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Kiwanis Buys Itself

Taken from
We Build, The Story of Kiwanis
By John H. Moss and Merton S. Heiss
Pages 38 - 44

Regardless of the many fine things done at the Birmingham AL Convention May 20 21 22 1919 and the forward steps taken there, it will always be remembered as the convention when Kiwanis became its own master. It was at Birmingham that the famous Allen S. Browne contract was purchased and from that date Kiwanis was "one its own."

It was the first convention since war had ceased. Between the holding of the Providence Convention and the opening of the Birmingham Convention hostilities had ceased, there had been an armistice and all thought peace was permatnently restored.

Just about teh first thing the convention did, on motion of H. J. Fries of Erie, Pennsylvania, was to stand in silent tribute for one minute "to those who made the supreme sacrifice that we may be free and untrammeled by a foreign foe - a silent tribute to the soldiers and sailors of the Unived States and Canada."

It is interesting to note that in this Birmingham Convention, Canadians were for the first time grouped on the program in such a manner as to make Birmingham a fore-runner of the U. S. Canada Hour event, programmed so frequently afterwords. As eloquent speakers on behalf of Canada there are noted George H. Ross, Henry J. Elliott and Capt. C. E. Jenkins.

The Browne contract matter was brought up during the morning session of May 21. President Perry S. Patterson had been delayed in his arrival and Vice President Albert Dodge was serving as chairman. Various resolutions were being submitted when Chairman Dodge announced, "Vice President Ross has asked for recognition at this time." And here are the records of the presentation of the Browne contract to the convention by George H. Ross, Toronto, Ontario, third vice president:

"On behalf of the board of International Trustees I beg to present this resolution: 'Be it resolved that this convention in meeting assembled hereby ratifies and confirms the action of its Board of Trutees in the settlement and arrangement with Allen S. Browne and the contract covering the settlement in its form as before this meeting is approved.' Someone asked "What is that contract?" and L. M. Hammerschmidt of South Bend said, "I have never been happier within a body of Kiwanians than I am this morning in the reading of this contract." Ane he read the contract as follows:

"This memorandum agreement entered into this twenty-first day of May, 1919, by and between Allen S. Browne here inafter called first party and the duly authorized officers of Kiwanis Club Internatinoal, a club duly organized not for profit under the laws of the State of Illinois authorized in voncention assembled in the City of Birmingham, State of Alabama, the 19th to 22ned day of May 1919 hereinafter called second party.

"WITNESSETH --Whereas there was entered into a contract between the Kiwanis Club International and the first party of the 29th of June, 1918, for the employment and transfer of certain property, rights and other things therein set out which subswequently vested in second party, and

"Whereas, said first party desires to release his contract to the second party and forever release and quit claim the second party from any and all lobligations and dities of every kind and nature that may be contained therin and confirm it in the property, rights and things set out in the said contract for the consideration hereinafter expressed. Now therefore in consideration of the amount hereinafter set forth to be paid to the second party by the first party at the time hereinafter set out it is agreed beyween teh parites as follows:

"FIRST--The first party hereby assigns to the second party and quit claims and releases the second party from any and all obligations and duties that may be contained therein any by these presents does assign to the second party and quit claims and releases forever the second party from any and all obligations and duties that may be contained therein and by these presents does assign to the second party and quit claim and release forever and party in all matters and things set out in said contract upon the payment of $17,500 in cash on or before the 22d day of May, 1919. It being understood by and between the parties hereto that upon the payment of the sum before provided in cash all services, rights and claims of whatever kind or nature that may arise from or in favor of the first party shall upon the date of payment cease absolutely and determine, including the word Kiwanis or any idea connected therewidth or pertaining thereto.

"It being further understood as and from the date of the payment aforesaid that any organization work or the use of the word Kiwanis or any idea connected therewith shall vest in and be the property of the second party.

"It is further stipulated and agreed by each of the parties hereto, each under the advice of respective counsel as to the respective rights hereunder that the purpose and intenet of this agreement is to absolutely and forever sever all relations that have at any time existed between the parties hereto as fully and completely as through the same had never at any time been actually or impliedly entered into, whether the same is specifically refrerred to herein or not.

"In witness whereof the parties hereto have caused this instrument to be executed, the date first above written under voluntarily and under their respective hands and seal."

An there was the board action, which if approved, (and if $17,500 cash could be made available in something over 24 hours) would put The Kiwanis Club International in full control of its destiny.

As everyone knows the board resolutions were passed and the $17,500 subsribed but there are interesting preliminaries which belong to a historical presentation of the Birminham Convention proceedings.

Directly following Kiwanian Hammerschmidt's reading of the Brown agreement, Dr. W. M. Williams of Nashville, Tennessee, offered the following explanation:

"Those who attended the Providence meeting remember that Kiwanis came newar being wrecked over this contract question and it was my privilege to urge the gentlemen assembled to sane action in view of the fact that we were at that time engaged in the great World War, and the forces of this organizaiton were behind out govermnent one hundred per cent. I felt we could in no way afford to lose that great influence toward the winning of the war. For that reason we entered into a contract with Allen S. Browne as International organizer. We have found through this year's operation that this contract is not workable. There has been a total lack of harmony existing between the organizer and the International office. We come here with an increase of 5,000 members which I think is phenomenal. We have wrested with this problem since we came to Birmingham. We have gone over it carefully and we believe, gentlemen, that the time has come when the Internaional organization must take over the organization work. I believe that if you will put in force this resolution that you gentlement have just heard read that when we meet in 1920 we will have an organizaiton of which we will feel proud and we wwill have a pride and interest that will be unbounded." And Dr. Williams moved for "unanimous adoption of the resolution."

Speaking directly to the point Kiwanian Harry E. Karr Baltimore, Maryland, said: "There are two things you must considerm one is that we have got to raise $17,500 between now and tomorrow. The second thing is that some way mustbe found to pay back that $17,500. You have printed in the magazine two amendments, one raising the per capita tax to $2.00 annually and the per capita tax for the year 1919 to $1.50. In this connection I am going to read you an admendment to the amendment offered to the Constitution as printed which I think solves the problem both of the per capita tax and the way to raise the funds." His plan was a painless per capita method of repaying thos who advanced the funds for purchase of the contract. He ended with:

"The Kiwanis Club if it ever means anything and if it is going to survive must have its organization, and there must be no outside influence and there must be no one to tell us how clubs should be organized. If it is your ideathat we setp over the country and organize new clubs and be a success, then the organization mu be entirely in the hands of the International body and that must be subervient t ono man, to no club, to no idea outside the Kiwanis club itself. I know there will beno trouble in our raising the $17,500 and we can di itright here on the floor. The money that you are going to raise today will be paid back to every club or to every man who undertakes to help underwrite this $17,500. On behalf of the Baltimore club I subscribe $500." Then came the vote on the resolution and it was by roll call. All voted "yes" and it was unanimous as Dr. Williams had requested.

Herewith are presented the names of the clubs responding with a "yes" to the roll call of Secretary O. Samuel Cummings.