The Belle Meade Country Club may be poised to accept the first African-American resident member in its nearly 100-year history, according to club documents obtained by the Scene.
According to copies of the club's November 2011 newsletter — unless it's the most elaborate Photoshop hoax of all time — Waller Lansden partner Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., was nominated to become a full member last fall by Robert Boston, an attorney at the firm.
Calls to Crenshaw's and Boston's offices were not immediately returned.
Michael Seabrook, general manager of Belle Meade, declined to comment.
According to his biography on Waller Lansden's website, Crenshaw earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1981, and was the law firm's first African-American attorney and partner.
Your humble correspondent received the aforementioned documentation via snail mail today, including the following cover letter, purportedly written by a member of Belle Meade.
I know you have written about the membership policies of my club. I am not happy that you are trying to dictate who we accept. The membership committee is solely responsible for membership and they have rules.
I am also not happy that it looks like because of you and others that they are caving to political correction at its worse [sic]. I know we do not have any local colored members and now it looks like we will. You know that two people are a lawyer with a big mouth wife and a businessman who is [possibly libelous reference redacted] have applied for membership. I do not know if they are getting in and so now they have found some other lawyer named Waverly ... Since Bob Boston the former board member and lawyer for the club is putting him up, I feel the real fix is in. I looked him up and he is just an affirmative action laywer. NO ONE KNOWS THIS GUY AND HE IS ABOUT TO GET ACCEPTED. At least with the other two there is a paper trail and you know what you are getting. Part of waiting is allowing all members to write a letter against such types and those go in their file for the membership committee.
There have [sic] also been a woman put up for a full membership this month. I have sent you copies of the newsletter so you will not think I do not know what I am talking about. The committee meets next week and it looks like if [Judge Gilbert Merritt] is right, we will have these new unvetted people.
Part of waiting at least two years is so the members can find out if these people are club material. No full member has ever gotten in this quick and even the head of Vanderbilt Zeppos had to wait two years to get in.
I hope you will investigate who these people are and why the membership committee is caving to the PC crowd.
-Member of the Club
Franklin said he had been approached by someone in the past six months telling him that he should think about applying, but wouldn't confirm if the individual was a member of the club or not.
"I hadn't thought about it," he says of applying to the club.
According to The Tennessean, the club is considering nominating its first resident female member, Adelaide Stevens, this month.
The move to actively court African-Americans and females for resident membership may be a direct response to the less-than-flattering publicity Belle Meade has garnered of late regarding its exclusionary policies. In December, a judicial ethics committee publicly reprimanded a longtime club member, Judge George Paine, Chief Justice of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, for belonging to an institution that practiced "invidious discrimination."