In the home of the Hunter family one evening in 1950, Jack Moss and a group of friends gathered for dinner and discussions. These discussions became more focused on improving the quality of life in the Evanston community. After several dinners at the Hunter’s home, one question became the spark that ignited 31 years of community service. “How do we better the community?” That day formulated the foundation of the Norshore Twelve, Incorporated, a social and civic club.
Membership to the organization was always limited to 12 men
The founding members of the organization numbered no more and no less than 12 members. Often confused with “North Shore” Twelve, the organizations name was purposely spelled “Norshore” Twelve. “We spelled it that way to enforce the perception that we were not meant to be an elitist-type club.” Byron Wilson said, a charter member.
Upon establishment, Byron Wilson was elected as the first president of the Norshore Twelve.
The maximum number of twelve members at any given time was established mainly to keep the organization manageable. Of the twelve, the presiding chair did not have a vote ensuring any disagreement could be better managed in a democratic fashion. “But there was one additional person who was our legal counselor,” Byron said, “but not exactly a member.”
The Norshore Twelve wanted to help foster better community involvement, especially in politics.
“We spent a lot of our time canvassing for various candidates. We would garner people to work on the post and inform people on who was running.” Byron said. “Grant Shocklee was a candidate for District 65 school board. One of the reasons he was successful [in 1967] was due to us calling five people about his candidacy and to have them pass on the information to another five people.”
The Norshore Twelve were also involved in fundraising activities. Their activities assisted several Evanston based organizations and institutions including the NAACP, Community Hospital, Foster Center, Child Care Center and Boy Scouts Troop 30.
We spelled it that way to enforce the perception that we were not meant to be an elitist-type club
For most, what the organization is really known for are their social gatherings. Throughout their existence, the Norshore Twelve hosted formals held in various ballrooms in the Chicago metro area including the Swedish Hall, the Parkway Ballroom, the Palmer House and the Knickerbocker Hotel.
“At that time, many of the Loop hotels started to open up to Blacks.” Byron said. It was at these functions that they raised money to support the organizations they donated to. For entertainment the formals included performances from the likes of Ray Charles, Willie Randolph, Big Maybelle and Lefty Bates.
Another important event during the 1960s, was the annual Cotillion. Throughout its 11 years, The Norshore Twelve hosted and financially backed the annual Cotillion. The event was organized and managed by Eleanor “Brownie” J. Frazier whose father was a member of the Norshore Twelve.
Membership to the organization was always limited to 12 men. When a vacancy became available, a nomination for a replacement member would be presented and voted upon. Throughout its history, at least 20 additional members were involved in the organization. The last two members in 1981 were Fred Hunter, Jr. and Hecky Powell.
As with many organizations, the Norshore Twelve felt the affects of changing times. The last cotillion was held in 1971. Three years later, the organization ceased all social activities. By the late 1970s the organization sought to reestablish its social presence. However, the organization was later dissolved sometime in 1981. “We basically ended because of age.” Byron said. “The younger generations did not seem interested in organizations such as this.” Rob Bridges was the last president.
The Norshore Twelve, Inc. is another example of the many fine organizations that contributed to many facets of life in Evanston and the north shore, assisting in fostering civic responsibility and having a grand time socializing.
Note: By the Shorefront staff. Previously appeared in the printed Shorefront Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, 2006. Information for the article were utilized from the following sources within the Shorefront Legacy Center Archives: NorShore Twelve Cotillion souvenir books; A handwritten historical account of the organization (author unknown); The February 3, 1977 issue of the CCC Newsette, page 5; An interview with charter member Byron Wilson on October 28, 2006.