The Jefferson Islands Club was founded in 1931 by Senator Harry Hawes (MO), Senator Key Pitman (NV), and Senator Joseph T. Robinson (AR). Charter members included Franklin Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, and prominent business leaders Thomas Watson (IBM), August Busch (Budweiser) and Bernard Baruch (financier). In those days the club's membership certificate stated that members had to be "a male member of the Democratic Party" to be eligible to join.
President Roosevelt was a frequent weekend visitor to the club's island retreat and President Harry Truman also used the club as a weekend getaway spot.
In 1977, Congressman Dante Fascell (D. FL) Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee was elected as the Club President, and he renewed the club's mission as a retreat from the political scene in Washington, DC, but now with an emphasis on bipartisanship and a membership policy open to all regardless of political party or gender. Under his leadership, the club initiated a vigorous Capitol Hill-oriented social program featuring Hill receptions plus parties at the club's island retreat such as crab feasts and oyster roasts, attended by many Members of Congress.
Dante Fascell was succeeded as club president by Congressman Bill Chappel (D. FL) chairman of Defense Appropriations (1981-1990) and then by Beryl Anthony (D. AR) (1990-1996). Changes made to Congressional ethics rules required that a Member of could serve as Honorary Chairman, but not President, and that title was assumed by Congressman Howard Coble (R. NC), who for many years provided guidance and leadership to the club. The current Honorary Chairman is Congressman Steny Hoyer (D.MD), whose district in Southern Maryland includes the club's island retreat.