The Phoenix, Inc., as we know it today, had its origin back in September 1955 in an inauspicious meeting of nine young men at the home of John (Buddy) Thomason. Fresh out of college or back from the Korean War, their purpose was to perform some service to the community, and a suggestion to work with juvenile delinquents filled the bill.
Shortly thereafter, John Thomason, having learned of the activities of a club in California called the 20-30, primarily a young men’s civic organization. It was agreed, and they received their charter as a local chapter in February 1956. The eager 20-30 Club began its activities in the basement of Calvary Episcopal Church which had been volunteered to them by Rev. Donald Henning. The Club at this time was operated on a basis similar to the Big Brother System working with delinquent youths. A school teacher was acquired on a part time basis as director of an enthusiastic but disorderly program.
In June 1958, enthusiasm waning and funds depleted, the 20-30 program at Calvary was closed. The group concurred that the job of youth guidance was one for professionals – a feeling that would bear fruit in the near future. In the fall of 1958, the Club severed its ties with the 20-30 after a close vote and decided to go local. A committee was appointed to pick a new name for the group and they decided upon The Phoenix. The name of The Phoenix Club evolved from the mythological Phoenix bird which, after being destroyed, arose again from its own ashes – thus The Phoenix, Inc. was born out of the defunct 20-30 Club.
Albert Guenther designed the pin and Bob Mednikow, through his business connections, had it made. The Phoenix put its eggs in the Boys Club of America basket and set out to raise the necessary funds to establish the first Boys Club in Memphis all the while continuing their work with boys in several areas. Young men were invited to join when they could meet two basic requirements: a sincere interest in furthering the goals in the Club, and potential for future leadership in the community.