Julian Levin, "a gentleman and a scholar of the old school," according to his friend and fellow Rotarian Bernie Kole, recently received the club's most prestigious award, the Rotary Bowl, for his work with the community.
"If ever a man was a more perfect example of the motto of Rotary — Service above Self — he is Julian S. Levin, known affectionately to all of us as ‘Junie,' " Kole said in his presentation of the award.
A Beaufort native, Levin is a partner in the law firm of Levin, Gilley and Fisher and has been practicing law here since 1949, the same year he joined the Rotary Club of Beaufort. He is the club's longest-serving member.
In the 75-year history of the Rotary Club of Beaufort, there have been just 47 recipients of the Rotary Bowl. First presented in 1936, the Rotary Bowl honors anyone — Rotarian or not — who has made an extraordinary contribution through involvement in the activities of the community and working to make life better for others through leadership, volunteerism, financial support or other means.
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Levin's community service is vast. He has been president of the Beaufort Bar Association, chairman of the board of the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club and board member of such organizations as the Historic Beaufort Foundation, the Open Land Trust, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Lowcountry and Friends of the Library. He served on the Beaufort County Board of Education, has been a volunteer fireman and is especially proud of having been a scoutmaster for Troop 1.
He has also donated his legal expertise over the years to clients and community organizations.
Long local ties
Levin's father was born in Beaufort in 1890. Educated at The Citadel, the elder Levin's career in publishing and printing included work for The Beaufort Gazette.
Remembering when Beaufort's population was no more than 2,700 people, Levin called it "a typical small town, where everybody knew everybody. … It was so small that if you saw a car you didn't recognize on Bay Street, you'd walk up to someone and say, ‘Whose car is that?' "
In this "very close community," even though the South was still "strictly segregated at the time, I feel like everyone respected each other," Levin said.
Levin graduated from Beaufort High, and his senior year at the University of South Carolina was also his first year of law school. It was also the beginning of World War II, so "just about everyone in my class left to go in the service," he remembered.
He served as a Navy navigations officer and was later a Beach Master. During the war, he received six campaign ribbons for his participation in six landings in the Philippines and Borneo.
He came back in 1946 and finished his law degree, and though he said he had "an opportunity to go elsewhere … my folks were here, and I honestly couldn't imagine living anywhere else."
When he began to practice law in Beaufort, he joined Rotary because it was "the most active service club in the area" at the time. "It was a businessman's club back then," he recalled.
"Over the years, we've had some various fine programs," Levin remembered, and took particular pride in Polio Plus, an inoculation effort. Rotarians saw to it that thousands of Beaufort County citizens were vaccinated against the disease.
The Rotary Reader program — in which club members read weekly to children at Coosa Elementary — was another favorite effort for Levin.
Levin called the Rotary Club "a great organization with dedicated people … a top-flight civic organization." An exceptionally self-effacing man, he repeatedly said he didn't want to be publicly profiled but agreed to it in order to give his fellow Rotarians recognition.
"There are so many great (people) in the club," he said. "I just don't feel like I should be singled out."
When he's not working or involved in club activities, Levin and his wife Renee, who have four children and eight grandchildren, are avid readers and active in the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club.
"We're always sailing and fishing," he said.
And that's not surprising for a hometown boy who remembers a childhood spent "in the river, all the time. The sheriff used to tell people that he could've done a better job of law enforcement if he wasn't always pulling me out of the river."