For the first time in its long history, the Baltimore Country Club is opening its membership to blacks.
Dr. Conrad Inman, a member of the club's board of governors, said yesterday that the board had voted unanimously Wednesday night to invite William Jews, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and his wife, Marsha, to join the club.
Mr. Jews, who is the chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee, seemed unlikely to offer himself publicly as a symbol of interracial progress. Yesterday Mr. Jews, 42, declined to comment on his acceptance into the club. "He just feels this is a private membership, and he's not going to talk about it," said Deb Nielsen, a Blue Cross spokeswoman.
Before joining Blue Cross in 1993, Mr. Jews, an avid golfer and a member of the Caves Valley Golf Club, was president of Dimensions Health Corp. in Prince George's County and before that, president of Liberty Medical Center. Mrs. Jews, his wife of three years, is the former executive director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre Foundation and serves on the boards of directors of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Enoch Pratt Free Library and Magic Me.
The Baltimore Country Club, the region's second oldest, was founded in 1898 in Roland Park. While its imposing clubhouse is still there, its golf course, ranked among the best 100 in the country, is in Lutherville.
Although the club was the host of the U.S. Women's Open Golf Tournament in 1988, ananti-discriminatory policy later adopted by the the United States Golf Association probably would have prevented the Baltimore Country Club from landing another national tournament.
Club president Edward Johnston, an attorney, said that the 2,900-member club simply wasn't interested in being the host for another professional tournament. He also said that the club's by-laws didn't exclude members on the basis of race. Before the Jewses, he said, no blacks had ever been proposed. The club has included women from the beginning. It now also has Jewish members, Mr. Johnston said.