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ETEC Meeting: The Green McAdoo Cultural Center (The Clinton 12 Story)
February 16 @ 7:30 am - 8:30 am EST
Gail Ann Epps Upton
My name is Gail Ann Epps Upton. I was born September 14, 1940 in Clinton, Tennessee. My parents are Mrs. Anna Mae Moore Hale and the late William Lee Epps. In 1956 I was one of the 12 Black students to enter the Clinton Senior High School which was an all white school at the time.
I was the first Black female to graduate from an all white school in Tennessee, if not in the South.
My experience at Clinton High was not a pleasant one. The mobs, name calling, and fear of having my family or myself harmed made it that way.
The Clinton Desegregation has made in impact on my life. Being it was the right thing to do, because we had to be bused all the way to Knoxville to school just because we had black skin. Also it makes me proud to have helped make it easier for other generations to come after me. And it also makes me proud to be part of the making of History. My experience has made me a strong woman also.
All the students at Clinton High were not in the name calling, etc., inside the classroom wasn’t so bad. Once you got out of class and into the halls it was a different story. It would be name calling, pulling my ponytails and stepping on my heels that sometimes would bleed. One day I was almost pushed out a window.
My advice to the youth of today is to stay strong, stay in school, and put GOD first in their lives.
After graduating from Clinton High, I attended Tennessee State University at Nashville. I was also a substitute teacher at Green McAdoo School.
I now live in Sweetwater, Tennessee. I am married to William John Upton Sr., our children are: William John Upton, Jr. (deceased); Raymond Patrick Upton, a detective in Loudon County; Wesley Lamont Upton, a factory foreman in Versailles, Kentucky; Maenise Leanne Upton, a Unit Secretary at Sweetwater Hospital. Montasha Upton, a granddaughter has also been reared as our own. We have seven other grandchildren. I am a member of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church, where I am the Church Clerk. My only sister, Sandra Character, also graduated from Clinton Senior High School and now lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jerry Shattuck, a Clinton City Council member and retired attorney, was a high school senior at the time of Clinton High School’s desegregation. He was class president and captain of the football team.
Excerpt from Knoxville News Sentinel article on June 24, 2012, written by Bob Fowler:
“The semester before, in my junior year, we knew it was coming,” said Shattuck.
A local lawsuit challenging the separate but equal foundation of segregation had been dismissed in federal court.
But then the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954 decreed separate but equal to be unconstitutional.
The earlier lawsuit ruling was revisited, overturned, and the Anderson County school board was ordered to end segregation no later than the fall term of 1956.
That spring, to prepare students for the entry of blacks into Clinton High, Shattuck said “teachers assigned papers to write. We had classroom discussions and general assemblies.”
Shattuck said Horace V. Wells, the editor of the city’s weekly newspaper, editorialized about it.
“As a net result, the community was committed to remaining itself, and the community stood together throughout the whole ordeal.”
Still, it was a difficult period, Shattuck said. The city’s Main Street was along the country’s major north-south route at the time, and the roadway became clogged with traffic as white supremacists whipped up opposition to integration.
“The town was inundated by these mobs,” Shattuck said. “There were two major incidents of mob violence and a lot of harassment by outside agitators.”
“The students and the town resented this trespassing on our tranquillity,” said Shattuck, who was student council president and captain of the football team his senior year. “We were upset by all the trouble being caused by other people.”
As tensions grew, Gov. Frank Clement ordered in 600 National Guard members to restore order.