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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 6, 1998

                            The White House

                            November 6, 1998

Today, President Clinton will sign into law S.2232, legislation designating Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, a National Historic Site. The President also will recognize the courageous role of the Little Rock Nine -- the nine students who integrated the Little Rock Central High School -- and note that the Omnibus Appropriations Bill he signed into law last month authorizes the award of the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal to the Little Rock Nine.

Honoring our American History

The legislation that President Clinton will sign today is designed to honor the critical role that Little Rock Central High School played in the desegregation of public schools in the South. In 1957, Little Rock Central High School was the site of the first major confrontation over implementation of the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka to end segregation in public schools. The integration of the school by the Little Rock Nine in 1957 was the most prominent national example of the implementation of the Brown decision, and served as a catalyst for the integration of other, previously segregated public schools in the United States.

Preserving our Heritage for Future Generations

To ensure that future generations can visit and learn from this pivotal site in American history, the bill the President will sign today authorizes the appropriation of necessary funds to preserve, manage, and maintain Little Rock Central High School as a National Historic Site. Under the law, the site will be administered by the Secretary of the Interior as a unit of the National Park System. In addition, the law directs the Secretary of the Interior to prepare, within two years after funds are made available, a National Historic Landmark Theme Study intended to identify sites or structures that best commemorate key events in the public school desegregation movement. The Secretary will transmit the study to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Resources Committee. The legislation, sponsored by Senators Dale Bumpers (D-AR) and Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and by voice vote in the House of Representatives.

Recognizing American Heroes

The Omnibus Appropriations Bill signed into law by President Clinton last month authorized the President to present, on behalf of Congress, a Congressional Gold Medal to each of the Little Rock Nine: Jean Brown Trickey, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Melba Patillo Beals, Terrence Roberts, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, and Jefferson Thomas. The award will be made in recognition of the Little Rock Nine as civil rights pioneers whose selfless acts considerably advanced the civil rights debate in this country.


Ernest Green

The only senior among the Little Rock Nine in 1957, Green attended Dunbar Junior High before entering Central at the age of 16. He became the first African-American graduate of Central High School in May of 1958. Green graduated from Michigan State University, where he earned his Bachelor's and Master's of Arts degrees. In 1980, he served as Assistant Labor Secretary for Employment and Training in President Carter's administration. He is currently a managing director at the Lehman Brothers finance company in Washington D.C.

In 1992, his experiences were dramatized in the Disney television special, the Ernest Green Story. He returns to Arkansas frequently, both for business and as a board member of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Thelma Mothershed Wair

Wair was born in 1940 and is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.L. Mothershed of Little Rock. She attended Dunbar Junior High and Horace Mann High schools and completed her junior year at Central. In order to earn the necessary credits for graduation she took correspondence courses and attended summer school in St. Louis. She received her diploma from Central High School by mail. Wair graduated from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1964 and earned her Master's degree in Guidance & Counseling and an Administrative Certificate in Education from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville in 1970 and 1985, respectively. Wair served as an educator in the East St. Louis School System for 28 years before retiring in 1994.

Since then she has worked at the St. Clair County Jail, Juvenile Detention Center in St. Clair County, IL, and as an Instructor of Survival Skills for Women at the American Red Cross Second Chance Shelter for the Homeless. During the 1989-90 school year she was honored as an Outstanding Role Model by the East St. Louis Chapter of the Top Ladies of Distinction and the Early Childhood-Pre Kindergarten staff of District 189.

Elizabeth Eckford

Elizabeth Eckford, daughter of Oscar and Birdie Eckford, was one of six children. The image of 15 year old Eckford, walking along through a screaming mob in front of Central High School, propelled the crisis into the nation's living rooms and brought international attention to Little Rock. Eckford previously served in the United States Army and holds a Bachelor's degree in History. She is the only one of the Nine who lives in Little Rock. Ms. Eckford currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Central High Museum & Visitor Center.

Terrence Roberts, Ph.D.

Dr. Roberts, son of William L. and Margaret G. Roberts, was born in Little Rock, AR in 1941. He attended Dunbar Junior High School and Horace Mann High School before entering Central High as a junior in 1957. As a result of the closing of Little Rock's high schools during the 1958-1959 school year, Dr. Roberts completed his senior year at Los Angeles High School in Los Angeles, California. He continued his education at California State University in Los Angeles and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1967. He received his Master's degree in social welfare from the UCLA School of Social Welfare in 1970, and his Ph.D. in psychology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1976.

Dr. Roberts is currently chair of the master's in psychology program at Antioch University in Los Angeles and has his private psychology practice in Pasadena, CA. In addition, he is CEO of the management consulting firm, Terrence J. Roberts & Associates.

Carlotta Walls LaNier

The oldest of three daughters born to Caretlyou and Juanita Walls, Carlotta Walls LaNier was born December 18, 1942, in Little Rock, Arkansas. She attended Stephens Elementary and Dunbar Junior High. At 14, she was the youngest of the Nine as she began her sophomore year at Central High School. She graduated from Central in 1960 and attended Michigan State University for two years before completing her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Northern Colorado.

Walls married Ira (Ike) La Nier in 1968 in Denver, Colorado. She and her husband lived in Atlanta, Georgia and Fresno, California for several years before returning to Denver, where they currently reside with their two children, Whiteney and Brooke. For over twenty years, La Nier has been involved in various aspects of the real estate industry, from constructing and remodeling properties to marketing and selling them.

LaNier is a member of many national and community organizations, including the Colorado Aids Project, Jack and Jill of America, the Urban League and the NAACP. She participated in a panel discussion during the Eisenhower 100th Birthday Celebration and her lifelong commitment to quality education is evident in her role in helping to establish the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a non-profit organization engaged in ensuring the educational opportunities for African-American students. LaNier is the recipient of numerous awards, including the coveted Spingarn Medal of the NAACP and the National Dunbar Alumni Association's Legacy Award.

Gloria Ray Karlmark

Gloria Ray was 15 when she entered Central High School. She and her two siblings lived with their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey C. Ray. Karlmark served as an executive officer of a Dutch company and publisher of a European computer magazine. She resides in the Netherlands.

Jefferson Thomas

The son of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Thomas, Jefferson Thomas was the youngest of seven children. He attended Dunbar Junior High, where he served as president of the student council and was an outstanding track athlete. Thomas entered Central High School at 15 as a sophomore. He, along with Carlotta Walls, graduated from Central in 1960.

Thomas returned to Little Rock in 1966 to narrate a film by Charles Guggenheim for the United States Information Agency, titled "The Nine from Little Rock." Today, Thomas resides in Columbus, OH, and is an accountant with the United States Department of Defense.

Melba Pattillo Beals

Melba Pattillo was 15 when she began her junior year at Central High School. Her mother, Lois Pattillo, was one of the first African-Americans to attend the University of Arkansas and graduate in 1954. During the 1958-59 school year, Beals moved to Santa Rosa, CA so she could continue her education. She lived with Dr. George McCabe and his wife, Carol, and their four children. Beals continued her education at San Francisco State University and earned a graduate degree from Columbia University.

Beals worked as a reporter for NBC and today is a communications consultant. She is the author of books on public relations and marketing. Her memoir, Warriors Don't Cry, was an ALA Notable Book for 1995 and won the 1995 Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award. Beals has a daughter and twin sons and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Minnijean Brown Trickey

Minnijean Brown was 16 years old when she began her junior year at Central High School. She was the oldest of four children of Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Brown. Although all of the Nine were subjected to verbal and physical harassment during their year at Central, Brown was first suspended, and then expelled for retaliating against the daily torment. Brown moved to New York and lived with Drs. Kenneth B. And Mamie Clark, directors of the Northside Center for Child Development. She graduated from New Lincoln High School in 1959. Brown graduated from Southern Illinois University and today is a freelance writer. She lives on a farm in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where she and her husband reared their six children.