South Carolina’s Charleston Rifle Club lost the support of two major organizations as the besieged private club finds itself under fire for refusing to accept Black members.
The March of Dimes, a charity focused on the health of mothers and infants, confirmed on Saturday that it’s no longer associated with the club. And on Monday, Charleston’s chapter of the Kiwanis Club, a community services organization, said it won’t hold weekly meetings there anymore, the Post and Courier reported.
In October, the club rejected Melvin Brown’s application but admitted 13 white men who applied at the same time as Brown. Had he been accepted, Brown would have become the club’s first Black member.
“We pride ourselves on being a club that celebrates inclusion and diversity, both in our membership and in the community we serve. When it came to our attention that the Charleston Rifle Club did not feel the same way, we immediately severed ties and moved our weekly meeting location elsewhere,” said Kiwanis Charleston chapter President Phil Wagoner.
Established in 1855, the club currently has approximately 800 members. More than a century after the Civil War and decades since the Civil Rights movement began, the members are divided about whether to accept a Black member.
By Wednesday, an online petition gathered just 135 signatures from members who condemned the club for not accepting African Americans.
Apparently unmoved by the controversy and loss of support, the club’s president used the group’s December newsletter to blame some members for undermining the club.
“Unfortunately 2018 ends on a troubling note with the club divided over issues unresolved. Sadly some members use threats to membership and using outside the club sources to try to change the membership’s will. Perhaps instead of trying to undermine our club these members could try to work for a system that can work for the betterment of our club, finding methods to improve, not destroy or threaten should be all our goal for the new year,” Rifle Club President Dru Patterson wrote.
Brown is a Navy veteran and an emergency room doctor who is currently on the Medical University of South Carolina’s board of trustees. He has not spoken publicly about the controversy.