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Michael Barnes

Austin Lions Club at 100

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There were the Royal Lions. Then the Lions. Then along Lions Clubs International. The Royals are extinct. The oldest continuously operating local Lions Club, dating back before the global group, thrives right here in Austin.

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Jerry and Connie Williams at Austin Downtown Founder Lions Club at 100 Dinner.

This week, the Austin Downtown Founder Lions Club celebrated its 100th anniversary with a shindig at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The dinner started with — of all things — a play. Two ceremonious yet salty characters argued over the origin stories of the local founders, then, in a piece of compelling history, they pieced together the lives of all 40 originators, one at a time.

That alone was worth the price of admission. But there was so much more. It appears the Lions service group — perhaps the largest of its kind in the world — maintains almost as many honorable positions as members. And many of them were present, as well as descendants of the Austin founders. I sat next to a former International President and his wife, residents of  Quitiaque in the Panhandle. Delightful couple.

The big speaker of the evening was Immediate Past International President Joe Preston, who not only delivered a polished speech, he sang. He also inducted new members Paul Cruz, superintendent of Austin schools, and Carole Keeton, former mayor of Austin. At each place setting were two small histories. A larger book was on sale. Much more on the past of this group later …