The Campaign Spot

African-Americans Played at the ‘Whites Only’ Columbia Country Club

I’ve dug up a bit of new information on the low-level controversy over South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson, a candidate for chair of the Republican National Committee, and his past membership in the Forest Lake Country Club in Columbia.

The deed to the nearly 80-year-old Forest Lake Club has a whites-only restriction, and the club has been described in press accounts as “whites only.” Dawson became a member twelve years ago, and said he learned of the deed in August of this year. He wrote a letter to the club’s management urging a change in the admissions practices, and a month later, he resigned.

George Bunch, the president of the club, said that the deed’s restriction has been “invalid” since 1964 (under the Civil Rights Act). Nonetheless, the club has no African-American members, and Bunch said that to his knowledge, no African-American has been put up for membership. However, members do invite African-American guests regularly, and so on any given day, it is common to see African-Americans on the golf course, in the clubhouse, at club events, and so on.

Dawson says he actually played golf with African-Americans at the club. So his explanation that he did not know of the discriminatory language in the deed during the twelve years of his membership would appear to hold water; if someone saw African-Americans around the country club, one could reasonably assume they were members.

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