On July 19, 1916, the Waco Morning News announced to the citizens of the town that a Lions Club was being organized that evening at 7:30 in the Gold Room of the Raleigh Hotel. The next day both the Morning News and the Tribune-Herald announced to their readers that the Waco Lions Club was Waco's newest civic club. There were forty-six charter members for the first meeting in the Raleigh Hotel. The Morning News aptly stated that another voice had been added to the chorus of organizations "whose tunes are pitched high on the scale of Waco progress."
The Waco Founder Lions Club was organized for the specific purpose of bringing together men and women of ability from all walks of life and from every profession for the best interest of Waco. The Club was organized to cooperate with every organization in Waco, McLennan County, and the State of Texas. The Club's aim, then as today, is not only to improve the quality of life in Waco and the State of Texas, but also to contribute to the betterment of the entire nation.
Mr. Walter Vail Crawford (always known as Vail), advertising manager for Sanger Brothers Department Store, was elected the first president. The following comment concerning Lion Crawford was made fifty years later at our Golden Anniversary:
"Throughout his life you could be sure that Vail Crawford was enthusiastically supporting any activity for the betternent of Waco. ...Lion Crawford was a shining example of the men who envisioned an organization of service dedicated to the principles which have formed the Lions Code of Ethics for fifty years."
In August 1916 the first action of the new Lions Club was to pass a motion endorsing the new Federal Land Bank that was being considered in the United States Congress; the motion was passed. The next action was a motion by the Mayor of Waco, Hon. John Dollins, that McLennan County should have its share of Federal appropriations being made for the improvement of the nation's highways; this also passed.
On September 12, 1916, Congressman Tom Connally was the principle speaker for the Club and he complimented the membership for the activities they had undertaken to improve the city. The new club voted to have a real lion as an entry in the 1916 Cotton Palace Exposition Parade.
The new club named a committee in January 1917 to organize a Rose Planting Day in Waco. Rose bushes were secured at a low price and sold to the public. In the same month the Club recommended to the city that a municipal swimming pool be established. A Rose Banquet was scheduled for the evening of February 9,1917, at the Raleigh Hotel. In March 1917 a bond election for the municipal swimming pool was defeated; however, the Club decided to continue pushing the idea. With the Declaration of War in 1917, the Club announced that for the duration, patriotism would be emphasized. In October 1917, with Camp McArthur almost complete, the Lions pledged to back the beautification of the new army camp.
The very life-blood of the Waco Founder Lions Club is activity. Without this it would soon stagnate and "dry up on the vine." From the beginning, certain areas of service have been emphasized, such as working with the blind, sight conservation, working with youth activities; community betterment, Lions club extension, and drug awareness.
The Waco Founder Lions Club seems to have been a prolific one, particularly in its early days. Some of the clubs formed by Waco Founder Lions are: Meridian, Valley Mills, Rosebud, West, McGregor, Moody, Lake Whitney and ALL of the Lions Clubs in the Waco urban area.