The first Ruritan Club was chartered May 21, 1928, in Holland, Virginia. Since that first club, Ruritan has grown throughout the United States of America, and in doing so, has become 'America’s Leading Community Service Organization."
Tom Downing of Suffolk, Virginia, and Jack Gwaltney of Holland, Virginia, are known as the co-founders of Ruritan. Gwaltney and Downing recognized the need for an organization where community leaders could meet and discuss ways to make their community a better place in which to live.
The name "Ruritan" was suggested by Daisy Nurney, a reporter for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot newspaper, and the club’s charter members unanimously adopted "Ruritan" as the organization’s name. The word is a combination of the Latin words for open country "ruri" and small town "tan," interpreted as pertaining to rural and small town life.
-excerpt from Ruritan National