Navy veteran & respected doctor blackballed after trying to join all-white Charleston Rifle Club

Mary Scott
Dec 26, 2018
07:51 P.M.

A Navy veteran and emergency room physician became the victim of blackballing after he tried to join the all-white Charleston Rifle Club. The issue has now gone viral and sparked outrage in many quarters.


Dr. William Melvin Brown III, a Charleston native and member of the Medical University of South Carolina Board of Trustees, was convinced by his white friends who were members of the club to apply for membership.

While he was in the Navy, Brown would hang out and have some beers with his friend at the club, but didn’t think much of their urgings at the time.

When the doctor finally decided to hand in his application, however, it led to months of conflict and tension that resulted in the rejection of Brown’s candidacy through the club’s blackball system, Post and Courier reports.


It didn’t matter that Brown surpassed all of the group’s membership criteria or that he secured the required sponsorship, the medical doctor was rejected at the same meeting where 13 other white men were accepted.


Brown told The New York Times the incident was “a huge disappointment and “a little embarrassment.” He added:

“I wasn’t trying to be a hero, to be like, ‘Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev.’ It was my friends saying, ‘Hey, it’s fun, it’s relaxed, it’s casual.’”


Brown’s application was rejected by a flawed voting system of the club that requires only six of its 800 members to scuttle a vote. The process involved existing members dropping marbles into boxes marked with each candidate’s name.

A white marble indicates “Yes” while a black marble is a “No” vote. By the end of the night, Brown had 11 black marbles in his box.


Many of the club’s longtime members were shocked at the outcome of Brown’s application, considering that he had a stellar reputation and credentials that were more than enough to have him admitted.


James Ledlie, an attorney and Brown’s friend who sponsored his membership bid, said:

“CRC makes a big deal of Fourth of July and Veterans Day. As a veteran myself, it is one of the things I enjoyed about CRC. But when I nominated a friend of mine who is a living, breathing exemplar of selfless military service, who happens to be black, and he was denied membership despite his stellar character and personality, I knew for sure what was going on. That was the reckoning. That was the proof.”



Brown’s membership denial was in October last year, but the situation has continued to generate a backlash that has so far, seen the club divided into two factions and has led to the loss of major partnerships with other organizations.

Members of the CRC that are against its seeming racist tendencies have since launched a word-of-mouth petition that reads:

“(A) minority, against the will of the majority, has chosen to make the [Rifle Club] a race-based organization. This threatens the reputation of the club and the reputation of its members. It also jeopardizes the club’s affiliations with countless outside organizations with which the club has for years endeavored to assist in social and charitable efforts. We, the undersigned, hereby demand that the Club leadership immediately and publicly condemn this practice, and actively seek to right this wrong.”

The petition has so far collected about 150 signatures while the issue continues to attract more media attention.

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