Members of Clinton 12 return to campus for anniversary of desegregation

Clinton High School, now Clinton Middle, became the first desegregated public high school in...
Clinton High School, now Clinton Middle, became the first desegregated public high school in the south Aug. 26, 1956. / Source: WVLT(WVLT)
Published: Aug. 26, 2019 at 7:21 PM EDT
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It was that walk that left a footprint on the future.

On August 26, 1956, 12 brave African-American students were greeted with threats and racial slurs as they become the first to desegregate an all white school in the south.

With their courage, the students desegregated Clinton High School, now known as Clinton Middle.

Sixty-three years later, some of the Clinton 12 returned to the school to talk about their experiences.

Bobby Cain, one of the members said, "Although I'm a retired veteran, it's just like a bad experience, you put it back in your background until someone brings it up."

Cain said it was a traumatic experience that turned around when he and two others were greeted with a warm welcome on Monday.

Cain and two other Clinton 12 members, Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Gail Ann Epps Upton, went the same path to school as they did all those years ago.

Boyce said the country made progress, but seems to be going backwards.

"I think we're going backwards and that saddens me a great deal," Boyce said.

Boyce spends her time encouraging change through speaking at events and with her new book she wrote.

She said there are two ways to create change.

"You get to know other people. You talk to other people; people of different races, of different ethnicities, different religions. You talk. You get to know one another," Boyce said.

Boyce was shocked to hear how Chairman of the Anderson County Commission, Tracy Wandell, said he changed during Monday's ceremony.

"I didn't like black folks. In fact, I can say I had a pretty mean dislike for black folks, but you know, God does good things, he brought me here," Wandell said.

Boyce also said people must know their history, which is why state and local representatives presented a proclamation. From here on out, Aug. 26 will forever be known as the "Clinton Twelve Commemorative Walk' day.

"It was an honor," Cain said.

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