Following up on an announcement that appeared in the club newsletter, The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., confirmed with Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, an executive with Duke Energy, that she and her husband had become members of the 103-year-old, invitation-only club.
The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. reported that Carolina Country Club in that city “has made what appears to be its first acceptance of African-American members in its 103-year history.”
The News & Observer reported that “the most recent edition of Columns, the club newsletter, which arrived in members’ mailboxes [on July 2nd], announced that Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, Vice President of Corporate Public Affairs for Duke Energy, had been accepted for membership [at Carolina CC] with husband Alvin Ragland.”
The News & Observer then contacted Pinnix-Ragland, a native of Hillsborough, N.C. who now lives in Cary, N.C., and she confirmed that she and her husband, a human resources specialist, “are members of the club.”
“We are excited to be members,” Pinnix-Ragland, the first African-American woman to become a vice president at Duke Energy, told the newspaper. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The News & Observer reported that Timothy Nichols, the club’s President, did not return phone calls seeking comment and that other club officials could not be reached.
The newspaper did report additional confirmation of the Pinnix-Ragland membership through an interview with Frank Daniels Jr., a former publisher of The News & Observer who has been a Carolina CC member since 1956.
Daniels told The News & Observer that to his knowledge, this was the first time an African-American member had joined the invitation-only club. “I don’t think it’s a matter of prejudice,” he added. “I just think it’s a matter of not knowing anybody.”
The News & Observer’s report noted that “[Carolina CC] has played a major role in Raleigh society and business, especially before companies such as IBM moved to the area in the 1960s and brought in new influences and diverse people from the Northeast and other areas.” Observing that “like many private clubs, the country club has watched its clientele age and may be reaching out to a younger and broader potential membership pool,” the newspaper then quoted a letter to members from General Manager Jack Slaughter that appeared in the club’s March-April newsletter,
“Once again, we find ourselves at a point where we chart our future success with some very exciting facility improvements and membership sustainability plans designed to maintain our position as the country club of choice for area families,” the newspaper quoted from Slaughter’s letter to members. “We know that it is very important to maintain the quality of our physical facilities to continue our relevance and success. However, the most important thing to the Club’s success is continuing the congenial relationships built amongst its member families, making the Club a close community of friends, family and neighbors that enjoy being around each other.”
The News & Observer also interviewed William H. Chafe, a Duke University history professor and co-director of the Program on History, Public Policy and Social Change. Chafe characterized developments that eliminate the appearance of discrimination or exclusion at private clubs as “long overdue.”
“These are memberships that carry more symbolic significance than anything else,” Chafe told the newspaper. “But country clubs can be the last bastion of privilege and exclusivity, so it’s important that these things happen.”
The News & Observer’s report, http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/07/03/3009050/first-african-american-couple.html#storylink=cpy, generated several pages of online comments from readers after it was first published on July 3.
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