Our network

"Clinton 12" member: president's visit will be significant | News

Title (Max 100 Characters)

"Clinton 12" member: president's visit will be significant

CLINTON - President Obama's visit to East Tennessee on Friday will include a stop in an Anderson County town that's known for landmark movements in desegregation.

"I went to Green McAdoo (School) for a semester, and next fall I went to Clinton High School," said Anna Caswell, a member of the infamous "Clinton 12."

Caswell and 11 other teens were the first black students to attend the high school in 1956, after the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 to desegregate. The dozen students endured subsequent racial backlash by some in town, but still went to class every day.

"They weren't happy about it at all," the retiree recalled.

In fact, two years later someone set off multiple dynamite charges at the school, a crime that prompted FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to get involved directly.

Federal authorities compiled numerous lists of suspects, including some radicals who had staged protests against integration. But no one ever was charged. Many of the suspects are long dead.

Fast forward nearly six decades, from a movement to desegregate to now welcoming the nation's first African-American president.

"I thought if he was going to pass by Clinton, he would pass by my house," Caswell smiled. "I thought maybe he would stop by for tea and crumpets... so I'm waiting for the call to be ready."

While the visit will involve jobs and manufacturing, historians say Obama should know this town's historical significance.

"I didn't think I, a black man, will live long enough one, to see a black American president and two, to see a black American president visit Clinton, Tennessee," said Eugene Gallaher, president of the Green McAdoo Cultural Center. "Everybody waited to see what would happen in Clinton."

Caswell cannot believe the events about to unfold in her town.

"To have a black president to come to the city of Clinton -- that's something to be proud of," she said.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden also are set to visit Pellissippi State Community College's Hardin Valley campus.


Oak Ridge - Anderson Businesses