Posted by Roger Lindley
Our member William Churchill, after reading the recent CMIRC Bulletin article on the History of Women in Rotary, asked about the history of black people in Rotary. There does not appear to be a concise record on this but the following may provide perspective:
 
After the US Supreme Court ruling that women must be permitted to join Rotary, an interview was published in the Los Angeles Times on 6 May 1987. Here is portion of that interview with PDG Howard Mark:
 
“A Rotary district governor in Encino, Howard Mark, said his men were unflustered by the event. "Gee, now we can finally admit Phyllis," one member said.” ...
 
“Said Mark: "I think it (the ruling) is going to be accepted very well. The only thing that's “changed really are three letters -- that's M-E-N -- that have to be taken out of the bylaws." …
 
“Mark said there have been Rotarians who threatened to leave the club should this day ever come. He said he heard the same threat 20 years ago when Rotary clubs accepted their first black members. "It's just hot air," he said. The same members who threatened to quit are now saying: "They can't force me out of the club by bringing in a few women," Mark said.”
 
So taking twenty years off from the date of the article would suggest that perhaps 1967 was when black people could join a Rotary Club.
 
But going back, one finds an article from the 31 of May 1982 edition of the New York Times which contains:
 
“The Rotary Club of Birmingham, whose membership of about 360 includes many of the most powerful men in the state, voted this month to retain a rule restricting membership to white men. It is one of only a few of the 19,600 Rotary clubs in the nation with such a policy against black men.
 
“The 120-to-90 vote prompted several resignations. The Birmingham News, one of the city's two daily newspapers, lambasted the Rotary Club for its action. And the board of directors of Rotary International, meeting last week in Boca Raton, Fla., voted unanimously to ask the Birmingham club to reconsider its decision.”
 
From Wikipedia on Rotary International:
“ Racial diversity in membership
"The first Rotary Clubs in Asia were in Manila in the Philippines and Shanghai in China, each in July 1919. Rotary's office in Illinois immediately began encouraging the Rotary Club of Shanghai to recruit Chinese members “believing that when a considerable number of the native business and professional men have been so honored, the Shanghai Club will begin to realize its period of greatest success.” As part of considering the application of a Club to be chartered in Kolkata (then Calcutta), India in January 1920 and Tokoyo, Japan in October 1920, Rotary formally considered the issue of racial restriction in membership and determined that the organization could not allow racial restrictions to the organization's growth. In Rotary's legislative deliberations in June 1921, it was formally determined that racial restrictions would not be permitted. Racialism was included in the terms of the standard constitution in 1922 and required to be adopted by all member Clubs.”
 
From the Rotary Club of Wilmington, North Carolina
"Race:
As a worldwide organization, since 1922 Rotary International has required all new clubs to adopt the standard club constitution, which has no restrictions concerning race. A constitution and bylaws dated 1932 are the earliest in The Wilmington Rotary Club’s archives. Despite the pervasive and official racial segregation of the time, these documents say only that membership is open to “adult male persons of good character and good business or professional reputation.” Race is never mentioned. Nevertheless, the Wilmington club remained all-white until the 1980's. The race issue surfaced nationally in 1982 when the editor of The Birmingham Post-Herald proposed changing his Rotary club’s explicitly whites-only charter. In a secret vote, the Birmingham club voted 120-90 to continue the ban. The editor resigned in protest. When the news got out, RI acted promptly, declaring that “racial discrimination has no place in Rotary” and banning “any club from limiting membership in the club on the basis of race, color, creed or national origin.” The Birmingham club, threatened with having its charter revoked, agreed by voice vote of 200 to 1 to permit non-white members. The Wilmington club’s archives don’t show much conversation about racial diversity until 1987, when arguments over women were dominating board meetings. That year, Father Thomas Hadden, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, became the club’s first African-American member. Five years passed before the next African-American joined. Linda Pearce, CEO of Elderhaus Adult Day Services, was inducted in 1992. A graduate of Williston High School, Pearce had moved back to Wilmington 12 years earlier after working at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C."
 
Might one deduce from this information that a policy may exist but it may not be rigorously adopted and enforced?

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