The Lighthouse of Houston was officially founded in 1939, and services for the blind in Houston can be traced back to 1925. The first organized effort to serve Houston's visually impaired population was started by the Dandelions, the Women's Auxiliary of the Lions Club. The Dandelions established a sewing club for people with blindness and worked to establish sales outlets for the articles they made. In the l930's the City of Houston became involved, taking over a program for blind people established by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Although the city lacked adequate funds, it did provide a place for the program to meet. For the next few years, the program moved from one city-owned location to another.
Nellie Mae Wimberly, a legally blind teacher, moved to Houston in 1934 to begin a home education program for people with blindness in Houston. Her classes included braille, sewing, weaving and independent living skills. After unsuccessful efforts to secure funding from the City of Houston or the Community Chest, she sought the help of her good friend and neighbor James G. Donovan. Mr. Donovan, a prominent Heights attorney, solicited his friends and local Lions Clubs on behalf of Miss Wimberly and secured enough funds to pay for her home teaching supplies. In 1939, Nellie Mae Wimberly and James Donovan discussed the need for a more stable program, one that would help people with blindness become more productive and independent. On November 14, 1939, Miss Wimberly, Mr. Donovan and Mr. E.M. Biggers signed a charter to form the Harris County Association for the Blind.
The original charter specified nine board directors: Allen C. Bartlett, E.M. Biggers, Mrs. Lucy Boyett, George Cottingham, James Donovan, Thomas Elliott, David Hudson, Raymond Lee and Mrs. John Ligon. Miss Wimberly served without pay as the organization's first executive director, and Mr. Donovan was president of the Board of Directors.