Alexander: Clinton 12 — An All-American Story

Posted on August 26, 2019

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MARYVILLE, Tenn., August 26, 2019 — United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said the determination and bravery of 12 Clinton high school students provides great inspiration to continue moving forward in race relations. 

“Over 60 years ago, a group of 12 high school students – some as young as 14 –  bravely stood up and became the first students to integrate a public high school in the South,” Alexander said at today’s Clinton 12 Commemorative Walk. “They met at the Green McAdoo School before walking together to the all-white Clinton High School – a walk we have just retraced. It is difficult to imagine the courage and resilience these 12 students showed, knowing the hardships that awaited them each day.

“Despite the intimidation by thousands of segregationists who had swarmed to Clinton, they were determined to get an equal education and continued to walk into this school every day. Their determination and bravery served as an example to those of us who were around in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. ...It is important to remember and continue telling the story of the Clinton 12 and what Governor Clement did. I’m grateful for the community of Clinton and their efforts to preserve this important all-American story.”

Fifty years after the Clinton 12’s walk, Alexander worked with then-Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to secure funding for the city of Clinton to jump-start renovations to transform the Green McAdoo School into a cultural museum. Alexander also introduced and helped pass the Green McAdoo School National Historic Site Study Act, legislation which became law in 2009 and directed the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility of designating the Green McAdoo School as a unit of the National Park System.

Alexander concluded, “The struggle for civil rights is not a snapshot—it is a panorama. As the Rev. Benjamin Hooks, former president of the NAACP, used to say, you have to understand that America is a work in progress. All of us who have lived these last 60 years—celebrate that our country has come a long way, but we also know that we have a long way still to go. Fortunately, the Clinton story – the courage the Clinton 12 and Governor Clement showed  – provides great inspiration to continue moving forward.”

Alexander joined U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), former Representative Bob Clement, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and local officials in participating in today’s Clinton 12 Commemorative Walk to honor the twelve high school students who braved threats of violence in 1956 to attend Clinton High School, to recognize the Clinton community and its leaders for preserving the story, and to educate future generations of race struggles in order to encourage a culture of acceptance and celebration of differences. Members of the Clinton 12 were honored at today’s event.