You are on page 1of 6

Most-elite country clubs haven't admitted blacks - Majority of groups in area survey have minority

Dallas Morning News, The (TX) (Published as The Dallas Morning News) - May 22, 1997

Author/Byline: Mark Wrolstad, Tracy Everbach, Staff Writers of The Dallas Morning News
Section: NEWS
Page: 1A
Black millionaire Comer Cottrell remembers the two white callers who arrived at his golf course-side home, "the biggest in Oak Cliff," in
the early 1980s.
Mr. Cottrell had recently moved to Dallas from Los Angeles and at first thought the men were going to invite him to join nearby Oak Cliff
Country Club.
Instead, they carried a friendly warning: The club, on the edge of a black neighborhood, was all-white; the men didn't want their new
neighbor to be embarrassed by trying to apply.
"But they said they had a black cook at the club who made real good steaks, and if I ever wanted any, just call and they'd bring some
over," Mr. Cottrell recalled. "It was a damn insult. " The Oak Cliff club accepted its first black member in 1990 and now has Hispanic and
Asian-American members. But the Dallas area's most elite clubs have yet to break the same racial barrier - or cross the gender line.
The three most exclusive and expensive country clubs have no black members but say they do not exclude people by race or religion.
The fourth-most-expensive club also apparently has no minority or Jewish members. Three of those clubs do not allow women to be full
members who vote on club policies and determine who gets accepted.
The Dallas Morning News surveyed 42 Dallas-Fort Worth country clubs, some owned by members and some corporate-owned. Most
have some minority members.
The 101-year-old Dallas Country Club recently admitted a businessman generally believed to be its first Jewish member. The club also
says its members include Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
Although some people argue that clubs have the right to exclude whomever they wish and have no obligation to integrate, others question
the private clubs' motivations and the public tax breaks they receive through federal nonprofit status.
That classification exempts the clubs from federal income tax and the Texas state franchise tax, normally paid on income.
"With tax breaks, they're playing both sides of the fence, and I have some serious difficulty with that," said John Powell Sr., owner of the
third-largest black-owned business in Dallas, a Chevrolet-Geo dealership. "To be going into the 21st century and not have an all-inclusive
policy is a very sad scenario. " Mr. Powell has never applied to join a country club.
The clubs' racial and ethnic separateness has been underscored locally at a time when a young multiracial star is remaking the face of
professional golf and introducing the sport to millions of minority youngsters.
Tiger Woods competes in Fort Worth's Colonial tournament beginning Thursday after winning the GTE Byron Nelson Classic in Irving
Sunday. It was his first tournament since a record-shattering triumph five weeks earlier at the Masters - golf's premier event.
Neither host club for the sport's largest local events had a black member until the 1990s - not by policy but because no minorities had
ever applied, according to spokeswomen for the clubs.
"It was by their choice. It's not because we didn't let them in," said Rita Eatherly, Colonial Country Club's membership secretary.
Eight of nine Fort Worth country clubs say they have minority members.
The Sports Club at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving has "never had any restrictions, period," a spokeswoman said. During this decade,
the club has had two black board chairmen and one woman who headed the board.
Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, discussing Mr. Woods' ascension last month, said he won't attend events at several Dallas country clubs because
of their exclusionary policies, which he called offensive, stupid and embarrassing.
Mr. Kirk named only the Dallas Country Club in Highland Park and the Northwood Club in North Dallas but said there are other clubs that
operate the same way. He declined to name the others.

Friday, the mayor said only "a handful" of Dallas-area clubs are segregated.
He and his family recently joined Lakewood Country Club through a membership that his wife, Matrice Ellis Kirk, received as a director for
an executive search firm.
The mayor, a golfer, said Lakewood has a good course, is in the family's neighborhood and is integrated. Other examples of integrated
clubs are the Dallas Athletic Club and Bent Tree Country Club, he said.
The Dallas Country Club and Northwood, with top initiation fees of $50,000 and $45,000, respectively, are surpassed in cost only by
Preston Trail Golf Club in Far North Dallas, at $75,000.
Brook Hollow Golf Club in northwest Dallas follows at $40,000.
"I was shocked that clubs are still excluding people," said Ted Keyser, manager of the Shady Valley Golf Club in Arlington. "Maybe it'll
send a message that we're not living in the 1960s any longer. " The News' survey showed that the clubs fall about evenly into two
ownership categories - owned by corporations or by members.
A profusion of corporate-owned clubs since the 1980s has helped make the industry more competitive and less exclusionary.
Coupled with the economic downturn of the mid-1980s, the greater number of clubs left some desperate for members, caused ownership
changes and drastically cut membership costs, eventually making it easier for people of all races to join.
A golf membership at Thorntree Country Club in DeSoto, for example, fell from $13,500 to $1,250. Clubs also have less expensive social
More than half of the area's clubs are corporate-owned and have two main membership requirements: the ability to pay the initiation fee
and good credit. Some have limits on the number of members.
All these clubs allow women to join and say they have at least a few members who are African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American.
In the other category are member-owned clubs. Eight of the area's 10 most expensive clubs are member-owned.
In practice, some of the less expensive member-owned clubs no longer require a formal vote on new applicants.
But in the controlled realm of the top clubs, the membership process is secretive and founded on a tradition that honors blackballing,
according to some members' descriptions.
One hurdle for an applicant is sponsorship by current members, a requirement that corporate-owned clubs are happy to waive, in effect,
by introducing prospective members to old ones.
Managers and members say the elite clubs keep their membership committees secret to prevent lobbying during screening.
The vote on new members must be virtually unanimous because of the veto power at the heart of old-line clubs. A handful of members typically five - can prevent an applicant from gaining entry, and a dissenter does not have to state the reason for his objection.
Clubs defend their racial uniformity by saying high fees and sponsorship requirements disqualify most people and have nothing to do with
They also say that belonging to an all-white club doesn't make members racist.
Others say that it shows, at least, racial insensitivity in a city where minorities historically haven't had the economic opportunities found in
other cities.
Several years ago, local business-people tried to persuade segregated clubs to change their practices, said David Biegler, chairman of
the Dallas Citizens Council, a group of business leaders.
"It was done quietly and unsuccessfully," said Mr. Biegler, chief executive officer of Enserch Corp. and a member of the Dallas Country
Within the Citizens Council, "which represents to me the elite in Dallas business," Mr. Biegler said, "there is a unanimous feeling that
there is no place for segregated clubs and that it's time to change it. " "The question is, `How do you go about doing that? ' and that's
what has everybody at this point still discussing it," Mr. Biegler added.
If Dallas "does not address the issue, it will stand out so sorely, related to the other cities in the United States, that its standing in the
country could be threatened. " Mark D. Cooks, a bank vice president and Oak Cliff Country Club member, said he has rarely seen

minorities during his one-year corporate membership at the club.

Mr. Cooks, who is black, said he agrees with the mayor's sentiments.
"Anyone who applies for any club membership and meets the membership requirements should be allowed into the club," he said.
"Blacks were left behind in Dallas. That's the bottom line," said Mr. Cottrell, chairman of Pro-Line Corp., an ethnic hair-care products
Many blacks can afford to join country clubs, he said, but have been excluded by design. "They're going to put a gatekeeper there.
This is their last bastion of segregation, and they hold onto it dearly. " `No reason for it' The Dallas Country Club, the city's oldest, has
never had a black member. Club spokesman and member Sam Stollenwerck said he doesn't know why.
As for recruiting minority members, Mr. Stollenwerck said, "I don't know that it's the club's responsibility to do that.
Obviously if some black person wants to apply . . . every member has to go through a lengthy process. " Another Dallas Country Club
member, who asked not to be identified, said several members are trying to bring in minorities, but "some don't want to be the first, and
some can't come up with the finances. " "There are people doing things, and I think it will happen. I would not have been this optimistic
five years ago," said the club member, a Dallas businessman.
Former Dallas Country Club president Lynn Newman, a Dallas business owner, said the club has "as progressive a bylaws as anybody. "
"Our club is open to anyone regardless of race, color or religion," he said.
He noted that the club has Hispanic and American Indian members and allows women to be voting members.
When asked why the club has no black members, he said, "There is no reason for it. There is nothing at all to preclude a black member at
Dallas Country Club. " He added: "Tiger Woods can play any day of the week and twice on Sunday. " Money and influential sponsors
weren't a problem when PepsiCo executive Lawrence Jackson tried to join the Northwood Club two years ago.
The reason he was not admitted, according to him and his primary backer, is that he is black.
"There are culprits, and then there's the silent majority that tend not to stand up for anything unless it affects them personally," said Mr.
Jackson, a senior vice president for the company's food division. "Most people are astonished . . . that people still get excluded for no
good reason. " Mr. Jackson filled out Northwood's application in April 1995 after moving back to Dallas for PepsiCo.
His sponsor and boss, Bob Hunter, was told that Mr. Jackson would be the first black member.
Club leadership reassured Mr. Hunter that the club wasn't exclusionary, he said.
"I told Lawrence it might take him awhile to get in," said Mr. Hunter, CEO of PepsiCo Food.
"I've been first before," Mr. Jackson said.
The two men pushed ahead with the application.
Mr. Jackson and his wife started meeting club members, who treated them well, he said. Then came the delays. Mr. Jackson was advised
that he should meet 50 people "so they can get to know you and be comfortable with you. " Mr. Hunter, previously unaware of
membership procedures, learned that the club had a five-man blackball rule and that it was going to pose a problem.
Although most members were supportive or indifferent, Mr. Hunter said, allies told him what some members were saying: "We don't need
any blacks in this club. " A core of "about 20 guys" was opposed to Mr. Jackson, Mr. Hunter said.
His membership never made it out of committee. Mr. Jackson, who said he didn't set out to "be a hero or create a problem for the club,"
finally withdrew his application early this year and joined Royal Oaks Country Club, which he said welcomed him.
"It's the last place I know of that a sort of good old boy network exists in concentrated form," Mr. Jackson said of the elite clubs. "I guess I
don't have a problem with the good old boy network until it puts another 2-pound weight in my sack to run the same race.
"What hit me when I went to the club was the access to power and the ability to have an unlevel economic playing field to your advantage.
" Mr. Hunter has vowed to work within the club to change its practices, or he and PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico will quit Northwood, he said.
"This is the right thing to do, not just in this club but in any club," he said. "It's frustrating as hell that this happens in America today. " C.
Jack Corgan, an architect and 20-year Northwood member, said the Jackson episode illustrated that the club's selection process should
be "colorblind" but isn't.

The club missed the chance to add a top-notch member, he said, but the controversy ultimately was "good for the club. " "I wish it
would've turned out differently," said Mr. Corgan, who got to know the applicant during his long introductory and waiting period. "It made
people think about the criteria for membership that are important, like character and sociability, more than superficial things.
"To put it another way, I think progress has been made. " Dallas developer Tom Lardner, a member of Northwood since 1980, said he
never thought about a lack of minorities at the club until the mayor's recent comments.
"If you look at the numbers of the population, it seems to me if there are no minorities, it seems unusual," Mr. Lardner said. "I think if there
is a policy of exclusion, that is wrong and it may be illegal. " Last year, when Lawrence Pollock joined the Dallas Country Club, he may
have become its first Jewish member.
"It's not far wrong," Mr. Pollock said of being the first.
"There are not many if any. . . . I'd have to say it's a little change. " The Dallas businessman said he never intended to be a
groundbreaker. "I guess every club should include everyone. People ought to be judged on themselves. That may not be the way the
world works altogether. " Dallas Country Club member Ed Haggar Jr., an investor, said his Catholic family couldn't join the club when he
was in school.
"You've got a lot of flat-earthers in Highland Park. It's a community within a community," Mr. Haggar, 50, said of the affluent,
predominantly white town. "It's clearly very, very narrow-minded and prejudiced on many views. Our generation thinks it's wrong, and as
we move along it'll change. " Lawyer Jack Little, a longtime Dallas Country Club member, said he isn't oblivious to the club's lack of
"I'm aware of it," he said. "It's bothersome. " Mr. Little said he isn't concerned enough to help integrate the club because "change is
coming," just as it did years ago to downtown business clubs that admitted only men.
Robert W. Decherd, A.H. Belo Corp. chairman, president and chief executive officer, also belongs to the Dallas Country Club. Several
senior executives of Belo, which owns and operates The Dallas Morning News , WFAA-TV and other media properties, are members of
the city's most exclusive clubs.
"All of us believe that Mayor Kirk is absolutely correct - that for any community to flourish, its leading institutions must be progressive," Mr.
Decherd said in a written statement.
"As individuals, we have expressed our strong belief that Dallas' leading clubs ought to welcome into membership the city's most
outstanding citizens, including black, Hispanic, Asian or Jewish citizens, and including women.
"We know that some efforts are being made within these clubs to end unwarranted discrimination, but the visible results are very limited to
this point," he said. "It's my view, the view of my colleagues and the view of our company, that leaders of all private clubs need to be very
proactive in achieving inclusiveness. Change is long overdue. " (Other Belo executives and their memberships are Ward L. Huey Jr., vice
chairman and president of the broadcast division, Dallas Country Club; Burl Osborne, publishing division president and publisher of The
News , Northwood; Michael J. McCarthy, senior vice president and general counsel, Northwood; Jeremy L. Halbreich,
president and general manager of The News, Preston Trail; and James M. Moroney III, president of Belo's television group, Brook
Hollow.) Columbian Country Club, a Jewish club in Carrollton that was founded in response to anti-Semitism, also appears not to be
integrated. Management refused to discuss its membership, but some members say their list includes no minorities.
Just men, just golf Preston Trail Golf Club is an institution for men only. No women, no families and nothing but golf.
Mickey Mantle, in the days before he found sobriety, added to his partying legend by golfing nearly naked there.
In club circles, the place is known for the size of its regular bets among playing partners.
Women are allowed at the facility one day a year: Valentine's Day.
Voting memberships are restricted to 275 slots, one of the lowest numbers in the area. Costs are by far the highest.
"I don't know that any [blacks] have ever applied," said B.M. "Mack" Rankin, a Dallas oilman who has belonged to the club since it opened
in 1963. "There've been a lot [of blacks] who've played out there. " Clubs across the country that wanted to host - or keep - Professional
Golfers Association-sanctioned tournaments have accepted minority members, he said. But he said that's not on the agenda at Preston
Trail, which hosted the Byron Nelson Classic until 1983.
"People in this country ought to have a right to associate with who they want to," Mr. Rankin said. "There are a lot of other ethnic clubs
that don't associate with other races either.
"There are a lot of people I don't want to be around, regardless of what color they are. " After a country club founder in Shoal Creek, Ala.,

said in 1990 that blacks weren't admitted there, the PGA pledged that clubs hosting its events would have to "demonstrably open" their
membership practices by 1995. The United States Golf Association, which hosts the men's and women's U.S. Open tournaments and
other events, has adopted a similar policy.
Preston Trail manager Cannon Green said the membership's makeup is confidential and wouldn't answer questions about it. Asked if all
clubs would eventually admit minorities, Mr. Green said, "In the years to come, absolutely, there will be a better representation of today's
society. " Not in writing When Dr. Nathan Jones came to Dallas in 1973, he became the first black member at Great Southwest Golf Club
in Grand Prairie.
He went on to join the Four Seasons sports club, where he was board chairman.
Dr. Jones encouraged club members to create a program that donates golf equipment to inner-city kids.
But he still feels the sting of discrimination at some clubs "that keeps women and minorities in their place. " "If they get any tax breaks at
all, it's wrong," Dr. Jones said.
If any clubs ever had written racial or gender prohibitions, the provisions have disappeared from the bylaws.
To qualify for tax-exempt status, a club can't have a written policy of discriminating by race or religion.
The law is based in part on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that governments may forbid private clubs with at least 400 members from
barring women and minorities as members.
Internal Revenue Service spokesman Phil Beasley in Dallas said the IRS doesn't regularly investigate clubs, but "if there is a club that
discriminates, the IRS will want to know. " Texas country clubs and yacht clubs combined save about $1.1 million a year by not paying the
state franchise tax, said Andy Welch, spokesman for the state comptroller's office.
Mr. Welch said there is no way to calculate how much individual clubs would pay if they were not exempt from the franchise tax.
Records on the amount of taxes businesses pay are not public information, he said.
Some large tax-exempt country clubs in Texas save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because they don't have to pay federal
income taxes, according to IRS records and information provided by IRS officials.
For instance, a few clubs in Dallas report income of more than $5 million annually on IRS forms. According to Mr. Beasley of the IRS,
such income reported by tax-exempt firms is "roughly" equivalent to the pretax income of companies without nonprofit status.
According to the IRS, a regular tax-paying corporation that had $5 million in pretax income last year would have paid about $1.7 million in
federal income tax.
Veteran state Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, led an unsuccessful attempt last month to end the state tax exemption.
"Not unlike vampires, their exemptions allow them to suck the financial resources which normally would go, for instance, toward public
education," he said.
Exacerbating the situation, he said, is that "they'll say they let anybody in, but they are segregated. " Dallas business owner and former
Cowboys player Drew Pearson said country clubs are an important symbol for society.
"If people who have influence and money and power start . . . to speak out against discriminatory practices that some country clubs have,
we'd see change happening," said Mr. Pearson, an African-American.
Mr. Cottrell, the businessman, decided not to force the integration question at the Dallas Country Club when he had the chance about four
years ago.
A lawyer approached him about buying a club membership that was part of a bankruptcy case, Mr. Cottrell said.
"I'd like to see them turn you down," he recalled the trustee's saying.
The man pointed out that the club would have the right to bid against him and buy back the membership.
Mr. Cottrell, who's not a golfer and doesn't depend on white business contacts, figured that this social cause had too high a price tag. "I
don't need their country club to do business," he said. "And I damn sure don't need to be someplace I'm not wanted. " Staff writer Richard
A. Oppel Jr. in Austin contributed to this report.
Caption: CHART(S): (DMN) Dallas-Fort Worth Area Country Clubs. PHOTO(S): (1. The Dallas Morning News: Natalie Caudill) (2. The
Dallas Morning News: Michael Ainsworth) 1&2. Above: Two unidentified golfers enjoy a game at the Royal Oaks Country Club. The North
Dallas club has at least two black members. Left: The 101-year-old Dallas Country Club in Highland Park has minority members, but none

of them is African-American.
Record: 1662656
Copyright: Copyright 1997 The Dallas Morning News Company