1.3 Million Lions Wear ‘Our’ Lapel Pin
            Members of our Oklahoma City Downtown Lions Club enjoy pointing at other Lions’ lapel pins and commenting, “You’re wearing that pin because of OUR Lions club.” That’s true for two reasons:
            First, our club is one of the 32 Founder clubs responsible for starting the Lions movement, now a world-wide service organization of more than 1.3 million members fulfilling our motto, “We Serve”.
            Second, the lapel pin worn by those 1.3 million Lions was designed by two members of our club, and adopted by the board of directors of Lions Clubs International in 1920.
            The emblem (pictured here) has a large golden “L” for Lions flanked by two lions’ faces – one looking back to Lions’ accomplishments, the other looking forward to future challenges. It is worth noting that this pin replaced the first emblem, a rather mean-looking lion holding a bloody bone in its mouth.)           
Read on to learn about:
  • Our first female president
  • The lady of the evening who propositioned an international Lion leader while he was in Oklahoma City
  • Where was Lion Bebe when the Murrah Federal Building bomb exploded?
  • ...And much more! 
Our Proudest History Involves Projects
            Throughout 94 years of service, our OKC Downtown Lions Club has been involved in countless projects benefiting our community, our state, our nation and the entire world. We are particularly proud of five local projects:
            1) From 1918 to 1982 our club held a summer “Health Camp” for underprivileged children.
            2) Our club provided the leadership to buy, equip and fund a Mobile Health Screening Unit, that is in it 15th year of providing free health screenings state-wide.
            3) Our club’s Hi-Lion Scholarship program annually provides $17,000 to six high school seniors headed for higher education –$7,000 for 1st, $3,000 for 2nd, $2,000 for 3rd and $1,000 each for three others.
            4) Our club led the effort to build a $510,848 Oklahoma Lions Children’s Park on the east shore of OKC’s Lake Hefner. Totally handicapped accessible, it has playground equipment on a rubberized “floor”, two picnic pavilions, drinking fountains and restrooms.
            5) Quarterly our members hold a party for special needs persons (of all ages). As many as 110 “kids” attend for Valentine’s Day, an end-of-school prom, Halloween and Christmas.
Lions Started for World War I Vets
Dr. William R. Wood of Evansville, Ind., hired two men to begin forming Lions clubs in 1916. These clubs were to help and serve the men coming home from World War I and to provide those men a way to serve others. The two men formed two clubs in Texas and one on Arkansas, and then came here to form the Oklahoma City Lions Club. “The word “Downtown” was added when our club began forming other Oklahoma City Clubs (OKC Capitol Hill, OKC Northwest, etc.)
Our club was formed Sept. 5, 1916, and chartered Sept. 12, 1916. We were followed by Tulsa on Oct 11 and Muskogee on Oct. 16. Ardmore, Chickasha, El Reno and Okmulgee were next. These seven are designated “Founder Clubs.”
Chicagoan Cemented Clubs Together
A Chicago insurance agent, Melvin Jones, became interested in Dr. Woof’s work and on June 7, 1917, called a meeting at Chicago’s Hotel LaSalle. Thus began the International Association of Lions Clubs, later re-named Lions Clubs International.
The first convention was held in Dallas, Texas, Oct. 8-10, 1917. Two of the six original directors of Lions International elected were R.A. Kleinschmidt of our club and A.V. Davenport of Tulsa.
At the convention, Walter Lybrand of our club introduced what is now one of the most fundamental concepts of Lionism: “No club shall by its bylaws, constitution or otherwise hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object.” The amendment was passed following heated debate.
At the 5th annual Oklahoma state Lions convention (1922 in Oklahoma City), Edgar S. Vaught of our club was nominated for the international presidency. He was elected president at the Hot Springs, Ark., international convention a few weeks later.
Thus began almost a century of leadership and service for our Oklahoma City Downtown Lions Club.
– Some of the information herein comes from a history written by O.L. Jordan and updated in 2008 by Alwin Ning. Keepers of this Web site in 2011 are Scott Coppenbarger, John Gray and Robert E. Lee.
An Angel on Her Shoulder?
            On April 19, 1995, Lion Bebe Lovelace was sitting at her desk in our club’s small office in the YMCA building at N.W. 5th and Robinson, just north of downtown Oklahoma City.
            From her desk Bebe could look out the window and see the Alfred P. Murrah building, catty-corner across the intersection. If she had been looking, she would have seen terrorist Michael McVey parking the explosion-laden Rider truck, get out of the vehicle and hurry around the YMCA building, get into his car and drive away.
            But Bebe was not looking out the window. She was working at the computer.
            Suddenly she stopped typing, got up and walked to the back of the office. Kneeling down, she opened the bottom drawer of a four-drawer file cabinet, pulled out the drawer, and … stopping, she asked herself, “Why did I come over here? What did I come after?”
            The windows blew out, the explosion pushing huge shards of glass into the chair Bebe had just vacated. The blast destroyed almost everything in the office.
            For years the Y’s antique boiler had creaked, groaned and shuddered for years. “Gosh! The boiler finally exploded,” Bebe thought. She reached to her cheek and realized she was bleeding profusely from glass cuts.
            She ran out of the office, hurrying down the stairs to the first-floor day care center. She helped herd the children out of the building.
            Only after getting outside did the YMCA evacuees realize it was not the boiler that exploded. In awe and shock, they saw the front of the nine-story Murrah building was a mass of rubble, small fires burning, huge clouds of black smoke billowing up.
            What caused Bebe to walk away from the office’s windows? What made her hunker down as if expecting a disaster? Was there an angel on Lion Bebe’s shoulder the morning of April 19, 1995?
Our OKC Downtown Lions Club met in the Biltmore Hotel downtown for many years, moving to the YMCA shortly before the hotel closed. The 275-foot-tall building was imploded in 1977 under Urban Renewal.
94 Years of Tuesday Luncheons
That’s a Lot of Green Beans to Eat
            New members of our OKC Downtown Lions Club think of our luncheon meetings as being held only at the OK Training Center, 520 W. Main. That’s logical. But mention “Lion luncheons” to some of us old-timers and we reel off a long list of meeting places.
            Lion Joe M. Sears recalls that our club met at the old Biltmore Hotel downtown for many, many years. Joe’s father, the late Hardy B. Sears, was in the club in those days. As a young man Joe would attend club luncheons with his dad. Joe joined in 1955 and was club president in 1966-67. In the late 1940s and ’50s attendance at club luncheons ran 250 to 300 and sometimes more.
            In the late 1960s or early ‘70s, the club moved from the Biltmore Hotel to the Gaylord Room of the Downtown YMCA at N.W. 5th and Robinson. The move may have been because the Biltmore was getting ready to go out of business. The old hotel building was imploded in 1977 as part of the city’s urban renewal plan.
            The “Y” was severely damaged by the bombing of the nearby Alfred P. Murrah building and had to be demolished. For a month or so following the bombing our club met at a Masonic lodge hall near N.W. 36th and Portland.
            Our club for a time met in the present OK Training Center building which, at that time, was a Holiday Inn. We moved away from there because management kept moving us from the banquet room to the bar so it could rent the banquet room to other groups.
            The club met at the Sheraton Hotel across the street from the Myriad (now Cox) Convention Center for several months.
            For awhile no downtown sites were available so we ended up meeting at a motel at Reno and Eastern (now M.L. King Blvd.).
            Our club hosted a Lions District 3-N convention at that motel while we were holding our weekly luncheons there. Our guest speaker was a member of the board of directors of Lions Club International.
            After the closing banquet, the director and his wife were walking down a hallway when he was propositioned by a “lady of the evening” – right in front of his wife.
            Startled and shocked, the director responded, “I’m MARRIED!”
            To which the scantily clad young femme fatale replied, “She could join us.”
            Needless to say, our club quickly moved its luncheons out of that motel. – Lion Robert E. Lee, Feb. 2011
A Few of the Notable “Firsts”
For OKC Downtown Lions Club
Our members are proud that ours is the first Lions club chartered in Oklahoma – Sept. 12, 1816. Oklahoma Lionism eventually grew to more than 11,000 members in some 250 clubs. Today, 202 of those clubs are still active, still have enthusiasm and still fulfill Lionism’s motto: “We Serve”.
Only three Lions clubs are older than ours: Austin, Texas, chartered Jan. 18, 1916; Little Rock, Ark., in March 1916, and Beaumont, Texas, Sept. 6, 1916.
Some other firsts about our club:
FIRST female member was Bebe Lovelace, who joined in June 1987. At the time she was our club’s paid, part-time administrative assistant.
FIRST female president was Patricia “Pat” bond, 1988-89. She worked for a medical equipment firm and later founded and operated a catering business.
FIRST African-American president was Ron Pennington, 2000-01. Hs is a retired State Farm insurance agent and a professional singer.
FIRST president of Asian descent (Chinese) was Alwin Ning. He is retired from the Oklahoma Environmental Protection Agency. He served as Oklahoma Lions District 3-H Governor in 2005-06.
FIRST Lions club in Oklahoma to produce a ptrsident of Lions Clubs International – Judge Edgar S. Vaught, 1922-23. He was followed in the presidency by Dr. Eugene S. Briggs of Enid, 1948-49, and Dr. Bob McCullough of Tulsa, 1970-71.
FIRST members inducted under the then-new “Student Member” categories were sponsored by Lion Matt Mashore, Feb. 18, 2008. They were Marino Asada and Mashi Takahashi of Japan and Julie Chou of Taiwan.  After finishing their studies at the University of Central Oklahoma, they left Oklahoma to study elsewhere and return to their home countries.
Thanks for reading the history of our OKC Downtown Lions Club. We hope you will be inspired to join our efforts to serve our community. E-mail us at Or phone (405) 735-9797. Following are some of the honors our members have earned through the years.
Lionism Honors Earned by Members
of Our OKC Downtown Lions Club
Ambassador of Good Will
Highest Lionism honor for members.
The president of Lions Clubs International presents 25-30 Ambassador of Good Will (plaque & medal) awards annually among 1.3 million members world-wide.
                                               1999 Robert E. Lee
International President Award
Second highest Lionism honor for members (medal)
List is being updated; to appear on herein by Spring 2011.
Dr. Robert S. “Bob” McCullough
Meritorious Service Award
Oklahoma’s top annual honor for an active Lion; begun in 1991.
                                              1993  Robert E. Lee
                                              2010 Russal Brawley
Oklahoma Lions Humanitarian Service Award
Given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding humanitarian service; started in 1991.Our OKC Downtown Lions Club has successfully nominated these winners:
1998 – Jim Goodwin of Tulsa, a Blue Cross / Blue Shield executive, and Charlie Bowen of Oklahoma City, owner-operator of five Freightliner dealerships.
2000 – Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Oklahoma
District Lion of the Year
Selected by the District Governor for outstanding service.
The district includes 30-plus clubs in central Oklahoma.
                       *Bennie Vowell                    1985
                        *Joe H. Blair                          1987
                        Robert E. Lee                        1991
                        *Arlin E. Carroll                    1992
                        Russal Brawley                    2001
                        Leamon Freeman                2007
Club President Excellence Award
Lions International honors club presidents who meet rigid leadershgip qualifications during their presidential year.
                        1982-83         *Joe H. Blair
                        1983-84         *John Crez
                        1984-85         Bob Wright
                        1985-86         Al Dearmon
                        1986-87         Robert E. Lee
                        1987-88         *Bennie Vowell
                        1988-89         Leamon Freeman
                        1990-91         Con Rice
                        1991-92         Dick Kostboth
                        1992-93         Ray Tomkpins
                        1994-95         Jim Arnot
                        1999-2000     Russal Brawley
                        2001-02         Gary Rhodes
                        2002-03         Alwin Ning
List is being updated; to appear on herein by Spring 2011.
Our Cub’s Lion of the Year
Selected by club president and/or Awards Committee
                                    1984   *Bennie Vowell
                                    1985   *Theatus Greeson
                                    1986   *Arlin Carroll
                                    1987   *Joe H. Blair
                                    1988   Tom Springer
                                    1989   Herman Meinders
                                    1990   *Charles Priddy
                                    1991   Con Rice
                                    1992   Robert E. Lee
                                    1993   Pet Bond
                                                Con Rice
                                    1994   *Arlin Carroll
                                    1995   Russal Brawley
                                    1996   Leamon Freeman
                                    1997   Ken      Edwards
                                    1998   Robert E. Lee
                                    1999   Patricia Presley
                                    2000   Jane Winham
                                    2001   *Carla Huffaker
                                    2002   Alwin Ning
                                    2003   Robert Goldman
                                    2004   Alwin Ning
                                               2005     Linda Havrilla
List is being updated; to appear on herein by Spring 2011.
All are members of our club unless otherwise designated.
PID = Past International Director
            1989   *PID DeRoy Skinner, Ponca City
                        *PID Paul McCrary, Stillwater
                        J.A. Richardson
                        PID R.. Hal Long, Garber
                        *Clifford Phillips
            1990   *Bennie Vowell
                        Rosemary Vowell, member’sspouse
                        *Herndon F. Donnelly, Stillwater
            1992   Leamon Freeman
            1993   *Joe H. Blair
                        *N.E. Highfill, Lawton
            1994   June Lee, member’s spouse
            1995   Ray T. Anthony
            1996   PID George Hazelbaker, Duncan
                        Robert E. Lee
            1997   Russal Brawley
            1998   Kenneth W. Walker II
            1999   Gus Gudmunson
            2000   *Arlin Carroll
            2001   Kenneth R. Edwards
Melvin Jones fellows
A $1,000 donation to Lions Clubs International Foundation earns a Melvin Jones Fellowship (plaque and lapel pin) or the donor.
                                   1983   *Carmon C. Harris
                                                *Clifford L. Phillip
                                   1984   *Joe M. Sears
                                   1985   *John W. Chyz
                                               *Joe H. Blair
                                   1987   *Arlin Carroll
                                   1988   *DeRoy Skinner, PIF
                                                Robert E. Lee, PDG
                                                *N.E. Highfill, PDGV
                                   1989   *J. Milton McCullough
                                   1990   *Ray T. Anthony
                                   1991    Lyn Hester
                                                Leamon Freeman, PDG
                                                Tom Springer
                                                *Bennie Vowell, PDXG
                                   1992   *Charles Priddy
                                                Con Rice
                                   1993   *Edwin S. Davis
                                                Lonzo l. Hink
                                                Lee Slater
                                                Herman C. Meinders
                                                *Dean A. Fleshman
                                                Raymond E. Tompkins
                                   1984   Patricia Bond
                                                Peter B. Bradford
                                                Larry G. Cassil
                                                Joseph Evans
                                                Fred L. Garrett
                                                *Raymond H. Keitz Jr.
                                                Anthony McDermid
                                                Jimmie D. Hill
                                                William R.Burkett
                                                Russal Brawley
                                                George Camp
                                   1995    Kenneth W. Walker II
                                                *Stephanie Telleen
                                                *Milan Dunlap
                                                Alwin Ning
                                                Gus Gudmunson
                                    1996   James W. Arnot
                                                *David B. Talbot Sr.
                                                 Kenneth Edward
                                    1997   *Carla S Huffaker
                                                *Sidney Gorelick
                                                 Robert Goldman
                                    1998    Michael L. Ammon
                                    1999    Tammye G. Green
                                    2000    Ronald C. Chambers
                                    2001    Jane Winham
                                                 David Harbour
                                    2002    Ronald Pennington
                                    2003    Suzy Casper
In September 2006, all members of the Club became Melvin Jones Fellows. The club contributed $76,000 and some members paid part or all for their Melvin Jones Fellowships.
List is being updated; to appear on herein by Summer 2011.
“We Serve”


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