Washington State charters The Royal Esquire Club, a private African American men's club, on April 5, 1948.

  • By Mary T. Henry
  • Posted 8/23/2010
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9532

On April 5, 1948, Washington State charters The Royal Esquire Club. The club was organized by five young men who found no welcoming place in Seattle for black men to socialize. They were Doyle Bonner, Frederick Bowmar, William Childress, Freddie Ray, and Joe West.

John Prim (1898-1961), a prominent attorney who in 1954 became the first African American judge in Seattle, drafted the initial by-laws.  The officers were Leonard DuPree, president; Herbert Jackson, secretary, Doyle Barner, vice president, Troy Bowles, treasurer, and Philip Burton (1915-1995), chairman of the board. 

The club's first purchased site was at 1254 S Washington in 1952 but it was sold to the Seattle Public Schools in 1985. The plot between 12th and 14th avenues and between Yesler and Washington became the site of the new Bailey Gatzert Elementary School. 

The club then bought a pool/bingo hall in Columbia City at 5016 Rainier Avenue S.  The one-story building, which takes up one half of the block, is colorful with its maroon awning and welcoming sign.  Because of the size of the building, rental spaces are available for weddings, receptions and meetings.  The largest room features a dance floor and seating for 130 and where dancers and partiers enjoy First Fridays, the biggest event of the month.

Founded on friendship, the club's mission has been to contribute positively to the community.  In its more than 60 years it has offered thousands of dollars to high school seniors for higher education, sponsored fundraising for Somalia, and assisted women’s clubs in their fundraising for community projects. It has opened its doors to the community for educational workshops and business forums. 

In 2008 the public was welcomed to watch election returns at the club and an enthusiastic crowd hailed the victory of Barack Obama (b. 1961) as the new president of the United States.


Royal Esquire Club website accessed August 16, 2010 (http://http://www.royalesquiresclub.com/); Mary Henry interview with Marvin Vanderhost, Seattle, Washignton; “Club Will Sponsor Benefit for Somalia,” The Seattle Times, May 19, 1992; “Test Drive on Hi Tech Highway,” The Seattle Times, May 2, 1994; “Royal Esquires Opened its Doors to the Public on Election Night,” The Stranger, November 5, 2008; "Royal Esquire Club Articles of Incorporation, April 5, 1948,” Puget Sound Regional Archives; “Rice Promotes Economic Renaissance,” The Seattle Times, January 15, 1992.

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