Melvin Jones was a young Chicago insurance man in 1917 and was serving as a secretary of The Business Circle, a men’s luncheon group devoted to promoting the business interests of its members. Noting the growing apathy in this club, Jones asked: What if these men who are successful because of their drive, intelligence and ambition were to be put to work helping improve their communities?”
This idea became a reality when, at his request, representatives of men’s groups met in Chicago and on June 7, 1917, Lions Clubs International was officially launched. Under the leadership of Melvin Jones, who soon gave up his insurance agency to devote full time to Lionism, the organization grew in numbers and in services. By 1927, membership stood at almost 60,000 and club strength reached 1,183. Canada, China and Mexico had become member nations and the organization was truly international.
Lionism’s dedication to aiding the blind grew out of a speech by Helen Keller at the 1925 International Convention when she challenged the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness”.
The Association continued to expand, both in numbers and in services. By the mid-50s, Lions clubs were active in Europe, Asia, Latin AMerica, Africa and the Middle East. The humanitarian and community service objectives of these clubs were well known. They were not social groups and no member was allowed to advance his business interests. The prestige of Lions clubs was based on their involvement in providing assistance to the sick, the needy, and the less fortunate and their willingness to take an active role in community leadership.
Lionism was brought to Singapore and Malaysia by (Past International Director) Lion N. N. Pundole when he formed the first Lions club in the (Multiple) District 308. The club was chartered as the Lions Club of Singapore, now re-chartered as Lions Club of Singapore (Host). Lionistic spirit soon spread to Peninsular Malaysia, and on February 18, 1959, witnessed the birth of the first Malaysian Lions club, the Lions Club of Kuala Lumpur (Host). Under the guidance of the late Lion Minoo Engineer, more and more clubs were created throughout the States of Malaysia. Brunei, which is part of District 308, chartered her first Lions club on January 9, 1971.
The Lions believe in clubs meetings where good fellowship and harmony prevail; in developing projects and activities geared to the needs of their communities; in broad participation in an international programme of brotherhood and fellowship, based upon service wherever the need exists without personal reward, in service to humanity without thought to race, creed, nationality, religion or politics; in the ultimate leadership of Lionism, but not at the expense of or in conflict with the programmes of other organizations which, with different methods, seek the same goal of unselfish service to mankind.
Today, there are more than 1,400,000 Lions and the number of clubs exceed 44,000. These clubs are active in 187 countries and geographical areas. Lions clubs also sponsor Lioness clubs, now numbering over 1,500 for service-minded women. Melvin Jones idea has developed into a worldwide expression of what individuals, properly motivated, can do in providing unselfish service to their communities, their nation and their fellow men.