Ester Wilfong becomes first African American member of Seattle's all-white College Club on May 13, 1968.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 5/13/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5455

On May 13, 1968, Seattle's College Club welcomes Ester Wilfong as its first African American member. He is an elementary school teacher from Tacoma and president of the 38,000-member Washington Education Association. The College Club is the first social club in Washington, other than those specifically established for minorities, to admit an African American. In the past six months, the club has admitted two Asians as members.

The College Club was established in Seattle in 1910 as a social club for men who had graduated from a college or university. The club's by-laws had no language excluding non-whites, but none had ever been admitted to membership.

Ester Wilfong first became a teacher in 1952 in Silverdale, Kitsap County, but was fired by the school board when members of the community complained. They claimed that his race would cause voters to reject school funding measures. The State Board Against Discrimination interceded, and he was rehired within 24 hours.


Sources:

Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 255; "College Club Accepts First Negro Member," The Seattle Times, May 14, 1968, p. 3; "Negro Joins College Club," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 15, 1968, p. 13; "College Men Open Club," Ibid., December 4, 1910, Sec. 1, p. 10.


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