CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina social club’s decision to deny membership to a doctor who would have been its first black member has prompted several local groups to cut ties with it.
Military veteran and doctor Melvin Brown was the only one denied membership to the Charleston Rifle Club in October, The Post and Courier reports . The 13 other candidates who were accepted were white, prompting accusations of racism.
Brown is a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan and is an emergency room doctor currently serving on the Medical University of South Carolina’s board of trustees.
Since he was denied membership, area bowling groups along with the Kiwanis Club of Charleston have stopped using the club’s facilities, which sit on 14 acres (5.6 hectares).
Also, the club’s favored charity, the March of Dimes, announced Saturday they will no longer accept club support. The club’s bylaws bequeath half its assets to the March of Dimes if the club ever dissolves.
“We stand against systemic racism which largely contributes to the negative birth outcomes in the communities we serve — as such, we have chosen not to accept their support moving forward,” said Jayna Zelman, head of public relations for the March of Dimes.
On Monday, the Kiwanis Club of Charleston said it will stop holding its weekly meetings at the Charleston Rifle Club.
Charleston Rifle Club president Dru Patterson said in a recent newsletter that members “divided over issues unresolved” should work from within to fix them. The newsletter also notes that, for now, no new membership applications will be accepted.
Patterson did not immediately return phone calls and emails from the newspaper.
Brown said he has stepped back from the club’s controversy, which can only be addressed by its members. But he has received an outpouring of support from friends, colleagues and strangers.