Two golf carts putted across the tree-shaded grass of the Loudoun Golf and Country Club on a quiet day in June of last year. In the first cart was club member Norman Green, 51, a real estate agent from Reston who had joined a year earlier. In the second was Green's guest, Arthur Brown, 39, a black GS-13 budget analyst for the Department of the Interior.
Green, who is white, had joined the club in Purcellville a year earlier, a suburbanite among the rural gentry that had been playing the course beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains since 1927. He was one of 200 new, discounted-fee members brought aboard since late 1980.
Green and Brown played together frequently at the Country Club of Reston, and Green thought Loudoun would be a perfect second club for Brown to join as well. This day was to be the tryout. Two other white friends, one a member of the club, joined Brown and Green to make a foursome.
As they passed the pro shop on their way to the third tee, Loudoun's club golf pro, Jimmy Bogle, stopped the cart procession, according to Brown, Green and court records. He had a few words with Green, then walked, stern and expressionless, towards Brown.
"You're not allowed to play here," Brown and Green said Bogle told Brown.
"Why not?" Brown said he asked the pro.
"Because you're black," Brown said Bogle told him.
Bogle has declined to comment about the incident. But in court records, Bogle said that before he spoke to Brown, he telephoned the club president, James I. Fields, who Bogle says, directed him to ask the men to leave. Fields would not comment on the case.
Green and Brown have filed a $125,000 racial discrimination lawsuit against the Loudoun County club in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Brown, a former associate director of the Peace Corps in the Philippines, said his dismissal from the club was "very degrading, very embarrassing."
"It reminded me of the old lunch counter days in Atlanta, where I grew up. I thought we, as a nation, had moved beyond that part of our history," Brown said.
Court challenges to private club membership policies are not uncommmon but have appeared difficult to win. Nevertheless, Brown said he and Green brought their suit against the Loudoun club because "our basic idea is to seek to prevent these types of incidents from occurring again and to see that blacks be permitted to use these facilities."
A brief filed by attorneys for the club in connection with the suit does not specifically mention the incident on the third tee or the reasons why Brown was asked to leave. They have asked that the suit be dismissed because the one-year statute of limitations has expired since the incident.
They also contend the club, being private, is not a "place of public accommodation" and is therefore not covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids racial discrimination.
"Nobody ever told me blacks could not play here," Green said during an interview last week. Nowhere in the club's rulebook does it say blacks are not allowed to play at the club.
On page 15 of the rule book, it says the golf pro at Loudoun is given "full authority in denying or revoking guest privileges to anyone without reason or explanation."
There is no question about race on the club's application for membership. Potential members must present their applications in person, according to the rulebook.
Two weeks after Brown was ejected from the course, golf pro Bogle reported to the club's board of directors that "member Norman Green had undesirable guest and guest told to leave," according to the minutes of the June 17, 1982, meeting subpoenaed by Brown and Green's attorney, Jaclyn Leonhard.
In a county like Loudoun--rolling, open country that has only recently begun the often painful transition from old South to new suburbia--Brown said lingering racial prejudices are still evident to him.
In the 1980 Census, less than 10 percent of Loudoun's 57,000 residents were black, down from 12 percent of the population in 1970.
"You cross over the Fairfax County line (into Loudoun) and it's like being in another country," Brown said. "You know you don't have the approval of the people who live there, and you think, who the hell are they?"
Benjamin Bostig, a black who is president of the Chamber of Commerce in Leesburg, the Loudoun county seat, said he believed the incident to have been "an isolated one, one we're certainly not proud of, but certainly not one that blacks in the county are confronted with very often."
Loudoun County Supervisor Betty Tatum said, "I was shocked and appalled that it happened, but I don't think it reflects the majority of Loudoun County. I certainly think country clubs have a right to be open to members only, but I don't think membership should be limited to race, religion, creed or national origin."
"We've come a long way in the county since the massive resistance of the 60s, but this little incident certainly smacks of the kind of prejudice I had certainly hoped was long behind us," Tatum said.
Jack Gravely, executive director of Virginia's NAACP said, "While I do not think that these kind of restrictions have any place in our modern society, I am not suprised, I am not appalled and I am not hurt that something like this could happen on a golf course in Northern Virginia."
"As people of color have found out in the last 10 or 15 years, you don't see blatant discrimination anymore, but when it raises its ugly head on a golf course in Loudoun County, it makes you think of the 1950s all over again," Gravely continued.
Brown said the issue has been brought home to him.
"I have a son who is 11, and he really doesn't understand. He said to me, 'Dad, they kicked you off the golf course because you are black?' It reduces my image in my child's eyes, in my own eyes. It's degrading."