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Black Rejected by Elks Reapplies Without Robbins’ Sponsorship

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A black man who was twice denied membership last year in the Van Nuys Elks Lodge, bringing on a state civil rights investigation, said Monday he has reapplied for admission to the fraternal organization, without the political connections he blamed for the failure of his first two attempts.

Thomas J. Montgomery, 68, of Pacoima said he sent an application last week to a lodge member who agreed to sponsor him. Elks spokesman Dan Davis said Monday afternoon that the lodge had not yet received Montgomery’s application.

Montgomery and Jules S. Bagneris III, 29, of Lake View Terrace were sponsored in September in two unsuccessful membership bids by Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Tarzana). Robbins’ aide Jack Sheffield, who is white, applied with them and also was rejected. The rejections brought on accusations that the lodge’s admissions policies were racially biased, which became the subject of an investigation by the state attorney general’s office.

Lodge members said at the time that the three applicants were rejected because many members resented Robbins’ involvement, accusing him of sponsoring the two blacks for political reasons.

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Earlier this year, the lodge admitted two black men, Ben Harvey and Clarence Reese, which lodge members said proved their policies were not racially based.

Montgomery said his current membership bid will be free from the political connections he said hurt his last two attempts.

“I want to go to the Elks Lodge as a man, as an individual seeking membership,” he said. “If I’m rejected, it’s because of me and no other reason.”


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