History of the Murfreesboro Lions Club

Lionism began in Chicago June 7, 1917 when 25 independent clubs met in a conference. With a membership of more than 1.4 million in more than 200 countries the organization is dedicated to service.

Major emphasis has been in sight conservation and aid to the blind. In recent years the scope of service has been expanded. Included in the present LIONS work are active:

  • Citizenship programs
  • Hearing and speech activities
  • Educational interests
  • Environmental assistance
  • International cooperation
  • Recreation, health, public and social involvement

Cataract eye operations and cataract eye clinics have been built around the world through Lions Clubs International Foundation Sight First I and Sight First II programs.

The Murfreesboro Club was organized at a meeting in the James K. Polk Hotel in June, 1933. According to the records of T. B. Woodmore, the first Club secretary, there were 23 charter members present. Dr. R. A. Nausley, an active member of the Club until 1983, was elected president. Dr. W. B. Rawlings, Frank Burgdorff, and Jerry Jackson were named vice-presidents. Minor Bragg was named Lion Tamer and Joe Sanders, Tail Twister, Harvey Clark, John Jetton and Richard Crichlow were the first directors. The Nashville Downtown Club sponsored our Club. There are no living charter members in the Murfreesboro Lions Club.

125 members and guests met July 7, 1933 at a dinner meeting at Murfreesboro’s First Presbyterian Church. Guests from the Shelbyville, Lebanon and Nashville clubs participated in the charter presentation. Dr. C. A. Breast of the Shelbyville Club made the charter presentation.

The Club immediately launched the “We Serve” credo by active support of sight service and community improvement programs. The first $101.28 raised by sponsoring two picture shows and selling advertising in the Rutherford Courier newspaper provided lunches for McFadden School children.

Before the first anniversary a Boy Scout troop had been sponsored and aid given to agricultural programs.

It has been estimated that since the Club’s charter in 1933, more than $1,000,000 has been contributed to sight service programs and an equal amount to civic enterprises. Innumerable man hours of dedicated labor have gone into a variety of projects to raise these funds. Among these enterprises are mop and broom sales, annual pancake and sausage sales, a county fair, minstrel shows, horse shows, variety shows, the operation of food booths at the International Horse Show, a series of football “jamborees” and basketball tournaments, monthly Fish Frys, pecan sales, and the annual Uncle Dave Macon Days Fish Fry. A steady source of income is derived from gumball machines in business and professional establishments and from selling Kroger gift cards.

The most ambitious effort was an industrial fair, automobile and fashion show coupled with the awarding of a “Dream House” to the winner of drawing contest. As a result of these and an auction sale a donation of $20,000 was made to the Rutherford County Hospital building fund in 1950.

Other substantial donations have been made to the hospital for a pediatrics ward and a “Meditation Room.”

Other major expenditures have been made for the erection of street markers in Murfreesboro in the 1950’s, the providing of band uniforms and instruments at Central High School, and a $2,000 contribution to Memorial Park. We donated $50,000 to the Tennessee Lions Eye Center as a Founders Club. Also, we built a Habitat House with our $24,000 done with one-half given by Lions Club International Foundation. We spent $5,000 for a Sure Sight instrument for eye screening.

From its genesis the Murfreesboro Lions have maintained an active interest in youth programs.

A Boy Scout troop was sponsored in 1933 and a Girl Scout troop in 1939. A second Boy Scout troop was started in 1941. One or more high school students are sponsored each year to Boy’s State and Girl’s State. Softball, basketball and Junior Pro Football teams have been outfitted and coached by Lions. In 1948 the Club awarded a medal to a local youth for saving the lives of a mother and child. For two years recognition pins for 100 honor graduates from local high schools have been provided.

Community service efforts of the Murfreesboro Club have ranged from contributions for the construction of the MTSU infirmary to cutting firewood for indigent aged. Support has been provided the League of Woman Voters, the Dairy Association, the Jaycees projects, Rutherford County Square Dancers, the Beta Club, St. Jude Hospital drive, the Folk Festival and the local food bank.

Crutches and wheelchairs have been provided for the Health Department and work with the patients at the Veteran’s Hospital are routine Club activities.

The first eyeglasses for an indigent child were purchased in 1940. Based on activity reports to Lions International more than 6,000 persons have since been fitted. “Guide” dogs and walking canes for blind persons have been provided. A blind youth was started in business, cornea transplants and other corrective eye surgery have been financed. For over five decades eye screening programs have been conducted each year to discover eye sight impairment and make recommendations to parents and teachers.

For many years members of the Murfreesboro Club have attended the Christmas party for the Tennessee School for the Blind and a fifty-dollar gift is provided for each child. Regular donations were made to the Middle Tennessee Lions Sight Service, CARE, Tennessee Recordings for the Blind and Lions World Services. In the past few years much of this effort has been combined in the White Cane project.

In the past fifteen years the Murfreesboro Club has spent over $100,000 for eyeglasses for the needy, screened approximately 50,000 school-age children, and vision screened over 15,000 children under six years old for sight impairment. In the past the Club has secured more than 100 eye will
donors, provided an artificial eye for a youth, and purchased an eye machine for a local radio announcer. One year more than 800 eyeglasses were collected for Lagos, Nigeria Club promotion but on an average of 4,000 to 5,000 eyeglasses are collected annually to be used in third world countries. During the past fifteen years in cooperation with the Lioness, Leo and two other Murfreesboro Clubs a “Journey for Sight Run and Biathlon” were held and money was raised for local sight conservation and to aid the Lions International Foundation for Diabetes-Related Services.

For many years the faithful wives of Lions have given devoted service as co-workers in Club efforts. This auxiliary role was formalized on May 16, 1977 with the formation of the Murfreesboro Lioness Club, co-sponsored by the Murfreesboro Lions Club and the Murfreesboro Noon Lions Club.

The pride has been completed with the chartering of three LEO Clubs. The first of these coeducational organizations for high school students was organized at Central High School in 1969. The last two units were organized at Oakland High School in 1978 and at Riverdale High School in 2002.

Interest in aiding Murfreesboro’s Alvin C. York Veterans Hospital has been demonstrated from the coming of this facility to Murfreesboro. For many years the Club has maintained a booth at the annual carnival for patients
and Halloween and Christmas parties have been staged in various wards.

Murfreesboro Lions Club at York Health Carnival c1970.

The Club extended its efforts on the international scale by contributing to the erection of a school building at Las Palnes, Guatamala in 1969. Funds have been provided for student exchange with North Bombay, India, France, England, Italy and Finland. Large quantities of used eyeglasses
have been sent to the Club in Lagos, Nigeria for distribution among Nigerians. Members of the Murfreesboro Club have attended the International Conventions in Mexico, France, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and England.

In 1951 the Murfreesboro Lions Club was incorporated as an eleemosynary corporation by the State of Tennessee. The incorporators were William H. Davidson, James M. Stone, Carl L. Hickerson, Lewis C. McCauley, Joe H. Netherland, James Palmer, E. W. Midgett, W. Madden Warfield, Joseph Wolfe, W. C. Brown, Fred G. Key, Norman Watkins, and Herbert Smith.

Over the years the Murfreesboro Lions Club has sponsored the organization of new Lions Clubs in several surrounding communities: McMinnville, Smyrna, Woodbury, Eagleville, Winchester, Altamont, Lawrenceburg, Lascassas-Milton, LaVergne, Hickory Hollow, two Murfreesboro Noon
Lions Clubs and Murfreesboro Downtown Lions Club, and Murfreesboro Lioness Club. In 1985 the Murfreesboro Lions built their clubhouse at Cannonsburgh where they are housed today.

Since its inception in 1933, the Murfreesboro Lions Club has made a strong contribution to the Lions District leadership in various capacities including the position of District Governor. Lion John Matheny had the distinction of serving as State Secretary from February, 1973 through June, 1977.

To date twelve District Governors have come from the Club and Billy Pearson served as Multiple District 12 International Director for 1996-98. Tom Haralson served as District Governor for District 12-I for 1977-78.

Past District Governors from the Murfreesboro Lions Club:

Minor Bragg 1936-37
Carl Hickerson 1952-53
Albert Parsley 1959-60
George Campbell 1965-66

Gene Sloan, Jr 1974-75
Charles Boggs 1978-79
Billy Pearson 1986-87
Neil Lancaster 1986-87

Allen Lyon 1994-95
Gale Prince 1999-00
Gene Staats 2003-04
Shirley Staats 2006-07

International Director – Billy Pearson 1996-98