63 years ago history was made in Clinton, Tennessee. On August 27, 1956 twelve courageous African American students walked into Clinton High School making them the first students to desegregate a state supported high school. Today their story is told at the Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton, Tennessee.
The twelve brave students, also known as the “Clinton Twelve” are Maurice Soles, Anna Theresser Caswell, Alfred Williams, Regina Turner Smith, William Latham, Gail Ann Epps Upton, Ronald Gordon “Poochie” Hayden, Robert Thacker, Minnie Ann Dickie Jones, Bobby Cain, Alvah McSwain, and Jo Ann Allen Boyce.
These students attended Green McAdoo grade school in Clinton, but when it was time to attend high school, they were bused 29 miles away instead of attending Clinton High School, which was 1,500 feet away.
In January 1956, Federal Judge Taylor ordered the school board to end segregation by the fall term and on August 20, 1956, the twelve students registered to attend Clinton High School.
On August 27, 1956, the twelve African American students met at Green McAdoo School and walked together to Clinton High School escorted by many local supporters to shield them from protesters.
When the story made national news, hundreds, even thousands of racist segregationists from across the country began arriving in Clinton, Tennessee. Rallies began, picketing took place and burning of crosses could be seen around town.
Clinton High School teachers and administrators became targets of abuse as well. The hatred and anger continued outside of the school and black students had to have police escorts home.
There is much, much more to this story including how the militia were sent in to help the National Guard, the bombing of Clinton High School and the heartfelt story of Bobby Cain, the first African American graduate of a public integrated high school not only in Tennessee, but in the South. We highly encourage you to visit the Green McAdoo Cultural Center and learn more about the history of the Clinton Twelve and how history was changed on that day!
To honor the Clinton 12, a Commemorative Walk was held on August 26, 2019. Clinton Middle and Elementary School students, along with community members lined the streets and watched the surviving members of the Clinton 12 along with dignitaries walk down from Green McAdoo Cultural Center. Following the walk, a program was held to recognize the Clinton 12 and a proclamation was presented by Anderson County Commission, the City of Clinton, and City of Oak Ridge. To see the Commemorative Walk and full program, click here.