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Parents of Black Tennis Player File Discrimination Suit

September 8, 1988

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ The parents of a black teen-ager who was barred from playing tennis with her high school team at an all-white country club have sued for $2 million.

The Rev. Johnny Whitfield and his wife, Lorene, filed the civil rights suit Wednesday in federal court on behalf of themselves and their daughter, Theresa, 16.

In April, Miss Whitfield went with the Earle High School team to Forrest City for a match at the Forrest City Country Club. The suit contends that the Forrest City high school coach told her she couldn’t play at the club.

The girl and her opponent went to a city court to play their match.

Named as defendants are the tennis coaches, Jack Hosford at Earle and Charles Bowlin at Forrest City, the school districts and the private club.

″We hope to send an emphatic message to those people who would do such a thing against a young girl,″ said the Whitfields’ attorney, Ronald Wilson.

Calls Wednesday to Bowlin’s home went unanswered. In July, he told reporters he was following long-standing Forrest City Country Club rules in barring the black teen-ager from playing there.

″I really and truly thought the country clubs had the right to tell us who had the right to play,″ Bowlin said.

He said that he wrote a letter of apology to Miss Whitfield and that he would cooperate with Miss Whitfield and her attorneys ″in seeing that this custom and practice is ended immediately.″

Dan Dennis, country club president, had said that the club has no written policy prohibiting blacks. He did not return a telephone call Wednesday.

There was no answer at either school district’s office Wednesday and no listing for Hosford in Earle.

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