Prior to October 1917, the time of the first Lions International Convention, Lionism was already active in communities across Oklahoma.  Five Lions Clubs: Ardmore, Chickasha, Muskogee, Oklahoma City Downtown, and Tulsa Downtown, were in existence and making a difference in their communities, and two clubs: Okmulgee and El Reno were in the process of being formed.  These seven clubs are now know as Founders Clubs.

On June 19, 1917, Melvin Jones wrote a letter to J.T. Coleman, secretary of the Ardmore, Oklahoma Lions Club.  Melvin Jones wrote   ". . . Before making a final decision {regarding whether to pursue the formation of Lions Clubs International} we would like to  have you tell us about your organization in Ardmore.  How many members have you?  How often you meet and any other information you care to write to help us in our decision.  Your early reply will be appreciated."  J.T. Coleman replied that in his judgement, "the Lions Club is a very valuable organization for any city.  I know it is a success in other cities in this country.  I have given the matter considerable thought and say without hesitation that I can recommend it to the business and professional men of any city."  The Chicago club received its Lions club charter on August 2, 1917.

At the first international convention in Dallas, R.A. Kleinschmidt was elected to serve in a three-year term as an International Director and A.V. Davenport was elected to serve a one-year term as International Director; these two directorships as a result of Oklahoma being one of two states with the largest delegations present at the convention, the other state being Texas.

At the Dallas convention, the report of the committee on constitution and by-laws was received with little debate, and most of the provisions were adopted without difficulty.  However, there was a heated argument about an amendment to the constitution offered by W.A. Lybrand and J.C. Leonard of Oklahoma City.  A principle that has become a guiding precept in Lionism's program of international service, the amendment stated: "No club shall by its by-laws, constitution or otherwise hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object."  After a stormy session, the amendment passed.

At the 1918 convention in St. Louis, Missouri, Oklahoma had the largest delegation in attendance.  The November 1918 issue of The Lion announced A.V. Davenport of Tulsa was the district governor for Oklahoma.  The first Lions state convention was held in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on May 28, 1919.

The April 1920 issue of The Lion magazine devoted its cover to displaying the new Lions emblem as it appears today.  The design was submitted by the Oklahoma City Lions Club and had been adopted at a Board of directors meeting in January 1920.

Since those early beginnings Oklahoma has had 14 Lions serve on the International Board of Directors, of which three, Judge Ed Vaught, Dr. Eugene Briggs and Dr. Robert McCullough went on to serve as President of the International Assocation of Lions Clubs.

Lionism has been a part of Oklahoma history since before 1917.  Hundereds of communities have benefitted as a result of the service and dedication of thousands of devoted Lions; may the legacy of Lionism continue to live on.

Excerpts taken from "We Serve, A History of the Lions Clubs" by Paul Martin






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