Began as the dream of Chicago insurance man Melvin Jones, who wondered why local business clubs (he was a member of one) could not expand their horizons from purely business concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large. His idea struck a chord within his own group, the Business Circle of Chicago, and they authorized him to explore his concept with similar organizations from around the United States. An organizational meeting was held on June 7, 1917.
The 12 men who gathered there overcame a natural sense of loyalty to their parent clubs, voted the "Association of Lions Clubs" into existence, and issued a call for a national convention to be held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of the same year.
Thirty-six delegates representing 22 clubs from nine states heeded the call, approved the "Lions Clubs" designation, and elected Dr. William P. Woods of Indiana as their first president. Guiding force and founder Melvin Jones was named acting secretary, thus beginning an association with Lionism that only ended with his death in 1961.
That first convention also began to define what Lionism was to become. A constitution and by-laws were adopted, the colors of purple and gold approved, and a start made on Lionism's Objectives and Code of Ethics.
One of the objectives was startling for an era that prided itself on mercenary individualism, and has remained one of the main tenets of Lionism ever since. "No Club", it read, "shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its objective."
Community leaders soon began to organize clubs throughout the United States, and the association became "international" with the formation of the Windsor, Ontario, Canada Lions Club in 1920. Clubs were later organized in China, Mexico and Cuba. By 1927, membership stood at 60,000 comprising 1,183 clubs.
In 1935, Panama became home to the first Central American club, with the first South American club being organized in Colombia the following year. Lionism reached Europe in 1948, as clubs were chartered in Sweden, Switzerland and France. In 1952, the first club was chartered in Japan. Since then, the association has become truly global, with clubs in more than 185 countries and geographical areas worldwide.
Lions Clubs International was established on four outstanding qualities - Courage, Strength, Activity and Fidelity. The name Lions was retained to reinforce the strong, majestic ideals the association had adopted. The lion has historically been the symbol of all that was good. It is a name that stands for loyalty...to a friend, to a principle, to a duty, to a trust.