1917, a Chicago insurance agent named Melvin Jones convinced
his luncheon club, the Business Circle of Chicago, that it
should ally itself with other independent clubs to form a
national organization that would be dedicated not only to
networking for business and social purposes, but to the improvement
of the community as a whole.
the groups invited was the Association of Lions Clubs, head-quartered
in Evansville, Indiana and led by Dr. W.P. Woods. At the time
of the meeting, June 7, there were several lions clubs already
in existence, some having been organized in 1916.
Business Circle and other clubs agreed to rally under the
Lions name, and a convention was called for October at Dallas,
Texas. Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine
states heeded the call, approved the"Lions Clubs"
designation, and elected Woods as the first president. Guiding
force and founder Jones was named acting secretary, thus beginning
an association with Lions that ended only with his death in
The convention also began to define what the association was
to be come. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the colors
of purple and gold approved, and a start made on the Lions
Clubs Objects and Code of Ethics.
Remarkably, considering the materialism of the era, both Objects
and Ethics encouraged Lions to put service ahead of profit,
and to uphold the highest standards of conduct in business
and the professions.
leaders soon began to organize clubs throughout the United
States. The association became "International" with
the formation of a club in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1920.
Clubs were later organized in Mexico, China and Cuba. By 1927,
membership stood at 60,000 in 1,183 clubs.
In 1935, Panama became home to the first Central Association
club; the first club in South America was organized in Colombia
the following year. Swede, then France, brought Europe into
the association in 1948. Japan had clubs by 1952, and the
so-called "Eastern Bloc" was unblocked in 1989 with
the formation of clubs in Hungary, Poland and Estonia. In
1990, a club was chartered in Moscow and today over 100 Lions
clubs are demonstrating the value of service in countries
once closed to voluntary action.
Today, Lions Clubs Internationational has about 45,000 clubs
in the world having about 2.8 million members, one of the
largest service club organizations in the world.