Clinton, Tennessee (JFK+50) Fifty-nine years ago today, August 27, 1956, twelve "frightened black students" walked "down Foley Hill onto Broad Street" to previously segregated Clinton High School here in East Tennessee "through a gauntlet of jeering protesters" and into the history books.*
In an article in today's Knoxville News-Sentinel, Bob Fowler reports that Kevin and Amanda Powers, teachers at Clinton Middle School (formerly the site of CHS in 1956) have sponsored a proposal to the Tennessee Historical Commission to place a new marker in honor of the Clinton 12.
This afternoon, that marker will be unveiled here in Clinton. The teachers' idea for the request came after a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis where they found no mention of the Clinton 12. They created an English honors project which culminated in a formal proposal to the Commission for the marker.
Two of the dignitaries present at the unveiling will be State Representative John Ragan of Oak Ridge and State Senator Randy McNally of Oak Ridge.
Civil Rights histories do not generally include the story of the Clinton 12 which came more than one year before the Little Rock 9. One of the reasons may be that Tennessee Governor Frank G. Clement sent 600 National Guardsmen to ENFORCE the Supreme Court desegregation decision, while Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus used National Guardsmen to BLOCK integration at Central High School in Little Rock.
The story of the Clinton 12, unfortunately, did not end with their successful admittance to CHS. Threats and violence followed as segregationists arrived in town to rally white citizens culminating in the bombing of Clinton High School on October 5, 1958.
Clintonites, however, can be proud of many positive things that came with the negative. CHS's principal employed the support of white football players, including captain Jerry Shattuck, to protect the black students attending the school and when Clinton High School was being rebuilt after the explosions, their arch football rival Oak Ridge High's band played the CHS alma mater as students arrived at their temporary home of Linden Elementary School in Oak Ridge.
*The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954 legally ended segregation of the races in the public schools of the United States, and on January 4, 1956, Judge Robert Taylor ordered Clinton High School in Anderson County, Tennessee to desegregate.
Prior to their attendance at CHS, African-American students attended Green McAdoo Elementary School in Clinton and after graduation were bused to Austin High School in Knoxville, TN.
Green McAdoo Cultural Center, Clinton, Tennessee, www.greenmcadoo.org/
"Middle school hosting Clinton 12 marker unveiling this evening," by Bob Fowler, Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 27, 2015.
"The Ultimate Risk: Members of pioneering Clinton 12 recall high school's integration 50 years ago," by Bob Fowler, February 26, 2006, www.web.archive.org/
Clinton 12 Monument