KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Members of the Clinton 12 and Oak Ridge 85 will be honored Tuesday, 65 years after their historic entrance into Robertsville Junior High, Oak Ridge High and Clinton High schools, marking the first Black students to attend desegregated schools in the Southeast.
Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), and Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) will make special presentations after Resolutions 134 and 135 were passed honoring the 97 students in the last legislative session in Nashville.
“America is exceptional because of brave men and women throughout our history who have persevered in the face of adversity,” said Gov. Lee. “As we celebrate 225 years of statehood, I am proud to honor these Tennesseans for their heroic efforts to strive toward a more perfect Union.”
As part of the event, the Clinton 12 will receive their high school diplomas since they were not able to graduate with their class. On Aug. 27, 1956, Maurice Soles, Alfred Williams, Gail Ann Epps Upton, Ronald Hayden, Robert Thacker, Jo Ann Allen Boyce, Bobby Cain, William Latham, Minnie Ann Dickey Jones, Regina Turner Smith, Anna Theresser Caswell, and Alvah McSwain, with the help of Rev. Paul Turner
(pastor of First Baptist Church in Clinton), integrated Clinton High School after Judge Robert Taylor
reversed his stance on McSwain vs. Anderson County Board of Education.
A year earlier, on Tuesday, September 6, 1955, 85 students entered Robertsville Junior High and Oak Ridge High School after Oak Ridge Public Schools were ordered by the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy) to desegregate in January of that year.
The public is invited to the event from 2-2:45 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, at the Scarboro Community Center, 148 Carver Ave., in Oak Ridge. Memorabilia recognizing the sacrifices of the Oak Ridge 85 and the history of the Scarboro Community will also be on display. Guests are encouraged to wear masks and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Other events will be held honoring the students including:
• Thursday, Sept. 2, at 6 p.m. – Scholarship Awards Banquet, honoring the
Oak Ridge 85 at the Scarboro Community Center with speaker Archie Lee,
first African American Oak Ridge High School National Honor Society member.
• Friday, Sept. 3, at 9:45 a.m. – Ribbon cutting event in the West Gallery of the
Oak Ridge History Museum- Final exhibition honoring the 65th Anniversary of the Oak Ridge 85.
The exhibition’s theme will be: “Black and White Communities Working Together to Help
America.” This exhibit will be on display for the month of September.
• Friday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. – Annual Oak Ridge High School vs. Clinton High School Football game, half-time acknowledgment of the Oak Ridge 85 and Clinton 12 at the Clinton High School football stadium.
• Saturday, Sept. 4, at 9 a.m. – Unity Parade with Oak Ridge and area bands, organizations, city and county government, and schools. Lineup at 8:30 a.m. Parade begins at 9 a.m. from Grey Strange baseball field on Wilberforce Avenue. The parade starts at Benedict and ends at Carver Avenue. Featured bands will be Pearl-Cohn High School and Austin-East High School band and soccer team.
• Saturday, Sept. 4, at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Fun Day Festival at Scarboro Community Center.. Food and apparel vendors, fun activities for youth, band challenges, gospel hour, old school hour, and giveaways for children.
• Saturday, Sept. 4, at 8 p.m. – Black and Gold Ball honoring the Oak Ridge 85 located at the Oak Ridge YWCA, 1660 Oak Ridge Turnpike. Food, music, and door prizes.
• Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021 – Worship and share experiences with the Oak Ridge 85 at various
churches in the Scarboro Community.