Courage and Conviction on display in Clinton, TN

Courage and Conviction on display in Clinton, TN

Green Macadoo

If you’ve ever driven I-75 north of Knoxville, you’ve probably seen a sign directing people to the Green McAdoo Cultural Center.  While the title does describe its location, it doesn’t let travelers know of its importance.  Inside the walls of this old school, the story of 12 high school students who changed the world is told.  Known as the Clinton 12, these twelve black students walked down the hill from the school into an all-white high school in 1956, marking the first integration of a public school in the South.

The integration of Clinton High School is often overshadowed by what happened in places like Little Rock, AR a year later. The events here made national news at the time, but were eventually “forgotten”until  2006 when a documentary on the Clinton 12 was released and the Green McAdoo Cultural Center opened its doors.

Finding the museum is easy.  Just follow the signs to downtown Clinton and head up the hill where bronzed statues of the Clinton 12 stand proudly overlooking the small town on the Clinch River.  After admiring the work of sculptor William F. Duffy, and taking in the panoramic view of the valley below, head inside to hear the amazing story of how these historic events unfolded and how they changed the city of Clinton and the world.

Students at the Green McAdoo School had to go to high school about 20 miles away in Knoxville even though there was a high school just down the hill.  A local lawsuit and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education both led local and state officials to make the move to allow African-American students attend Clinton High School.  In the front room of the museum, you can sit at student’s desks and get a lesson from one of the teachers on how these decisions all came together to make history.

After your time in the classroom, the story of what happened with the students and the community continues.  Outside agitators made their way to Clinton, creating enough of a disturbance that the National Guard was eventually called in to town. (Be sure and seek out the pictures and film of the tanks crossing "the big green bridge.")   Other key players in the events that unfolded are a high school football captain and a local Baptist minister who both worked to make the Clinton 12 feel welcome.

Toward the back of the museum a large picture that changes as you get closer to it, shows Clinton High School before and after a bomb blast nearly leveled the school.  Fortunately, it happened at a time when no one was inside.  Most of the building still stands today, housing Clinton Middle School.  It’s just a short walk (or drive) down the hill from the museum.  An historical marker was placed there recently to commemorate the historic events surrounding the Clinton 12.

While you’re in Clinton, take time to check out Downtown Clinton.  The lunch counter at Hoskins Drug Store is a popular spot and there is Amelia’s Café just a couple of blocks away. Market Street, the heart of Downtown, is an area filled with Antique and specialty stores.  And if you are in town after dark, the historic Ritz Theater offers first run movies for just $5 at 7:00 pm each night.

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You can learn more about what there is to do in Clinton at www.yallcome.org.  To learn more about the Green McAdoo Cultural Center and the Clinton 12 visit www.greenmcadoo.org .  You should also check out the story of the Clinton 12 as told by one of their grandchildren, who is now a Disney Channel star, https://youtu.be/fgSKSeuTLAk .

My name is Clayton Hensley (a.k.a. the knoxdaytripper). Born and raised in East Tennessee (with a few years in SW Virginia), I have been traveling the backroads and hiking in the mountains for as long as I can remember. Through my writing and photography, I hope to inspire people to experience places they might not have heard about before or look at familiar places in a new light.

For more than 20-years now, my wife and I have called Clinton, TN home. We have two children who (for the most part) love to travel with us. My “real” job is working as a communications director for a large church and in what little spare time I have, I like to garden, take lots of pictures, collect Coca-Cola stuff and catch up on all those shows I miss because I’m always doing something else.

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