Two Civil War buffs met at a party in 2009, and of course, their conversation turned to the Civil War. These buffs were Tom O’Donnell and Wally Rueckel. After agreeing on how much they enjoyed their involvement in Civil War round tables, Tom suggested they consider starting their own. The rest was history!
Since both were retired business executives, they had the skills to organize such a venture, starting with a planning committee which included a finance and non-profit organization expert, an advertising and publicity professional, and three other retired business executives. They also sought the advice of local professionals in the field of history; i.e., Larry Maisel of the Southport Historical Society; Mary Strickland, Director of the NC Maritime Museum at Southport; Chris Fonvielle, professor of history at UNCW; Jim McKee, site manager at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson; and, Max Williams, retired history professor from Western Carolina University. All enthusiastically agreed to participate by providing excellent support and advice to this fledgling group.
The planning committee worked for a year organizing, recruiting, and officially forming this 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization, open to individuals of any age, sex, or ethnicity. It was especially important to welcome folks without any real knowledge of the Civil War in order to fulfill its mission to educate and communicate an unbiased history of the war to the community. They established a Board of Directors, decided on a meeting place, meeting dates and times, and agreed on a guest fee and annual membership dues which have not increased since the very first meeting! That first meeting was held on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 in Morrow Hall at Trinity United Methodist Church, across from the Southport Post Office. Eighty-five folks attended, and surprisingly, almost half were women.
Over the years continued growth required a larger venue, so in December, 2015, Hatch Auditorium, on the grounds of the North Carolina Baptist Assembly and the site of Fort Caswell, became their new meeting place. The auditorium could hold 1,000 attendees, had an elevated stage, a balcony, and state-of-the-art A/V equipment. This venue continues to comfortably accommodate the Round Table’s audiences to this day.