Clinton 12’s Alvah McSwain Lambert Passes Away

In a statement by the Green McAdoo Cultural Center Alvah McSwain Lambert of the Clinton 12 has passed away.

She resided in Wilmington, California where she departed.

She was proud of the fact that she convinced her mother to return to high school so they could graduate together.

Ms. Lambert was integral in the Civil Rights Movement as one of the 12 students that fought for the integration of Clinton High School.

Before 1956, black high school students were bused out of the county to Knoxville since no black segregated high school existed in Anderson County. 

 In 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education ordered Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee to desegregate.

Clinton High School students, from left, Jo Ann Allen, Alvah McSwain, and Theresser Caswell are pictured Aug. 30, 1956, during integration at the school that prompted riots. News Sentinel archives

It would be two years later in the fall of 1956 when 12 Black teenagers who were known as the Clinton 12 would walk out of class leading to the desegregation of the first public school in the south.

Every school day morning, the Clinton 12 met at Green McAdoo School and walked together down Broad Street from Foley Hill to Clinton High School.

In September of 2006 the McSwain Sisters told the story that predated the Clinton 12.

(As published in The Oak Ridger’s Historically Speaking column on September 5, 2006)

The Clinton 12 included Maurice Soles, Anna T. Caswell, Alfred Williams, Regina Turner Smith, William R. Latham, Gail Ann Epps Upton, Ronald Gordon “Poochie” Hayden, JoAnn Crozier, Allen Boyce, Robert Thacker, Bobby Cain, Minnie Ann Dickey Jones, and Alvah McSwain.

She will be dearly missed.

Angela Dennis is a Freelance Writer and Blogger. Her work has been featured in multiple publications such as Knox News Sentinel, East Tennessee Enlightener, Blavity, Black Girl Nerds, and more.