More “Whites Only” Trouble For SC Republicans

Just when you thought the SCGOP couldn’t get any more politically tone-deaf, it turns out their state Party Chairman and 2010 gubernatorial front-runner are both members of additional “whites only” societies. SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster are members of the Camellia Ball and Columbia Ball,…

Just when you thought the SCGOP couldn’t get any more politically tone-deaf, it turns out their state Party Chairman and 2010 gubernatorial front-runner are both members of additional “whites only” societies.

SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster are members of the Camellia Ball and Columbia Ball, respectively, two all-white dance clubs that hold annual debutante balls at swanky local clubs.

In fact, the Camellia Ball holds its annual debutante ball at the Forest Lake County Club – the other all-white organization that’s landed both of these politicians in hot water recently.

The existence of these clubs is no secret – in fact they pay a pretty penny to publish their activities in the all of the local newspapers in Columbia, S.C.

Of course no mention is made of the racially-exclusive nature of their membership.

Nonetheless, in 2004 Dawson served as secretary of the Camellia Ball, and sources tell FITS that Dawson and his wife, Candy, were present at the organization’s latest shin-dig on December 20.

A few weeks prior to that, on November 26, McMaster’s daughter Mary was debuted at the Columbia Ball.  Miss McMaster was also a guest at the Cotillion, another “whites only” dance club.

Here’s a shot of her in her debutante dress, in case you’re interested.

So where do these societies come from?

Well, besides “another time?”

We’re glad you asked.

In 1877, the wife of former Confederate Cavalry commander and S.C. Governor Wade Hampton held the first “State Ball” in the rotunda of the State House.

These events featured the Hampton silver and local wealthy folks provided other china, silverware and candlelabras as well as the food.

These were truly elaborate affairs, which lasted all night and ended with a breakfast the following morning.

The local elites brought their servants along with them, and many members of the legislature were invited to bring their country daughters to town to meet the local bachelors.

Of course the only problem was that the local belles were also meeting those country bumpkin sons.

In 1889, Mrs. Hampton and several other ladies formed the “Assembly,” fashioned after The Assembly of Philadelphia.

At Assembly balls, daughters would be presented to suitable young men of their station.

In fact, the 120th Assembly Ball was held at the Marriott Hotel in Columbia on December 22, 2008.

The Assembly is a “legacy club,” meaning that new members must either be the daughter or daughter-in-law of a member.

In other words, you’ve got to either be a blue blood or marry one.

The oldest “gentlemen’s dance club” in Columbia is The Cotillion, which was formed in 1890 but did not begin presenting debutantes until 1947, when two prominent South Carolina daughters were apparently excluded from the Assembly.

The Cotillion has continued to present debutantes each year since 1947, though some in their membership attempted to do away with the ball several years ago after there was a movement in town to change the age at which girls were presented from 19 to 21 years old – ostensibly to abide by federal drinking age laws.

The Cotillion is also a “legacy club.”

Due to the exclusive nature of these two organizations, a movement began in the 1960’s to create social clubs for other wealthy, prominent white families whose daughters could not get debuted at either the Assembly or the Cotillion.

The Columbia Ball, of which McMaster is a member, is one of these clubs. In addition to being “whites only,” it is also a “couples only” club, and members who divorce are asked to resign.

Next up came the Camellia Ball, of which Dawson is a member and former officer, and the South Carolina Ball, both of which were formed in the 1970s.

All five balls are “whites only.” And with the exception of the Camellia Ball, all permit underage drinking.

Competition to get into these clubs is fierce.

“National Democratic or Republican party politics are nothing compared to couples getting their daughters invited as guest debs at other balls,” said one source familiar with the process. “The ultimate social princess designation goes to the girl who is invited to all five balls during the season.”

Interest in these exclusive “whites only” clubs has exploded in recent weeks after revelations of high-profile political memberships at the Forest Lake County Club.

Dawson, a twelve-year member of the club, resigned shortly before launching his campaign for Republican National Committee Chairman, a move many consider as incredibly opportunist – particularly given his continued association with the Camellia Ball.

McMaster has been a member of the Forest Lake Country Club for thirty years.

Incidentally, another prominent member of both Forest Lake and these “whites only” debutante societies is U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant, whose daughter Sallie was debuted at the 2008 Assembly Ball on December 22.

Here’s her debutante pic, in case you’re interested.


2008 Assembly Ball

2008 Columbia Ball

2008 South Carolina Ball

2007 Cotillion Ball

2004 Camellia Ball

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X January 5, 2009 at 12:51 am

oh the ho-hum white culture… Your reporting is usually a little more “high brow” than this.

John January 5, 2009 at 1:03 am

Seriously? Cotillion? Who cares? I’ve taught dance lessons for Cotillion and I can tell you that it’s nothing more than a fancy ball for over-privileged girls. I really enjoy most of these articles on FITSNews, but this is stretching it. Quite frankly I don’t give a damn if you’re a coke addict or a whites only member as long as your political policies are good for South Carolina. Find something more important to report on.

fitsnews Author January 5, 2009 at 1:08 am

X & Jon,

We spent forever on that story (i.e. a half hour). You bitches will read it and like it.


Spicoli January 5, 2009 at 2:22 am

They will read it. They will like it.

This crap is so, like, last century, South Carolina. I mean — either you want to be a part of progress, or you don’t. Which is it? There are just as many daughters of big daddies who aren’t [ewwwww…gulp] WHITE — why not mix it up?

Are ye skeered of a little variety? A little spice? A little freedom?

Gary Rice January 5, 2009 at 3:48 am

With all the Black exclusive clubs and Obamas book talking about expunging the white blood from his veins etc – – – there is no racism in wanting an all white anything anymore. Welcome to 2009 .

Just the Facts Ma'am January 5, 2009 at 7:25 am

Just wondering when we might see a story on all the “historically black” colleges in this state? Talk about clubs!

dj January 5, 2009 at 7:52 am

I guess i’m umedumacated to all this. Now are you (FITS) saying that these clubs by club law and regulation only take white people and discriminate? Or are you saying that this is how it is because of the legacy aspect? It seems like your saying that its based on legacy, however everyone that participates kinda knows the “real deal” on what color will be allowed and knowingly goes along with it. Either way, yeah its pretty fucked up, especially if politicians are in the know and knowingly participate anyways. Doesn’t surprise me though, i’ve noticed a lot of keep the races within their own race thing around here. Example? I’m currently starting to gather information on a sociological paper comparing racial bias in online dating in the south. Look at online dating, most white women in SC will say they only want to date white men (but say they are open minded and want to try new things haha)…compare that with bigger cities who are more open minded. Anyways keep up the good work.

Gillon January 5, 2009 at 10:32 am

Politicians who belong to all-white golf clubs, all-white dance clubs…Well, while you’re at it you might as well include membership in all-white college fraternities and all-white churches as the the next object of your research.

Gen. Longstreet January 5, 2009 at 11:09 am

My, but such “gentlemen dance clubs” take me back — back to a time when fancy “gentlemen” like Bobby Lee represented the epitome of what a Southern man should be.

But that particular gentleman didn’t have the sack to do what needed to be done on July 2 and 3 at Gettysburg. Far more concerned with his honor and reputation, and fearful of once again being called the King of Spades (as he was derisively by the Richmond papers for the defensive trenches he dug to defend Richmond in the War’s early days), this “gentleman” sent thousands of brave Reb to their death, and maimed thousands more. Hood, McLaws, Armistead — what a bloody waste!

And the would-be “Gentlemen” in the Present now celebrate such foolery with their precious “Cotillions.” What rot. The devil take it, I say. But I bet you like them, don’t you, Mr. Gillon?

lou January 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

Here is something important to report on FITS:
We all read that SC poorest citizens lost their right and privilege to Hospice care this weekend. Well, if I didn’t have approximately 2500 pages of hard copy evidence of massive fraud in the SSA and SSI and Medicare and Medicaid system, I would only be sad.
But since I have all this evidence and every single investigation has been STOPPED , I am furious that I know SSI and Medicaid money never reaches this state. It is siphoned off long before SC sees it.
You want details….. I got em.
This is the important news people want to hear.

lou January 5, 2009 at 11:13 am

Oh and Katon’s church… that’s no issue. His church , while formerly mostly white but non exclusionary, had the first black minister assigned to a mostly white church in the Methodist conference. Question is… did he even attend while he had a black minister?????Now that’s a story too…..

Alex January 5, 2009 at 11:46 am

This is getting a little out of hand…its a societal club. You have people in your assembly whom you are social with. This is getting really ridiculous. Nothing like making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Alex January 5, 2009 at 11:47 am

Oh, and you can look at almost any Cotillion, or Assembly, in any county in South Carolina and see its membership is all white and rich. And you can look at almost anyone across the south and find the same thing. Give these guys a break–they are hardly racists.

baker January 5, 2009 at 11:55 am

Yeah, not sure what to make of all this.

Clearly, clubs that have all-white POLICIES, formal admission rules based on race or whatever, are problematic. Any politician with those associations have a problem on their hands, in my opinion.

Deb clubs are a little different, it seems to me. Well, if they have all-white rules, then it’s the same deal. But if it’s just an association of families that got together have these events for their daughters and they happen to all be white, then I don’t know if it’s so agregious. The organizations may be snooty and strange. But I don’t know that they’re blatantly racist — in the same way that I wouldn’t accuse all-black organizations (like “Miss Black SC” pageants or whatever) formed during segregation but that continue to exist today of being racist.

Another example: I wouldn’t accuse of a politician who was in an all-white fraternity back in the early 1990s of being racist — unless it could be determined that the fraternity had racist policies keeping black members out or was otherwise hostile to people of other ethnic backgrounds.

Still, all this is interesting and is evidence of how the South still has some kind of weird traditions and is still grappling with its racist past.

baker January 5, 2009 at 11:57 am

Oh, and the part of all this that was most problematic to me was the bit about getting kicked out if you’re (or your parents are) divorced.

frank January 5, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Oh Mr. Master he good master. Yeah he let me carry those golf clubs many time on those fancy green fields. Mr. Master once told me that if I ever had the right the vote, he would let me vote for him.

Let’s get serious, once his term is up as Attorney General he has got to go. far as Governor of South Carolina, HELL NO!!! It is this kind of say one thing and doing another that McMaster and other elected officials do that keeps our state so behind the times.

fitsnews Author January 5, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Look, people. There is nothing wrong with these clubs. We’ve said that repeatedly. People can socialize and dance with whoever they want.

We could give a rat’s ass.

But a candidate for RNC Chair or Governor of S.C. should know better.

Specifically, they should know that associating with such organizations is to court potential disaster among independent voters – or for that matter the 100,000-plus people who bolted the Republican Party in the 2008 Presidential Primary elections to vote Democratic.

Henry McMaster is a good guy. We’ve known him for years. We don’t think he’s a racist nor have we ever said that he is.

He’s not terribly smart, but that’s another story.

Our only point is that someone running to represent all South Carolinians should probably think twice about participating in multiple social organizations that discriminate on the basis of race.

That’s all.

Oh, and McMaster’s church, First Presbyterian of Columbia, is indeed lily white, but unlike the Forest Lake County Club or any of these Society Balls, First Presbyterian permits (and we understand has) black members.

Big difference.

Roger January 5, 2009 at 12:21 pm


Members of an all-white cotillion or assembly or whatever you want to call it may not all be racists, but they do not represent mainstream South Carolina. These societies are vestiges of the old-South that will eventually die out as South Carolina moves into the 20th century. The overwhelming majority of upper-middle to upper income South Carolinians, the people who are the movers and shakers in the state’s business and political communities, have no historical involvement in these kinds of organizations.

Spicoli January 5, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Well, Roger — that’s good to know that the movers and shakers here aren’t a part of these contrived ballerina gigs.

General — I am finally learning something about the Civil War — thanks, dude. You know, out west they didn’t even teach us what color uniforms each side wore. I kid you not! They definitely didn’t teach it on the days I went to class. I want my parents’ tax money BACK.

Petey Pablo January 5, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Like any private club, you have to be accepted. No where in the by laws of FLC or these cotillions does it say whites only, and underage drinking permitted. When I open the paper on any given Sunday I see the cotillon pictures from all over, and they are either black or white…(no whites at the black cotillions). I also see the 100 Black Men of America, but dare there be a 100 White Men society. People tend to socialize with those that they live near, share philosophies with, and quite frankly look similiar. This doesn’t mean they are racists (black, white, jewish hispanic)…it means they are normal. As a member of First Pres, I can tell you we are very open, but 99.9% of our members are white…just like 99.9-100% of Brookland Baptist is black. This really is a non issue that you are trying to stir.

frank January 5, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Instead of trying to justify why McMaster and others are members of this all white club that does not allow blacks to be members of, why not expect better from our state’s highest prosecutor and demand that he fight what is apparent discrimination? For McMaster to hold an office of justice, to be a memer of an all white club, and not fight something that is bad enough as discrimination, how can we expect him to fight for real victims that are not the same color as he is.

To continue to support McMaster is continued support for the KKK.

frank January 5, 2009 at 8:29 pm

To continue to support McMaster is continued suport for the KKK and others a like.

Cooter Brown January 5, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Sickie, my boy, you sure gots some folks all up in a tissy wit all dis white folk stuff.

I knows ye have a higher purpose– to discrejet McMaster– but really, boy, you got misguided tolerant-for-eberyone-but-Southern-White-folks types like Frank who’s evokin da klan! Lawrd hab mercie!

Does we needs dat kinda trash justa put a hoodoo hexin’ on yer boy Henry?

O, one more thang… Dem uppity cracker gals look rite nice in dem fine dresses an’ globes an’ such.

Why, I rememba when ladies wuz ladies– eve’n the poor famers daughters I use’d to court when I was justa young feller…

Ah, take me back, sur… take me back… day wuz ladies compaired to dese young hussys walking aroun’ deese daize.

Cooter Brown January 5, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Whist I’m a feelin’ chattie, I gots a queskton:

Can any of you young folks ‘splain what ye mean by “racist”?

Dis hole topic seems t’be a littl’ obtuse if’n we ain’t clear on dat dare appellation (‘couple of big college werds in dat dare sentence… Haw!).

Seems to my ol’ min dat its’a lik axin’ a feller if he still beats his ol’ ladie.

How does one respond t’such a semantical trap? (Y’all didn’t know dat ol’ Cooter has a little skoolin, did ye?) Hit’s clearly an shuck ‘n jive tactick used ta beat a man down.

Beliebe me, I gots no lub fer th’ scalawag, but heck, let’s beat him wit somethin’ real, lik his werds an’ deeds.

roger the elder January 6, 2009 at 2:23 am

I notice there is another Roger on the blogs. I would certainly never claim to be the “original” roger, but I am certain I am Roger the Elder (I’ve been around awhile, kids.). So I will refer to myself thusly so there is no confusion.

curious January 6, 2009 at 11:50 am

You said you’d be posting more names from the 2008 directory – what happened?

frank January 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Let’s break it down a litte.

Is he or is he not our state prosecutor? He is.

Is he or is he not a member of an all white club that does not allow blacks to be members of? He is.

Is he or is he not fighting for justice and equality? He is NOT.

So please tell us Master why you have done nothing to change this?

Granny January 6, 2009 at 2:08 pm

“Is he or is he not fighting for justice and equality? He is NOT.”



George Chell January 25, 2009 at 7:55 pm

“People tend to socialize with those that they live near, share philosophies with, and quite frankly look similiar. This doesn’t mean they are racists (black, white, jewish hispanic)…it means they are normal.”

Speak for yourself and your fellow white southerners..not all whites around the world or for that matter not all non-whites. It is not normal human behavior.

Kate July 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I am not a southerner, never have been, and never will be. I am not even American, but a Brit, born and bred in England, yet I still agree with the argument that people seek out others who are like them. You argued that white is a skin colour, but black or actually brown, since most people are not black, but rather various shades of brown, isn’t? Geez, who is the one with double standards?
Mr Chell, I am afraid you might be a terrible bigot and a hypocrite to boot! Not a combination if you ask me.

Kate July 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I meant to write that this is not a good combination.

Lisa Small January 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I came here looking for info on Katon Dawson – thank you for the backstory on this.

Depressing that it’s still going on. Debutante balls are creepy enough (“Come see and judge our marriageable daughters! Fine breeding stock!”) but that the events are (still) racist as well as sexist (and elitist, plutocratist, and so on) is just…words fail me. That a judge and a prosecutor would belong to such groups… and that the state’s papers would wink and nod about it, instead of daily raising Cain!…again, I’m speechless.

Anyway, really – thanks.

James White February 15, 2009 at 11:20 pm

so what!! Get a life! I don’t care what black people do. BET NAACP black democratic caucus FUBU black history monthEEOC quotas jessie Jackson al sharpton and on and on. I’m white why can’t I be proud of my heritage, why do I have to feel terrible about being white? I don’t need to explain myself. Anyone that has a problem with this- GET BENT!

George Chell March 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm

James “Whitey” White:

No problem if you want to perpetuate your bogus whiteness which is a skin color not a heritage or culture as you claim. But, not when you are running for GOP leadership and claiming to represent different people.

Whitey July 10, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Good article.

What an idiotic issue September 24, 2009 at 11:28 am

Seriously, Will? You yourself acknowledge that there are no rules excluding blacks — but that the membership is based on legacy – almost like a family reunion of sorts, or a reunion of ancestors of an old social club. You further acknowledge that McMaster is not racist. But you suggest that even though Mr. McMaster isn’t racist, he should stop participating in social gatherings with these groups simply for political purposes — just for show? I’m guessing all of his ancestors and family members are white, too. Should he stop attending family reunions, too? Get a life — it’s a dance. Likewise, anyone complaining about there being a Miss Black South Carolina needs to get a life, too. It’s a pageant for Christ’s sake. We aren’t talking about rules excluding someone on the basis of race — AND, we aren’t talking about discrimination related to important things like jobs, housing, voting, etc. It’s a party. That’s all. Hopefully next time you throw one, you will invite black, Asian, Hispanic individuals – if for no other reason than to convince others that you aren’t racist. Good luck convincing them that you aren’t a moron.

kerwin1959 September 26, 2009 at 9:49 pm

The same situation regarding debutante balls exists throughout this country, and your article implies the “all-white” is only found in the South. It’s the same all across the U.S. I’ve never seen a black girl in NY make her debut at any ball that was not an all-black debutante ball.

Yes, Virginia, there are all-black debutante balls. I’ve never heard or read of a white girl make her debut at all-white balls. Cities with a large Hispanic population have their own debutantes, too.

So demographics and history regarding debutante balls may imply one thing, the bottom line is . . . . . it’s not a discriminatory practice. It’s preference. Why would a 19 year old black girl want to debut at a predominantly white affair? And why would a white girl want to debut a predominantly black or hispanic ball? But because we’re in the South, people automatically assume is a racial issue, going back to the days of slavery.

As for membership at Forest Lake or any other P-R-I-V-A-T-E club, whether, if a black man truly, truly wanted to become a member and he met the requirements for membership, in this day and age, I don’t think he could be prevented from being admitted.

Most people don’t want to be “the odd man out”. My daughters didn’t want to go to an all-male school. My sons didn’t want to go to an all-girls school. If I were Jewish, I wouldn’t want to go to Catholic school. It can be applied to many circumstances

I wonder what would happen if a white college freshman wanted to rush for an all-black fraternity? It gives new meaning to the phrase “being blackballed”. I understand there are still racial issues and injustices, but for this to be pushed to the forefront as having any merit is ridiculous.

Truestory December 15, 2009 at 6:31 am

Ok. I read the article, and have just read through every comment. And you know what it all boils down to? Jealousy!

Yall just can’t stand the fact that the group, excuse me, culture of people that are members of Forest Lake, attend the annual Camellia Ball, and get up every sunday and go to the First Presbetyrian Church do what they do! I say culture because it is. This is what Southern Aristocrats do! Its 2009 and yet they continue on what their parents parents parents parents parents have been doing! Why? Because they have pride, class, and respect for who they are and where they come from….some traits the average American lacks these days!

Are they rich? Yep the majority are. Are they snobs? Ha yes but not nearly as much as yall would like to slanderize. Are they Republicans? Yep the majority are, and yes a few of them hold seats in the states political offices, and yes others are lobbyists and big business owners and all are naturaly politically influential. Are they racist? Hmmm the older generation shows their dark side on occasion but like I said this is 2009 so the answer is no they are not.

Back to my point. I would be jealous to if after a long Monday (politicaly dominating speaking) I was fortunate enough to go out to the socially elite club I am a member of and play a few holes with my best friends before coming back to my beautiful home that night. Oh I would really be jealous if that Friday night I was fortunate enough to escort my beautiful daughter to that same club and allow her to make her debut with all the young, intelligent, and most certain promising future bachelors of the Ball.

But…What would make me most jealous of all would to have the opportunity to attend a very nice historic church in downtown Columbia. And thank God for all he has blessed me with because I know how blessed I am. Haha and then go back to the club again for a charming sunday brunch!

You damn democrats!!! Always playing the race card! Its sick! Any of yall ever been to Forest Lake? The entire club staff has got to be around 90% African-American. And that ain’t no slave labor either! They applied and got the job and they love it! Why? Because everybody they serve is friendly. Everybody they serve calls them by their first name! Hold on, this story will blow yalls mind. An old man just passed away recently he was the man in charge of the bag room at the pro shop. 33 years of service to Forest Lake, the building was just renamed after him and a plaque was put up in his honor. Get this, a member paid the tuitions for his three daughters every year they attended college. The man was black and all the members loved him! This is the best part, the hardest job at Forest Lake would have to be the golf course maintence crew. Everyday consant raking, grass cutting, ect… what you people would call “plantation labor”. The head greenskeeper is white, and the staff is well…mostly white too. Call me a liar please because those are facts!

In conclusion im disgusted with the actions of Mark Sanford, and honestly don’t have a high opinion of any of our gubernatorial candidates. I along with you people want whats best for our State. But quit this shallow attack on the GOP involving their private lives and affiliations because it really comes off as envious.

I look forward with great interest the barage of responses im sure to get from my comment!

HeHateMe December 15, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Excuse me, Mr. Truestory

This is a very well written argument

SnakeMD January 12, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Dance clubs? Never heard that term before. This article fails miserably in defining the culture of these southern institutions which exist in most every Southern city. Truestory has reported it correctly. Yes, these institutions do appear odd in todays diluted society. But the same thing appears in Richmond, Savannah, Wilmington, and other places with social registries. We have become so politically correct it is rather embarrassing to call oneself a Southerner. Truestory–a toast and a bottoms up with Jim Beam, to you…good reporting.

Chris December 27, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Give me a break- impugning someone for being a racist or whatever due to taking part in a debutante ball? Are you serious?

Debutante balls are just get-togethers of 40/50-something parents and their friends, with their children as the centers of attention. Yes, the one I was involved in (in Greenville) was all-white, but if the racial exclusivity had ever been brought to the organizers’ attention, they would gladly have reached out to diverse members of the community to take part, as the all-white nature of my debutante group was certainly not intentional, and racial considerations played no role in who took part. (There are African-American debutante groups as well.)

How many boards of directors in which Democrats serve are all-white as well? How many churches where Democrats are members are all-white? Would I ever connect that racial exclusivity to racist views by Democrats? Of course not.

Gregory F. Peischl March 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Do you know of any white people’s only clubs only for those who score in the upper 5%, even the upper 2% in intelligence of the world’s people?

Comments are closed.