|A History of the Multiple District 19 Lions (District 19A is part of MD19)
(As gleaned from the Archives of Lions Clubs International and Multiple District 19 by Past International Director Orly J. Sorrel and Past Executive Secretary/Treasurer Gordon F. Smith – October, 1998)
|The first Lions Club Convention was held on October 8-10, 1917, in Dallas, Texas, with 36 delegates representing 22 clubs all located in the United States. At the first Convention, the delegates elected a President, First and Second Vice Presidents, Secretary/Treasurer, two Three-year Directors, two Two-year Directors and two One-year Directors. The delegates chose purple and gold as the Lions’ colors and Melvin Jones was authorized to open an office in Chicago. The Lions Objects and Code of Ethics were drafted at this convention as well.
At the second convention, held August 19-21, 1918, in St. Louis, Missouri, the first district officers were appointed. The country was divided into single districts for organization and administrative purposes, appointing a District Governor for each district. These first districts were numbered from west to east with California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington comprising District One. Our first District Governor was Jesse Robinson of Oakland, CA. The first Extension Chair of the Lions organization was G.M. Cunningham whose official title was National Organizer. In November, 1918, it was announced in the first issue of “The Lion” magazine that the number of District Governors had been increased from three to nine. Lions became an international organization March 12, 1920, with the establishment of the Border Cities Lions Club in Ontario, Canada. The club was later named Windsor and was joined by clubs formed in Toronto and Hamilton Ontario.
At the 1921 convention in Oakland, the Board of Directors redistricted the whole country and District One became District Four. When the District Governor of District Four reported that he could not efficiently administer the Lions activities in the Pacific Northwest, the Board, at an emergency meeting, formed Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia into District 19, a provisional district, with California and Nevada remaining as District Four. It is not clear when British Columbia was added to District Four prior to the division into Four and Nineteen.
The official records regarding the first club in what is now known as MD19 are not clear or complete. The oldest Lions Club in British Columbia is the Vancouver-Central Lions Club (1921). By 1936 District 19 had grown to 30 clubs with 1287 members. International developed a new plan of organization in 1927 dividing districts into zones. The first information was not too clear regarding zone boundaries and the functions of the Zone Chairpersons. Each district elected a District Governor who appointed his Cabinet, Secretary, Deputy District Governors, and Zone Chairpersons.
The first real effort to form a standard organizational plan involving cabinets and various districts in this District (only slightly resembling the present organization) came about under District Governor John Lampert of Yakima, 1930-31. Through the year 1946-47, District 19 had always been organized and administered as a “single” district with a district cabinet comprised of the District Governor, Deputy District Governors, Zone Chairpersons, and Cabinet Secretary. With 111 clubs and 6,254 members in June of 1946, effective administration by a single District Governor had become impractical. While traveling on the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, District Governor Jack Peddycord, Bellingham-Central Lions; Immediate Past District Governor Don Wike, Walla Walla-Downtown Lions; and District Secretary Virgil Warren, Spokane-Central Lions worked out the original organizational plan, which we basically follow today. Their goal was to take the best parts of all plans and come up with the best Multiple District organizational plan in the International Organization. In 1947-48, their plan was initiated with the district being completely reorganized into a multiple district composed of Washington, Northern Idaho, and British Columbia with 138 clubs and 5 districts.
The District Governor’s Office was changed to that of Chairman of the Cabinet with this officer being elected at the annual multiple district convention. The regions were renamed districts (sub-districts) with the 5 Deputy District Governors becoming 5 District Governors. These District Governors were elected at their district meetings held in conjunction with and at the annual multiple district convention instead of at their own respective sub-district conventions, the usual or standard association practice. The District Secretary’s Office was retained as Cabinet Secretary since there was only going to be one Cabinet. The organizers did not see the need of additional officers so the office of Deputy District Governors was eliminated. There were 15 Zone Chairpersons and this office assumed more importance. The Zone Chairpersons were elected by a “zone council” comprised of the club presidents and secretaries in the zone instead of being appointed by the District Governor, the standard association practice.
In 1950-51, District 19-F was created from Districts 19-E and 19-D resulting in 6 District Governors and 23 Zone Chairperson. The Multiple District had 176 Lions Clubs at this time. Lions Clubs International’s growth mirrored our own.
In 1958, C.A.R.E. was adopted as a Multiple District project and has been given strong support since that time. With continued growth in membership and the number of Lions Clubs, the following divisions took place within Multiple District:
In 1961, the Lions International Special Representative (Extension Representative) to Multiple District 19, Jack Cooper died of a heart attack. Gordon Smith, Multiple District 19 Cabinet Secretary was hired by Lions International to assume Jack’s duties. It was the Special Representative’s job to extend Lions Clubs throughout Multiple District 19. This position was held by Gordon Smith (Patty Allen’s late father) until his retirement in 1985. When Lions Clubs International decided they were not going to support this program financially, the Council of Governors voted to budget the funds to increase Gordon Smith’s salary in order for him to continue as the extension representative in the MD19 area, as well as serving as the Multiple District Secretary/Treasurer.
In 1968, the Multiple District adopted a second Multiple District 19 project and the Washington/Northern Idaho Lions Sight Conservation Foundation and Eye Bank were created. This has become an outstanding project. On December 24, 1975, the Lioness Program was initiated with the chartering of the first Lioness Club in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina. This program captured the imagination and loyal support of both Lions and ladies in MD19. The Lioness who chose to serve those less fortunate in their community through this branch of the Lions family have done so with an enthusiasm that is surpassed by no one.
In 1970, the British Columbia Lions Society for Crippled Children (now known as the B.C. Lions Society for Children With Disabilities) was established at the Annual Convention in Penticton, B.C.. This project has gained world-wide acclaim because of its magnitude.
In 1980, the MD19 Lions Hearing Conservation Foundation was established and has gained the loyal support of the Lions in MD19 who realize the importance of helping those with this hidden challenge in life. In 1998, the Washington/Northern Idaho Lions Sight Conservation Foundation and the MD19 Lions Hearing Conservation Foundation merged. The Lions in British Columbia are presently organizing a Hearing Foundation to serve the hearing impaired population in B.C. MD 19 had 512 clubs with 18,451 members. Our MD19 Office records, memorabilia and equipment were literally evicting Executive Secretary Gordon Smith and his wife from their residence. All MD19 clubs were assessed and, with one or two exceptions, each paid a fixed amount per member allowing the Multiple District to incorporate and purchase its present office building in 1983 located in Bellingham, WA.