Rainier Club, Seattle's preeminent private club, admits first African American and first woman in 1978.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/28/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2962
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In 1978, the Rainier Club, previously an exclusive (white) gentleman's club, admits to membership for the first time an African American and a woman. Luther Carr, a prominent black contractor, becomes a member on July 25, 1978. Judge Betty Binns Fletcher (1923-2012), the first woman to head the Seattle-King County Bar Association, becomes the first woman member on August 22, 1978. The first Japanese American member, Saburo Nishimuro, had been admitted on November 25, 1966.

Luther Carr's membership required an amendment to club bylaws, which had permitted any 10 members to bar a nominated person from becoming a member. When Carr was first nominated, 10 members acted on their racial prejudice and protested his membership. Thus, in accordance with bylaws, he was automatically blackballed.

The Board of Trustees issued a stinging rebuke, and asked the membership to amend the bylaws. The club manager at the time, Ellis Jones, remembers that "it was a very quiet meeting. The vote was unanimous and there was no hullabaloo" (Crowley, 59).

The Rainier Club is located in a historic building in downtown Seattle at 820 4th Avenue. It was founded in 1888 by Judge Thomas Burke (1849-1925) and other civic leaders, and remains a thriving, and now, non-discriminatory institution for meeting, networking, and dining.


Walt Crowley, The Rainier Club, 1888-1988 (Seattle: The Rainier Club, 1988), 57-59.
Note: This essay was updated on October 25, 2012.

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