Lions History


The distinguished history of Lions Clubs International forms the foundation for nearly everything Lions clubs do today. From our humble beginnings to our commitment to sight initiatives, there is a significant basis for all our humanitarian services. Knowing and understanding our history gives us perspective and helps keeps our dedication for community service thriving.

Lions have been helping people since 1917. That year, Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman, encouraged his club, the Chicago Business Circle, to go beyond promoting good business practices. He convinced the members that selfless service to others would create a better community – and a better world – for all.

Melvin Jones also saw that a network of clubs working together could do much more than individual clubs acting alone. He invited similar groups from around the United States to a meeting on June 7, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. There, the Association of Lions Clubs was born. Later that year, a convention was held in Dallas, Texas, USA to formally adopt a constitution, by-laws and a code of ethics. The fledgling group became the International Association of Lions Clubs just three years later in 1920 when a new Lions club was formed in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Perhaps the single event having the greatest impact on the association’s service commitment occurred in 1925 when Helen Keller addressed the Lions at the international convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, USA. It was there that she challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."

Broadening its role in international understanding, the association was one of the first nongovernmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter in 1945 and has supported the work of the UN ever since. In 1957 the Leo Program was created to provide the youth of the world with an opportunity for personal development through volunteering.

In 1968 Lions Clubs International Foundation was established to assist Lions with global and large-scale local humanitarian projects. Through our Foundation, Lions meet the needs of their local and global communities.

In 1987 Lions Clubs International became the first major service club organization to admit women as members.

In 1990 Lions launched their most aggressive sight preservation effort to date, SightFirst. The program strives to rid the world of preventable and reversible blindness by closing the gap between existing health care services and those that remain desperately needed.

In the nearly 100 years since its founding, the association – usually called Lions Clubs International (LCI) – has spread to all corners of the globe where Lions are welcomed and respected for their vision, integrity and dedication to our official motto: "We Serve". Origin of name "Lions"

On June 17, 1917 at the invitation of Melvin Jones, delegates met in Chicago. The only point of contention was the selection of a name for the new organization. Melvin Jones researched the idea of calling the new organization Lions. The name Lions was chosen on a secret ballot over several others because the lion stood for strength, courage, fidelity and vital action. The official name of the association is "The International Association of Lions Clubs" or simply "Lions Clubs International."