford Group – the Four Standards of Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love and the Four Steps of Surrender, Sharing, Restitution and Guidance - became the foundation of his life. The Oxford Group changed Jim’s life and set him on the path of changing the lives of countless others. 

Jim first joined Rotary in Towson in 1948. He was a member of the Towson Club for fifteen years until he transferred to the Timonium Club. Subsequently, Jim transferred to the Rotary Club of Hunt Valley in 1993 and served as its president from 1997 to 1998. 

Because of Jim’s commitment to the Four Standards and the Four Steps of the Oxford Group, he felt a special affinity for the Four-Way Test, the set of principles intended to guide the conduct of Rotarians everywhere. Drawing on his deep understanding of individual transformation and social change, Jim knew that the Four-Way Test must reach kids as well as adults. 

In 1968, through the Timonium Rotary, Jim initiated a Four-Way Test program in St. Stephen School, a nearby Catholic elementary school. He persuaded the school to sponsor an art contest in the early grades. Children drew examples of the Four-Way Test principles and wrote simple essays about them. He also established a Four-Way Test oratorical contest at Dulaney Valley High School. In the next few years he expanded the elementary program to Sparks elementary school and the oratorical contest to Hereford High School. In due course, he initiated an essay program at the Hereford Middle School. The Rotary District for Maryland and the District of Colombia (7620) later adopted the oratorical contest as a district-wide activity. 

Jim has been recognized by many organizations for his accomplishments, and in 1999 Rotary International awarded him its highest award, the “Service Above Self” award. In 1996, Jim and The Rotary Club of Hunt Valley established The James W. Houck Foundation as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization to continue Jim’s mission and vision. 

Jim Houck passed away on July 30, 2006 at the age of 100.

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