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Knoxville Area Urban League honors ‘The Clinton 12’ at Equal Opportunity Awards Gala

October 25, 2019

The Knoxville Area Urban League honored “The Clinton 12” with its lifetime achievement award at the Equal Opportunity Awards Gala and recognized the volunteer, minority business and corporate leadership award winners.

Jazz and gospel performer Chanté Moore provided the entertainment at the Oct. 24 event held at the Knoxville Convention Center. The annual gala is the Knoxville Area Urban League’s most significant fundraising event of the year and a night of celebration.

“The Equal Opportunity Awards has recognized and saluted the power of individuals to impact their communities for more than 50 years,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “It is always incredible to see the people come together to enjoy music and camaraderie and celebrate our community leaders who make a difference in civil rights, education, homeownership, job creation and entrepreneurship in our city.”

“The Clinton 12” received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award. The other award winners were: John Nolan of SunTrust Bank, Volunteer of the Year; Gam’s Hair Fashions and owner Gary Gamble, Minority Business of the Year; and Covenant Health and Debi Welch, senior vice president of human resources, Corporate Leadership award.

Members of The Clinton 12 are presented with the Whitney M. Young Lifetime Achievement Award at the Knoxville Area Urban League’s annual Equal Opportunity Awards Gala.

“The Clinton 12” refers to group of African American students who led the integration of Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, in 1956 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The reaction in Clinton was peaceful until white supremacists showed up to agitate the community, resulting in violence, angry mobs, and, two years later, a bombing at the school.

“The Clinton 12” include: Maurice Soles, Anna Theresser Caswell, Alfred Williams, Regina Turner Smith, William R. Latham, Gail Ann Epps Upton, Ronald Gordon “Poochie” Hayden, Robert Thacker, Minnie Ann Dickie Jones, Bobby Cain, Alvah McSwain and Jo Ann Crozier Allen Boyce. In August of this year, they re-walked the route to school at a ceremony to honor the impact of “The Clinton 12” on the civil rights movement.

The gala also celebrated the organization’s historical milestones and community impact. Attendees had the opportunity to network with community leaders and area business professionals and enjoy the voice and artistic vision of Moore. The music of Moore, a certified gold R&B singer, is steeped in gospel roots and soul. She has performed for two decades.

WBIR Channel 10 anchor Louis Fernandez served as host for the event, and Nichols and Cavanaugh Mims, the board chair for the Knoxville Area Urban League, shared the successes of the past year.

The Knoxville Area Urban League Board of Directors, along with local and regional organizations, made the annual gala possible, including First Bank, presenting sponsor; Pilot Flying J, awards sponsor; Discovery Inc., platinum sponsor; and gold sponsors DENSO, Messer Construction Co., Regions, Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Cellular, KAUL Young Professionals and ORNL Federal Credit Union.

About the Knoxville Area Urban League

Since 1968, the Knoxville Area Urban League has assisted disadvantaged people attain social and economic stability and self-sufficiency through direct services and advocacy. The League works to provide a skilled and diverse workforce; to increase homeownership; to support economic and small business development, and to enhance education efforts for our youth. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a United Way partner agency and affiliate of the National Urban League. The League’s work and results are evident in the lives of the over 8,000 people it impacts each year. For more information, call 865-524-5511 or visit