A Red Deer man continues to work to solidify the legacy of a remarkable Alberta man whose influence was and is felt in many ways today.
Dr. Bob Lampard has long had a fascination with James Davidson – a very dedicated Rotarian who worked tirelessly in serving several communities and the Rotarian cause at large.
To that end, The James Wheeler Davidson Collection on the Origins and Early Development of Japanese Rule in Taiwan is just one current title in a series of books that will ultimately be written about him, said Lampard.
First in the series is The Life and Times of James and Lillian Davidson in Rotary International, for which Lampard wrote an introduction.
“The Red Deer connection is that he gave the opening speech – the charter night speech – here in Red Deer to form the Rotary Club in 1920,” he said. “His story, his life and his contributions also need to be restated, re-visited and resurrected so that his place in history is described and defined,” said Lampard, who was also part of a landmark trek up Mt. Davidson which is located near the edge of the Canadian Rockies.
“You can see it from Red Deer,” he said with a smile. “If you know where to look, you can see it.”
The mountain, located about nine miles north of Lake Minnewanka, had been named after Davidson, but his name hadn’t been put on the maps. “So when we discovered the date and the time that that was supposed to happen, the ‘names’ people in Ottawa found their error and immediately put it on the map.”
Lampard promptly organized a first ascent back in 2003.
About 24 Rotarians and friends took part in that milestone journey. They even conducted a Rotary meeting at the top, he added.
When he passed away in 1933, folks wanted there to be some form of recognition for what he had done.
The idea of naming a mountain after him surfaced, so they went through the hoops, but through an error, the naming of the peak just didn’t officially take place as planned. “In the process, they didn’t follow through 100 per cent accurately.”
When Lampard eventually inquired where Mt. Davidson was exactly, he was told there were three in B.C. but none in Alberta.
Thanks to his pointing this out, it was eventually officially named, and Lampard and his fellow Rotarians made that trek up the mountain for what proved a very meaningful experience.
“The resurrection of Davidson’s story starts in Red Deer with my discovery during the 75th anniversary of the Rotary Club that the Red Deer club was charted by a chap by the name of Davidson,” explains Lampard, who has described the visionary as a man who loved to travel and who was truly adventurous.
“He had an usually high level of human and geographic curiosity. He sought to understand the local cultures whether it was the Inuit of Greenland or the Aboriginals of Taiwan.”
Davidson, a successful and prolific businessman as well, was originally from the U.S. but came to Canada around 1905. He first settled in Winnipeg but later relocated to Calgary.
“He joined the Rotary Club in 1912 just after it was formed,” said Lampard. But perhaps his most impactful contribution was to come. Davidson would go on to be involved in the chartering of Rotary Clubs globally during a trek around the world from 1928 to 1931.
“He was a man of peace – that was the motivation that (inspired) him to go on that trip,” said Lampard.
“He was deemed to be a Japanese sympathizer, but in actual fact he was a man of peace. He was there promoting peace as he had been in 1895 promoting peace.
“In some ways, Davidson represents perhaps the epitome of (Rotary’s) promotion of peace and good will,” he said.
“He would promote fellowship by making friends,” added Lampard, who has been traveling to all of the Rotary Clubs that Davidson formed which number about 23. These journeys will all be detailed in a book one day as well, he said.
Lampard not only has an avid interest in local history, but he continues to contribute to its preservation as well.
Last year, he made a special donation of treasured volumes to the University of Lethbridge – with a specific personal connection to the institution.
He donated more than 6,700 volumes from his own private collection.
They are now housed in the Dr. Dorothy Lampard Reading Room at the University of Lethbridge – particularly meaningful as she (Bob’s aunt) had joined the newly-formed University 50 years ago as a founding faculty member and senator.
Bob’s collection includes a complete series of the Champlain Historical Society publications, many volumes of the Hudson’s Bay Record Society and many seminal primary narratives of the exploration of the Canadian Arctic.