COLUMBIA — The all-white country club where Gov. Henry McMaster frequents has added its first black member to the roster.
Ashleigh Wilson, a 31-year-old lawyer, confirmed Friday she joined the 94-year-old Forest Lake Club in Columbia.
Wilson was appointed to the State Ethics Commission by McMaster this year. She also worked for S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson before joining the Bowman and Brooke law firm in Columbia.
Wilson declined to say who sponsored her for club membership but she released a statement.
"I am very pleased to be a member of the Forest Lake Club," it reads. "I enjoy playing tennis and its other amenities, and have many friends at Forest Lake. I have been welcomed warmly."
Wilson's arrival at Forest Lake could relieve a political headache for McMaster in his bid to win a full term in the governor's office next year. He is facing three challengers for the Republican nomination in June.
McMaster, a former state attorney general and lieutenant governor, has been criticized over the years for his membership in the all-white club. He did not respond for a request to comment Friday.
Forest Lake President George Gibbes says the club does not discriminate against blacks but that none have accepted invitations to join the club, which has a waiting list. He said in a statement that Forest Lake has members of unspecified "religious and ethnic groups."
In 2008, then-S.C. GOP chairman Katon Dawson resigned from Forest Lake after receiving criticism about his membership during an unsuccessful bid to become Republican National Committee chairman. He lost to Michael Steele, the party's first black national chairman.