In 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.

Among 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.

The 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 1961.
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.

Community 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.

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