In a 1946 edition of the Winston County Journal it was reported a group of ladies met and formed a service club. “Twenty-two business and professional women met Saturday night, February 2 and organized the Louisville Pilot Club, a member of Pilot International, a classified civic and service club, non-partisan and non-sectarian, a club for women similar to Rotary for men. Five representatives of the Meridian Club drove up for an introduction to their new “baby” and instruction in Pilot ideals and standards for the Louisville members. …Miss Cecile Moore was hostess February 2 and Miss Lena Langley hostess to the call meeting February 5. The next meeting will be February 26 at the home of Miss Martha Nabers. After a place can be arranged the club will meet twice a month for either a luncheon or dinner meeting.” Officers were elected at the February 2nd meeting and Lena Langley served as the first president. The club received its charter on May 23, 1946 with the meeting being held in the banquet room of the Colonial Terrace. At the formal affair, Mr. Henry McGraw gave the welcome while Miss Ella Mae Mitchell entertained with two piano selections. Mr. Charles D. Fair gave the address at the event with a topic of “Community Service”.
As the club grew through the years, they performed many service projects for our area. Sight-aid was the first project. Many underprivileged children were fitted with glasses. The club provided treatment that restored sight to twin boys, Amos and Andy Billups. The club received national recognition for this project. Another undertaking of the club was cleaning and redecorating the ladies’ restrooms in the courthouse. Participating with clubs around the world, Louisville Pilots helped restore the stained glass windows in a church in the French village of Vimontiers after the church was bombed by mistake by the U. S. Air Force. Early fundraisers included cookbook sales for $1, Tiny Tot contest, and collection of Duz, Ivory Flakes, and Camay box tops. For each box top the club received a penny. As an extra bonus Proctor and Gamble sent the Louisville Pilots a check for $100 and declared them the state winners.
During the 1950’s a womanless wedding was a big hit. Pancake Day also raised much needed funds as well. In 1958, the Pilot Club along with the Chamber of Commerce began sponsoring the Woman of the Year award.
By the 1960’s Pilots were working hard on the Cancer Drive and opened a sick-loan closet. Second-hand medical supplies such as wheelchairs and walkers were collected and shared throughout the community with the needy. Spaghetti dinners, nickel hot dog sales, and Dime-A-Dip meals provided the funding. Pancake Day continued to be an expected community event.
During the 1970’s times were lean for the club at times. President Sadie Byrd donated a beef cow and chances were sold to help fund projects. The winner received a freezer full of meat. Dues increased from $4 to $5, and then to $6 during this time. Even during the tight times, the Pilots continued to send a delegate to Girls’ State, sponsor the Hospital Auxiliary scholarship, and support a foster child. Rocking chairs were donated to the nursing home during this era.
The 1980’s brought many changes to Pilot International. The first male joined during this decade and the organization began the process of de-gendering all of its printed material and governing documents. Louisville was ahead of the game. The local club had a male non-paying member for over twenty years. Randolph Moore worked side-by-side with his wife Julia on all the local projects. While he wasn’t an actual member, he sold tickets at pageants, and served nickel hotdogs and drinks at the election parties. He often drove her to the meetings and was a silent member for years. Through bake sales, soup days, sidewalk cafe at Red Hills Festival, and other fundraising endeavors the club was able to provide a nursing scholarship and give a scholarship to a deserving high school senior.
As the Pilots approached the 1990’s, many of the veteran pilots had reached retirement age. Actively seeking new, younger members the Pilot Club hosted Share-Pilot teas and invited prospective members. New members and new ideas brought exciting projects to the club. A handicapped child was sent to summer camp; donations were made to the Burn Center and St. Jude’s Hospital; and an egg hunt was hosted for the special education students. Fruitcakes and pecan sales, along with election parties and a haunted house provided the monies needed.
In 2000, the Pilots organized the Winston County Anchor Club. This club is unique from others across the state in that membership consists of high school girls from all five area schools. Today, Anchors and Pilots work together on many service projects such as entertaining the group home residents at Christmas and the 5K Color Run in memory of Carmen Smith. Proceeds raised at the run were donated to the Carmen Smith Scholarship Fund.
In the last few years, local pilots have accepted leadership roles on the state level. Beverly Wilkes, Gail Massey, and Tara Woodward have all served as president of the Mississippi District. Noxapater native, Beverly Wilkes, was elected to serve as International President in 2011. There are currently over 7,500 members in 375 clubs around the globe in Pilot International.
Seventy-one years later, the Pilot Club of Louisville now has an all-time high membership of 57 members. Mr. Fair’s address of community service still fits the club today. While raising funds through pecan sales, the local pageant, and the Father-Daughter Dance, Pilots are able to sponsor events like “Christmas in July”. This well-attended event included a visit from Santa for the children affected by the April 28, 2014 tornado. Today, rookie Pilots work beside a seasoned Pilot like Sara Ward who joined over 60 years ago, hosting parties for the Developmentally Delayed Class at Fair Elementary. Over 500 attended the Pilot sponsored event, Safety Town, in 2016. Plans are underway for the third annual Safety Town to be held on April 29th at the Louisville Coliseum. A puppet program presented to elementary students at local schools, BrainMinders teaches children to “Play Safe, Play Smart”. Recently, area Pilots have been involved with Camp Jigsaw, a week-long event for boys with autism. Monetary contributions are made to area groups such as the Brain Injury Association, American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Cornerstone Clinic, and the T. K. Martin Center. Following the club motto of “Do more. Care more. Be more”, the Pilots continue to be a vital part of our community. For more information about joining the Pilot Club of Louisville, please contact any local Pilot member.