Members of the Clinton 12 — Jo Ann Crozier Allen Boyce, seated, and Bobby Cain, in purple shirt — receiving the Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award at the Urban League Gala at the Knoxville Convention Center.
Another Urban League Equal Opportunity Awards Gala has come and gone. Yes, the music, decorations, camaraderie and dancing were fun. But, the real hit of the evening? The presence of two members of “The Clinton 12,” who received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Clinton 12 were a group of students who led the integration of Clinton High School in 1956. Prior to 1956, African Americans in Clinton were required to attend a segregated high school in Knoxville, 18 miles away. In 1954, in the historic case, Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation in schools was unconstitutional, and that African Americans had the right to learn in the same environment as whites.
U.S. District Judge Robert Taylor ordered Clinton High School to desegregate with “all deliberate speed” in the fall of 1956. When the new school year began that year, 12 African Americans went to Clinton High School. The result was protests by locals and outside agitators, one during which a white minister accompanying the Clinton 12 to school was severely beaten.
In 1958, Clinton High School was bombed, an act generally assumed to be related to the desegregation. While the school was being rebuilt, all students were bused to attend classes in Oak Ridge. Clinton High School reopened in 1960. Bobby Cain, one of the Clinton 12 who was present at the Urban League event, was the first African American graduate of Clinton High School — and of any desegregated school in the South.
While Little Rock Central High School is widely regarded as the first school to be integrated in the South, the fact is that Clinton High School was integrated one year earlier.
Following a stirring video at the Urban League event, the two members of the Clinton 12 received a standing ovation from the near 1,000-person crowd, many of whom were in tears.
Iconic civil rights leader Rev. Harold Middlebrook Sr. introducing the Clinton 12 with help from City Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie and Tyvi Small, the University of Tennessee’s vice chancellor for Diversity & Engagement. All three are members of the Urban League board. I am honored to also be a member of that board.
The Urban League Gala, often referred to as “a party with a purpose,” is always a fun and festive evening. Here’s the room setup. (Photo by PhotoPlay Studios.)
Louis Fernandez, weekend anchor at WBIR-TV, was emcee for the evening. Here he is with Urban League President and CEO Phyllis Nichols, right, and her sister, Linda Reid.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero with Warren Logan, the CEO and president of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga.
Urban League Board Immediate Past Chair Al Pirie, left, with Fernandez and Jim Nichols.
Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie with Mike Odom, the new CEO of the Knoxville Chamber.
State Rep. Rick Staples, left, with Julia and Marty Gibbs and Robert Baird. Marty is with The Christman Company, a valued Moxley Carmichael client.
Marga Hayes McBride, left and Jan Brown. Jan is on the Urban League board.
Dinner being served is a great excuse for table-hopping!
Which is what City Council candidate Janet Testerman, center, was doing! Here she is with former Knoxville Mayor Dan Brown and his wife, Cathy. Note: Janet was elected to Knoxville City Council earlier this week. Congrats!
I was table-hopping myself when I saw Brooke Dickerson, left, and Susan and Will Fontanez at the Pilot Flying J table. (Another great Moxley Carmichael client.)
And Mike and Alice Wirth. He is dean of the UT College of Communication and Information. She is a lecturer in the department and director of the department’s diversity and inclusion program.
Jonida and Theotis Robinson, left, with their friends Rhonda and Brian Arrington.
Jay and Marga Hayes McBride, left, with his daughter, Becca Sparks and her husband, Billy Sparks.
Marty Gibbs visiting with City Council candidate Lynne Fugate, who also won election this week! Congrats!
Phyllis Nichols making remarks. What a dress!
The Urban League staff voted John Nolan of SunTrust Bank the “Volunteer of the Year.”
Urban League Board Chair Cavanaugh Mims making remarks. (Photo by PhotoPlay Studios.)
Debi Welch, a former Urban League board member, is with Covenant Health. She accepted the Corporate Leadership Award on behalf of the area’s largest employer (and Moxley Carmichael client). (Photo by PhotoPlay Studios.)
DJ Sterling Henton — aka “Sterl the Pearl” — warming up the crowd for the entertainment portion of the program.
Which was R&B singer/songwriter Chanté Moore, (Photo by PhotoPlay Studios.)
Which means it’s time to hit the dance floor! Here are Nikitia and LeRoy Thompson.
Phyllis and Jim Nichols.
Bryan and Jackie Young, who were visiting from Detroit. Bryan Young is the nephew of Phyllis Nichols.
The Urban League’s Quineka Moten and Dr. Robert Bland.
It’s traditional for the Urban League staff to stay after the event and pose for a group photo. From left, Felix Harris, Jackie Robinson, Bill Myers, Terrence Carter, Phyllis Nichols, Quineka Moten, Brenda Roper, Stacy Reed and Ebony Petty.
Somehow Andrea Crouse, left, got left out of that shot. Here she is with Brenda Roper.
Here’s Phyllis Nichols with the two women who are hugely responsible for the production of this show: Kristy Bruce, left, and her sister, Kelly Kramer. Great job, ladies. Light and sound was by Moxley Carmichael client M&M Productions USA.