Founding of the National DeSoto Club, Inc.
Back before there was the National DeSoto Club, there was another DeSoto club called the DeSoto Club of America. In the early days of collecting DeSotos, this was really the only resource for members to use to come together. While it was nice to have a club with a newsletter and advertisements that certainly played its part in helping the hobby, the club did not do any actual events or print a roster that would allow members to easily find each other and come together. After suggestions and requests to do so were shot down by the club's Founder and President, Greg Walters took it upon himself to start having get-togethers within Ohio where he lived with people he had gotten to know and connected with through either local shows or other clubs, such as the WPC.
Though Greg had been in contact with other DeSoto owners for several years, the first gathering took place on May 19, 1984 at Greg's house, co-hosted with Scott Belville. A total of nine DeSotos were present that day, most of which were '56 models, which was Greg's favorite model year and that meant naturally the people who he knew best also generally had '56's. That meeting would be the official start of the Buckeye DeSoto Club, which would later evolve into a chapter of the national club after its founding.
The very first Buckeye DeSoto Club meeting in May 1984, held at Greg’s home. From left to right: Bob Brewster’s 1947 8-Passenger Sedan, Steve Hensley’s 1956 Firedome Sedan, Ralph Pierce’s 1955 Fireflite Sedan, Craig Lane’s 1956 Firedome Sedan, Greg Walters’ 1956 Firedome Sedan, Scott Belville’s 1956 Firedome Seville Coupe (which Greg would later buy), Greg Walters’ 1956 Fireflite Convertible, and (foreground) Greg Walters’ 1956 Adventurer.
Not pictured: ‘49 Custom convertible owned by Edward Rahm
In 1985, Greg Walters spoke to Francis Werneth of Maryland regarding starting a national club. Francis had already been running the DeSoto Owners Club of Maryland for 9 years and also had experience with what it took to run a club. With Francis' encouragement and guidance, Greg officially formed and incorporated the National DeSoto Club, Inc. in the state of Ohio on December 27, 1985. Starting January 1, 1986, new members were recruited and the first 300 are the charter members of the club. As with any large organization, Greg had help and the first board of trustees also included Alan Ralston, Mark Kubancik, Craig Lane, Roberta Lewis, Robert Terpak, Harold Gall, and J. Francis Werneth.
Greg Walters would also be the club's first President and, more importantly, the first Editor. The club's magazine, DeSoto Adventures, was first published as Volume 1, Number 1 as the January-February 1986 issue. Greg, having been in the printing business both professionally and as a hobby his entire life, did a fantastic job with the magazine and put out a very professional looking product. From there the club grew rapidly and the first convention, which was likely the largest gathering of DeSotos since December of 1960, took place in Maryland. Francis Werneth hosted the convention in conjunction with a local show. From there, the NDC would have a regular bi-monthly magazine and a convention every year that moves around different parts of the country and even once in Canada!
"DeSoto Adventures", Volume 1, Number 1, 1986
Today, there are members all over the world and many owners have become great friends as a result of the club comradery. There are 8 local chapters of the NDC, including the original Buckeye DeSoto Club and the DeSoto Club of Maryland. The NDC has lead a number of reproduction projects through the years and is also responsible for much of the documentation and research that has resulted in good sources of information being available for these cars. Greg, in his wisdom, stepped down from leadership after a number of years in an effort to let others bring new ideas and energy to the club. As a result of new blood and 100% volunteer effort in every position, the club has been able to grow and evolve throughout the years and keep to the true roots of what a club is supposed to be - a bunch of people that have a similar interest and come together for the enjoyment of it. If you haven't yet attended a convention, we encourage you to stop on by and see why it's said that while you may come for the cars, you stay for the people!
Gregory J Walters
J. Francis Werneth