OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Clinton 12 and the Oak Ridge 85 were honored Tuesday by state officials for their historic and heroic efforts as the first Black students to enter the desegregated public schools in both cities back in the 1950s.

The Tennessee governor and lieutenant governor honored the students in a ceremony at the Scarboro Community Center in Oak Ridge. Governor Bill Lee gave a presentation dedicated to the students.

During the ceremony, Governor Lee proclaimed August 31, 2021, as Oak Ridge 85 and Clinton 12 day in Tennessee.

“Our office set aside this day in particular and proclaimed it as the Clinton 12 and Oak Ridge 85 day to commemorate the events that occurred in this community in 1955 and 1956 that changed America for particularly African Americans as a part of nationally what was happening across the country,” Lee said.

Governor Lee also says he’s working with the Tennessee state school board to get the history of the Oak Ridge 85 and Clinton 12 into school curriculums across the state.

Over the weekend, the Green McAdoo Cultural Center commemorated the 65th anniversary of the 12 brave Clintonians walking down Foley Hill to desegregate Clinton High School and the American South.  

On Sept. 6, 1955, approximately 85 Black students entered a previously segregated Robertsville Junior High and Oak Ridge High School. On Aug. 27, 1956, 12 Black students walked into, at the time, all-white Clinton High School.

This venue showcases a wall with memorabilia recognizing the sacrifices of the Oak Ridge 85 and displays the rich history of the Scarboro Community.

During the 2021 Legislative Session, Lt. Governor McNally and Representative Ragan sponsored two House Joint Resolutions- 134 and 135, also signed by Governor Lee, honoring the bravery and heroism of these young students. For the first time in history, honorary high school diplomas will be presented to the students of the Clinton 12 who were not able to graduate with their class from Clinton High School.