Royalty in Aiken.
The Royal Aikenites was founded in 1928. The original idea or mission of the organization was for African American residents of Aiken to meet monthly and discuss contemporary issues and current events over dinner at each other's residences as there was no place for African American leaders to gather at the time.
After almost 100 years of meeting, The Royal Aikenites still meet until this day to discuss contemporary issues that come up within the community.
"There are a number of them (contemporary issues) that we discuss and we collaborate on," Royal Aikenites President Everett Chandler said. "So, in addition to being able to meet socially, we’re discussing issues; and we are collaborating on issues that affect the community. And we don’t do it in a public way, because not all things need to be done publicly."
Chandler said, when he was a younger member, the group served as a built-in mentorship program.
The group not only advances its members, but the organization and their activities have evolved over the years to include The Royal Aikenites Scholarship Gala, which provides scholarships for local students and other philanthropic endeavors.
"We use the holiday ball as a scholarship ball where we provide scholarships to students in every high school in Aiken County," Chandler said. "The scholarships depend on what the group raises in the previous year. They would be presented with the scholarship in July or August."
The ball is between Christmas and New Year's Day of each year. To join the Royal Aikenites it is by invitation only; however, the community can help with funding for the scholarship gala. The ball is open to the public and is the main mechanism for funding the scholarships.
The Royal Aikenites members consists of doctors, lawyers, educators at all levels, businessmen and community leaders such as Dr. Sean Alford and Dr. Shawn Foster.
"Vernon Dunbar is the mayor of New Ellenton," Chandler said. "And he’s a member, and he has all his meetings in New Ellenton. In his meetings, we’ll meet with the chief of police and some town councilman because that was important for him to feature New Ellenton. So, each member brings a different flavor to the meetings."
Member Geoffrey Alls said the organization is a quiet group that tries to do good things in the community. He was one of the members that volunteered his time to team up with Chick-fil-A to feed Rural Health Services workers during the current COVID-19 outbreak.
"The group is a way for the members to get together and speak to each other and try to build each other up," Alls said. "That’s what has always impressed me about our group. We’re just trying to do as much good as we can while we’re here. I am proud to be a member because there are so many esteemed men who work for change and work for good in this community."
Attorney George Anderson is also a member of the Royal Aikenites. Anderson has been practicing law for over 50 years. He serves as a wealth of knowledge and gives the group perspective about what members were talking about 40 years ago.
"It’s been my privilege to be invited and to serve as president," Chandler said. "They are just a great group of men. Many who I’ve grown up admiring or have grown to admire because of their commitments to this community and to their professions. And they love the people that live in this community, and I've admired their service.”