A Backwards Glance
As reported above, the first President of Lions International was Dr. William P. Woods, a Medical Doctor from Evansville, Indiana, who in his early days of practice reportedly had a special fondness for luncheon gatherings with a few fellow doctors and colleagues at which they would discuss the events of the day and, invariably, patient and medical issues. Where that would lead, at the time, no one could have imagined.
At a meeting of an Evansville Lions Club years later, Dr. Woods, as guest speaker, revealed that the “Lions” organization was “the brain child of four colleagues who were enjoying just such a lunch at Wood’s Drug Store in Evansville. They were discussing the community needs they saw as doctors--needs other people didn't see. They wished for a way to be of assistance and determined if they could enlist the aid of others, it just might be.”
Well, might be it was! After all, Dr. Woods, was at the helm. Thus, on 18 August 1911, he along with four other Evansville signatories, appeared before C. F. Werner, a notary public, to formally acknowledge the execution of the Articles of Incorporation for the “Royal Order of Lions,” a new organization whose purpose in part was “to do deeds of charity within its membership”. The “Lodge” was to have “Ritual” and was to “adopt such secret work as may be necessary to accomplish this purpose.” Of note, by 1911, Dr. Woods and company had chartered no less than 54 clubs (Dens), mostly in northern states. Unfortunately, the remarkable early success of the Royal Order of Lions, due in part due to its “secretive, Fraternal" nature, was not to stand.
By 1916, the Royal Order of Lions was in crisis. A substantial number of Dens had ceased operations, particularly in the South, and across the board there was a heavy leaning toward more openness – luncheon clubs that were not so “ritual” based and “secretive” were desired. And, not just coincidentally, the unwanted infiltration of another “secretive and Fraternal" organization, the KKK, was taking its toll. Thus, the realization that began to manifest in 1915 was pronounced by 1916 and Dr. Woods felt he must take action -- which is indeed exactly what he did.
Given that the concept of the Lions purpose and organization was generally sound, it appeared the principal need was for more openness and less ritual. So, in consultation with his team, Dr. Woods, again in the lead, took action by forming a “sister organization” that would be comprised of Luncheon style Clubs whose hallmark would be openness. Thus was born, on 24 October 1916, the International Association of Lions Clubs, officially incorporated in Evansville, Vandenberg County, Indiana by its founder, Dr. William P. Woods and filed the very next day at the State Capital with the Indiana Secretary of State.
Originally, Dr. Woods and his co-founders felt that as soon as 50 clubs had formed under the new organization, a charter meeting would be held. However, the critical nature of the problems in the South demanded earlier action so Dr. Woods, in the summer of 1917, sent out invitations to 33 mostly Southern clubs to join him in October of 1917 in Dallas, at the Adolphus Hotel. The rest, so they say, is History.
In a meeting that ran for three days, those who were assembled:
- Adopted the name Dr. Woods had chosen – the International Association of Lions Clubs;
- Adopted a Constitution, By-Laws, Code of Ethics and an Emblem;
- Established as a main tenant “unselfish service to others” and
- Unanimously elected Dr. William Perry Woods as its first President effectively securing his leadership for the first TWO years of the existence of the International Association of Lions.
Dallas Morning News, October 9, 1917
New Organization to be “INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LIONS’ CLUBS”
“Dr. W.P. Woods of Evansville, Ind., was elected PRESIDENT of the International Association of Lions’ clubs.”
“Dr. Woods has been at the head of the movement to form an international organization of Lions' clubs.”
In the span of roughly six years, Dr. Woods effectively planted the seeds and grew two “sister” organizations: The Royal order of Lions and the International Association of Lions Clubs - later to be renamed Lions Clubs International. Hence, the relatively identical Lions Head logos. While the Royal Order of Lions had Dens that served into the 1920’s, it effectively ceased to exist as a national organization following the depression.
The International Association of the Lions Clubs, on the other hand, well ... YOU be the judge
“Certain parts of the above are attributable to a presentation made by relatives of Dr. Woods in April of 2017 at the LCI Evansville State Convention. Extensive historical research, which included review of certified copies of original government documents and extensive communication with other researchers, was accomplished for the most part by Lion President Emeritus Henry Simms (Deceased), of the San Antonio Founder Lions Club of San Antonio, Tx., with input from Lion PDG S.R. "Moe" Cully of the South County Breakfast Lions Club, Nederland, TX and Lion Past President Bruce W. Eastley of the Sacramento Senator Lions Club, Sacramento, CA.”