Special Report: Private Clubs: Do You Qualify? - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Special Report: Private Clubs: Do You Qualify?

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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - When former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore became the first two women to join Augusta National last year, it turned the spotlight on other private clubs across the country.The history-making move ended an 80 year tradition of an all men's club in Augusta, Georgia.

Wilmington, North Carolina is home to the oldest men's club in the state. The Cape Fear Club at 2nd and Chestnut Streets remains an all-male organization.

Gary Shipman, a Wilmington attorney, says as long as a club is private, it is protected by the Constitution.

"Private organizations that are not open to the public are run by their members who make the rules as to whether to admit or expel members in accordance with those rules, and courts, except under extremely limited circumstances, don't get involved," Shipman says.

There are also private clubs in the Wilmington area that remain segregated.

The Cape Fear Country Club off Oleander Drive remains an all-white club. Marvin Robison, chairman of the membership committee would not talk about the club's membership policies but did say there are no rules that prohibit people of color from becoming members.

"Cape Fear Country Club is a private club and one can become a member by invitation only. Since we are a private club we do not disclose any information about our membership," Robison said.

Steve Salzman, General Manager of the Country Club of Landfall says his club is among the over 4500 private clubs in the country that are inclusive.  He believes clubs that exclude people based on race or sex are, for the most part, becoming a thing of the past.

"There are still some and there probably will continue to be for a long time to come.  I can certainly tell you the Country Club of Landfall is not one of those places," Salzman says.

The Wilmington Sportsmen's Club on Castle Street is an all-black men's club.  Shipman says social clubs, like the Sportsmen's Club essentially have a right to discriminate.

"The constitution doesn't recognize the right to racially discriminate.  It recognizes the right to discriminate based on who you want to associate with," Shipman says.

Former New Hanover County Commissioner Joe Barfield says some African American organizations not only exclude whites, they exclude people of their own race.

"You have to have a certain degree of this to get into that.  Some blacks will not let you in based on income recognition and background," Barfield says.

Barfield, who served as a county commissioner from 1980 to 1992 was rumored to have been in line for an invitation to the Cape Fear Men's Club.  It never happened.

" I don't want to be anywhere that a person doesn't want me there. I don't want my family in that type of environment," Barfield says.

Shipman, Salzman and Barfield agree on one thing. They say members of today's private clubs don't have the same mentality of their ancestors.What worked a hundred years ago doesn't work today. Because of that, they say, the face of future clubs will have a more diverse look.

"It's hard enough to be in business today than sitting there trying to scale your audience down, and if you're not going to be accepting of a group of people because of sex or color of skin, I don't know why you'd do that to yourself," said Salzman.

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