GCCRC was formed from the Columbia Luncheon Club
The Columbia Luncheon Club (CLC) precluded the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. In fact, the CLC actually facilitated the creation of the Community Relations Council.
Throughout the summer of 1963, the “Civil Rights Revolution” was burgeoning within the United States. Appearing upon national television, on June 11, President John F. Kennedy had announced that currently the primary national domestic priority was securing a racially integrated society. Meanwhile, in Columbia, South Carolina, a determined group of white and black civic leaders quietly were working to achieve meaningful social change. Amidst a series of frank negotiating sessions, they were seeking to secure such reforms through rational orderly dialogue. The Columbia Luncheon Club ultimately became a direct result of that ongoing effort. The Columbia Luncheon Club has functioned successfully since November 1963. And, no other interracial social club within South Carolina predates this organization.
Columbia Luncheon Club Background
During the early months of 1962, African-American students frequently had marched toward the downtown from the campuses of both Benedict College (now Benedict University) and Allen University. During the lunch hour, these young marchers usually went to Woolworth’s Department Store on Main Street. They demonstrated at other downtown stores as well. Upon being denied service at the lunch counters, they invariably had assumed positions behind the various stools where white patrons were eating. In any case, white students from nearby Columbia High School were known to confront the protestors. Several of these encounters inevitably led to major fistfights. Eventually, Mayor Lester Bates persuaded the principal to lock the school’s doors during the lunch hour. Throughout the summer months Mayor Bates worked to resolve the situation before the school terms resumed that autumn. Without fanfare, the mayor had gathered responsible civic leaders, of both races, to achieve an accommodation. Mayor Bates was certainly keenly aware of the racial violence which appeared to be endemic in Birmingham, Alabama.
On July 12, 1963, Mayor Bates wrote a confidential letter to President Thomas F. Jones of the University of South Carolina. Within this correspondence, he stated: “Racial issues affecting our community are becoming more pressing every day. These issues touch upon practically every phase of our lives, many extending beyond the normal jurisdiction of government”. Consequently, at Bates’ behest, Columbia City Council planned to select fifty “responsible white citizens” to convene a “strictly private session” at the Wade Hampton Hotel on Main Street. The mayor wanted President Jones to be in attendance. This conclave apparently convened six days later in the hotel’s Capitol Room. Most of the participants willingly agreed to serve on the “Special Committee on Integration”. A prominent architect, William S. Lyles, Sr. was asked to serve as chairman. Shortly thereafter, a “Negro Integration Committee” was included into the “interracial negotiating sessions”.
Throughout these lengthy meetings Hyman Rubin had been contemplating a novel notion for that time period. He privately was noting the apparent cordiality which existed between both groups. Rubin certainly knew that the leaders of both races only associated while engaging in such intense bargaining sessions. However, they never met at purely social gatherings. Prevailing southern racial mores obviously did not sanction such interaction. Rubin’s intention was to gather prominent local leaders from both racial communities for casual monthly luncheons. The primary aim was to establish positive racial harmony within Columbia, as well as South Carolina. Not surprisingly, the greatest obstacle to Rubin’s plan was securing a regular venue. President Jones intervened decisively in the matter. Jones orally invited Rubin to convene these luncheons at the University of South Carolina. However, knowing the Board of Trustees, as well as many influential alumni would not approve of these gatherings; this invitation apparently never was placed in writing.
The usual participants included some of Columbia’s most influential professional and business leaders, drawn from both races. Although Mayor Bates attended several early gatherings, he never became a regular member.
All material comes directly from The Columbia Luncheon Club by Miles Richards.
Richards, Miles.” The Columbia Luncheon Club, edited by Sarah McCrory, Columbia, South Carolina*, 2005, 3-31.
Important Dates and Highlights
- 1964, the membership approved Hyman Rubin to serve as the moderator
- 1964, Hyman Rubin elected first president
- Hemphill P. Pride II became the Luncheon Club’s first black president
- 1970, The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council assumed all administrative duties
- 1986, the first Ordie P. Taylor Humanitarian of the Year Award given
- 1988, the first female members were joined
- 1988, the first African-American woman also became a member
- 1994, the first female president was elected
- 2000, the first African-American female president was elected