South Carolina's New Governor Will Remain a Member of His All-White Country Club

Image via Associated Press.
Image via Associated Press.

Former South Carolina lieutenant governor Henry McMaster, who was sworn in as governor after Nikki Haley was confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations, has not seen fit to resign his membership from a country club with a history of only letting in white people.


“The McMaster family has been members of Columbia’s Forest Lake Club for generations,” Brian Symmes, McMaster’s press secretary, told The State. “The club has no policies of racial discrimination. If it did, Governor McMaster would not be a member.”

A petition with over 1,000 signatures calls for McMaster to renounce his membership to Forest Lake Country Club, which the petition says “to this day” has yet to accept a black member. As of 2014, the club reportedly had not admitted any black members, although sources told The State at the time that one interracial couple was... on the waiting list.


In its 2014 report, The State noted that Forest Lake made news in 1984 when it did not extend the traditional honorary membership to a Jewish general. Bakari Sellers, who ran unsuccessfully against McMaster for lieutenant governor in 2014, tried to make his membership to the club an issue; McMaster brushed off the criticism, and voters, depressingly, didn’t seem to care.

“Henry McMaster is a good ol’ boy who is emblematic of where we’ve come from in South Carolina,” Sellers told The State. “For the next two years in South Carolina, maybe six, we will be stuck in the status quo.”

“I just don’t perceive it to be an issue,” Republican state Sen. John Courson, also a member of the club, told The State. “It has not been perceived to be an issue in any of my nine Senate campaigns.”

The Post and Courier notes that former S.C. Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson publicly resigned his membership to the club in 2008 during an unsuccessful bid for RNC chairman, and reportedly wrote a letter urging the club to admit black members. (Citing sources at the club, reported that Dawson never actually left, and “rejoined” in 2009.)


We’ve reached out to Forest Lake Club for comment on their current membership and will update if we receive a response; they did not respond to other outlets’ requests.

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.

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Adrastra, patron saint of not giving a fuck

“The club has no policies of racial discrimination. If it did, Governor McMaster would not be a member.”