Our Known Historical Highlights – Kiwanis Club of Tacoma

The Pacific-Northwest District was organized in the fall of 1918 in Tacoma, Washington. Guy E. Kelly, of the Tacoma Club, was named governor, and he was re-elected at a second District Convention in Tacoma to which four clubs sent delegates.

Tacoma was the first completed club in the PNW district and received its charter on October 8, 1918. A Founding Member was Henry Foss. (It is after his mother that the famed Tugboat Annie series was written.) While serving in the Pacific, he bunked with future U.S. president  Richard Nixon who gave Foss the nickname “Falcon” for his ability to locate poker games on different ships. “Falcons” eventually became the nickname for the Henry Foss High School sports teams.

In 1949 the Kiwanis Club of Tacoma donated $2,718.50 to cover the cost of building a 40’ x 80’ wading pool for the Portland Avenue Park. The Kiwanis also donated an additional $760.65 (totals $35,929.72/2017$) to match funds raised by the Portland Avenue Improvement Club for swings, ladders, slides and horizontal bars.  The Kiwanis club members also built a backstop for the baseball field.

In 1962, the Kiwanis Club of Tacoma established the Kiwanis Club of Tacoma Foundation through a generous donation from Henry Foss. The Kiwanis Club of Tacoma Board of Directors also serves as the Board of Directors of the Kiwanis Club of Tacoma Foundation. Since 1989, when the Foundation was placed in the guidance of a national brokerage firm, it has donated over $300,000 supporting the children of our community.

The Kiwanis Club of Tacoma was the last winner of the (golfing tournament competition) with the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8.  The purpose of the tournament and the results are not remembered and may be rediscovered in the archives.  The tournament was held between 1933-1969.  Kiwanis has won 24 times.

In 1985, Dr. Gordon Klatt, made the first 24-hour Relay for Life at the University of Puget Sound, assisted by his fellow Kiwanis Club of Tacoma members.  The Relay of Life has become the signature fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society, staffed and coordinated by volunteers in more than 5,200 communities and 27 countries. It has turned into a global event raising over $5 billion to help save lives throughout the world.

The Club’s first known minority president is Willie Stewart, who served in 1981-82 and 2016-17.  Shirley Bushnell is the first woman president in 1995-96 after Kiwanis International ended a 72-year men-only tradition with over 2/3rds of the 5,600 delegates affirming.

Merle Palmer, President 1988-89, while serving in the U.S. Navy in WW II, saw colleagues of color that had made the same commitment to their country and were exposed to the same dangers as sailors with light skin.  He saw their capabilities ignored, their skills underutilized and their sacrifice less honored because of skin color. He resolved he would find some way, if he returned from the war, to right this injustice. Supported by other members, he founded Palmer Scholars with the mission to increase the number of low income students of color from Pierce County who graduate from a post-secondary degree program. Inaugurated with Pastor Al Davies as the Eastside Community Church Minority Scholarship Fund, Palmer Scholars has helped over 650 hundred low-income students of color from Pierce County with 83& (>400) earn a post-secondary degree. 200 students are now in the program.  WorkForce Central has partnered with Palmer Scholars to offer mentorship and scholarships to young adults who want to pursue post-secondary education, including certificate training, two-year college and technical school.

 The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize recognizes and honors Peacemakers from the Tacoma/Pierce County region. First awarded in 2005 during the Centennial celebration of Norway’s independence, Our  Kiwanian and Past Lt. Gov. Division 34 David Corner  https://wordpress.goldpress.com/laureates/david-corner/ was awarded the 2008 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize. Mr. Corner is the founder and director of The Gathering Project, a humanitarian organization he created in 1997 after visiting Africa as part of the Men’s Fellowship for Ghana mission program. 

Kiwanian  and Past President. Willie C. Stewart, Sr. https://www.tacomapeaceprize.org/laureates/willie-c-stewart-sr/  was selected as the 2019 Laureate. Mr. Stewart was selected for his long-term service and ongoing commitment to the community and Tacoma schools, particularly in the Lincoln District and the Hilltop.


Contact Us

Kiwanis Club of Tacoma
P.O. Box 7848
Tacoma, WA 98417

(253) 380-2918


© 2018 Kiwanis club of Tacoma