Pilot International Founders Day

On October 16, 1921 the forty Charter Members of Pilot International came together to sign the original Pilot Charter. Two days later, buoyed by their excitement and their collective cause, they gathered again to dine, celebrate and conduct the first official Pilot Club meeting on October 18, 1921.

From that day on, Pilots around the world gather together to meet, celebrate and honor this historic day, October 18, as Founders Day, the birthday of a grand idea, the day of our noble club’s founding. On this day, we celebrate Pilot International. We honor the history and tradition of our storied organization, and we celebrate the gifts that we – as today’s Pilots – are able to bestow through our strength, through our friendship and through our service.


How to Participate

Celebrate Founders Day this year by hosting a local event. Collectively, these local, community-oriented events highlight the transformational impact our Pilot, Anchor, and Compass clubs have across the country and around the world. You can host a Founders Day activity anytime in October. It offers you an incredible opportunity to impact your community, build partnerships, pique interest in Pilot membership, and expand awareness of Pilot International. Just imagine the collective impact we can have if every single club engaged their friends, neighbors, local businesses, and governments in a Founders Day activity or celebration!

Will you do your part by uniting for Founders Day and creating a lasting impact?

Hosting a Founders Day

Your Pilot Club, whether large, medium or small, can inspire and mobilize your community by hosting a Founders Day activity or event. If other clubs are in the area, how about combining your ideas and resources into a single event that you co-host? For that matter, an entire Pilot District could host a big Founders Day and make a huge splash with the media and other civic leaders and spokespeople!

Founders Day is a unique opportunity to showcase our warm and giving community and work. It’s the perfect time to introduce Pilot to a larger audience. You might consider partnering with other local service clubs or nonprofits, local businesses, young professionals groups, recreation centers, the Chamber of Commerce, downtown or neighborhood associations, civic and community leaders.

Founders Day Photos

During and after your club’s Founders Day event, post photos and videos with the hashtag #PilotFoundersDay to social media or send by email to communications@pilothq.org.


The history

Pilot History: Elizabeth Leonard’s Gift

The year was 1921. World War I had ended. Women had the vote. Enthusiasm and excitement energized the nation, and newly empowered women were eager to claim their rightful place as leaders in a modern American society.

Inspired by the efforts of the men around her - watching them gather together to form their own civic organizations - Georgia native Elizabeth Leonard and six of her friends met in early September to discuss a brave and hopeful new idea – the formation a volunteer service organization of businesswomen that could one day become international in its scope of service. But who would they be and what would they represent?

Archived minutes of their first meetings state that the women wanted an organization “…whose purpose shall forward the interests of town, community, and state, and to work with men’s civic clubs already organized and working toward that end.” As to their name, one suggested “Apex,” one “Keystone,” one “Axis” and one “Pioneer.” Eventually, they chose “PILOT,” evoking the imagery of the then popular riverboat captain, navigating his craft down the waterway, just as they hoped their new organization would help those in need navigate their way through life.

Elizabeth Leonard was elected as the group’s first President, but chose to resign immediately, relinquishing that office to Lucy B. Allen, an employee at the Macon Water Works.

One month later, six founders had become forty, and on October 16, 1921 they signed the original Pilot Club Charter. On October 18, 1921, the new group held its first formal meeting in the Gold Room of the Dempsey Hotel in downtown Macon. According to the press coverage of the affair, “A civic club composed of the most wide-awake and intelligent business women has formed with headquarters in Macon.” Then, in larger type and in boldface: “It is a mark of distinction to be a Pilot.”

Pilot’s first convention was held on May 27, 1922 at the Dempsey Hotel where charter Pilot – and first Pilot Club President - Lucy B. Allen, was elected 1922-23 International President, Pilot’s first. The next year saw the addition five new Pilot Clubs in two states: Georgia and Alabama. Under the motto, “True. Course. Ever.” Pilot’s growth continued to rise, at one time topping nearly 22,000 members in 9 countries.

Since those early founding days, the projects undertaken by the organization have made a decided mark on the world stage. Pilot International clubs and members have participated in countless endeavors and bestowed gifts of service worldwide including the purchase of a Red Cross ambulance used at the front during World War II; the furnishing of a children’s ward on the famed medical hospital ship, the S.S. Hope and the feeding thousands of hungry people overseas with the Meals for Millions Program, just to name a few.

Honoring the Past (1947-1972)


Pilots sell war bonds

In Beaumont, Texas, the Pilot Cub joined with other women’s organizations and sold $5,825 in War Bonds on “W” day.


Pilots participate in club projects

In the 1950’s members of the Little League in Darlington, South Carolina, proudly display the baseball equipment purchased and presented to them by the Pilot Club of Darlington. The Pilot Club took a keen interest in the promotion of the Recreation Center, having adopted this as its local project.


Pilots Create Stamp to Aid Freedom Center Library

In 1963, Washington Pilot, Joan Cook, suggested to the community service committee of her club that they design a stamp to sell with the proceeds benefiting the Freedoms Center Library project.



Safety awards presented by Allstate

Pilot members, Allstate representatives, and guests learn the results of the 1971-72 Safety Content sponsored by Allstate Insurance Companies.

Learn more about the history of Pilot International