Pitts, Orville

During the 1950s, Milwaukeean Orville Pitts was a successful amateur and professional boxer. He eventually became an attorney, and in 1968 became the second African American and the first African American man elected to the Milwaukee Common Council. In 1969, Pitts applied for membership into the Milwaukee Order of Eagles Club which the Milwaukee NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Youth Council had picketed in 1966 for its “Caucasian only” membership policy. The club repeatedly rejected Pitts’ application on numerous occasions with no explanation for the rejection. Subsequently, Pitts filed a lawsuit against the club for denying him membership because of his race. Pitts also claimed in his suit that state tax exemptions granted to the Eagles Club and other organizations that practice racial discrimination violate the United States Constitution. In 1971, a federal court ruled in Pitts’ favor, stating that since the “whites only” restriction remained in the Eagles Club membership clause, the state tax exemptions that the organization received were, in fact, illegal. EM