A BRIEF HISTORY OF LIONS INTERNATIONAL
& Arizona Lions – Multiple District 21
(Written by Lion PCC Rand Terwilleger)
Lions Clubs International is the dream of one man…Melvin Jones. He was born in Ft. Thomas, Arizona and eventually arrived in Chicago, Illinois. There he became an insurance man and joined a business leads club called “The Business Circle”. He recognized the talents of the club members and asked them if he could use those talents to help their fellow citizens. He found ways to do so and reached out to similar clubs in other areas of the country.
These clubs came together on June 7, 1917 and formed the “Association of Lions Clubs”. It was not international yet, that would come later. The first convention was held in Dallas, Texas on October 8, 9, & 10, 1917. At that convention a constitution, code of ethics and objects were approved. Dr. William Woods of Evansville, Indiana was elected the Association’s first president. The name “Lions International” was adopted and the corporation was established in Illinois in 1919. Clubs were soon established in Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and China. The Association expanded rapidly in the 1920s. At the International Convention in 1925 at Cedar Point, Ohio, a deaf and blind woman by the name of Helen Keller spoke and asked the Lions to be her “Knights of the Blind”. The Lions accepted the challenge and that is why Lions are known for their work in eliminating preventable causes of blindness and deafness. Lions International was instrumental in helping create the United Nations and grew rapidly after World War II. Currently there are clubs in 207 countries and geographical areas.
In 1921 Arizona was part of District 4 which consisted of Western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In 1925 New Mexico and Arizona were joined together to form District 21. Prior to that, in 1923, two clubs, the Phoenix Downtown Lions Club and the Tucson Lions Club, were chartered. They held a combined “Charter Night” on May 5th. Since then, Arizona has become a Multiple District, MD 21, with the addition of Districts 21A, 21B, and 21C. (In 2020, the three districts were realigned into Districts 21-North and 21-South.)
There are four state projects in Arizona founded and supported by the Lions of Arizona: the Lions Foundation of Arizona (Phoenix), the Vision and Hearing Foundation (Phoenix), Camp Tatiyee (Lakeside/Pinetop), and the Melvin Jones Lions International Memorial (Ft. Thomas/Safford).