Pilot International was chartered on October 18, 1921 in Macon, Georgia, U.S.A. by Elizabeth Leonard and forty local businesswomen. The name “Pilot” was inspired by the mighty riverboat pilots of that day who represented leadership and guidance.
Pilot Principles: Friendship and Service
Motto: “True Course Ever”
Colors: Green (life and vigor) and Gold (sincerity of purpose)
Emblem: A riverboat pilot’s wheel with eight spokes
First Pilot President: Lucy B. Allen, elected at the organization’s first convention in 1922.
Pearl Sparks of Florence, Alabama wrote the Pilot Code of Ethics. It was first presented in 1926 at the 5th Annual PI Convention held in Montgomery, Alabama with 69 Pilots attending.
In 1929, Pilot organized its first club west of the Mississippi, the Pilot Club of El Paso, Texas. In 1932 the 22nd Pilot Club was organized in Juarez, Mexico, making Pilot a true “international” organization.
Ruby Newhall, President of Pilot International in 1949, first envisioned Anchor Clubs, Pilot’s youth service organization arm.
By 1954 the number of Pilot members had increased to 9,900. Membership hit an all time high of 20,877 in 1985.
The first issue of The Pilot Log was published in January 1924. Early issues were single page bulletins containing club news. Pearl Sparks, author of the Pilot Code of Ethics, once served as editor of The Pilot Log (1927-28).
Pilot International Foundation (now the Pilot International Founders Fund) was established in 1975 to further Pilot’s humanitarian efforts. Since the Pilot International Founders Fund grant program began in 1977, nearly 1,500 grants totaling more than $1.5 million have been disbursed to Pilot Clubs.
Outstanding Pilot International projects have included:
- Donating an ambulance to the Red Cross for use in England during WW II (1940)
- Adopting a five-year project to rebuild the war-torn French village of Vimoutiers, Orne, France, which was accidentally bombed by allied troops (1949)
- Feeding 80,000 hungry Alaskan and Japanese citizens through the “Meals for Millions” program (1959)
- Sponsoring Project HOPE by equipping and maintaining the medical ship’s pediatric ward (1965-66)
- Contributing $10,000 to establish cancer research laboratories at the Salk Institute (1967-68)
- Establishing elementary schools in Guatemala (1968)
- Contributing $200,000 within a two-year period to the United Cerebral Palsy Association (1985-87)
- Founding Project: WOMANPOWER, a joint CARE/Pilot project which provided financial aid to cottage industries owned by women in Peru (1987-1992)
- Contributing nearly $240,000 within a two-year period to pediatric AIDS research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee (1988-1990)
- BrainMindersTM—”Protecting Your Brain for Life” is Pilot International’s award-winning signature project introduced at the Denver Convention in 2001. Over four hundred clubs applied for in-kind grants. In the seven years since the introduction over 560,000 books have been distributed to the clubs and evaluations have been received.
- Pilot introduced their ABC’s of Pilot. “A” for Anchors representing youth leadership. “B” for BrainMinders TM representing focus on brain health and wellness. “C” for support to Caregivers.
- In 2019, Pilot introduces The Signature Helmet distribution initiative to help stamp out traumatic brain injury in youth.