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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 9, 1999
                          THE LITTLE ROCK NINE

                      The East Room, The White House
                             November 9, 1999

Today, President Clinton will join Congress in presenting Congressional Gold Medals to Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Dr. Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls Lanier, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed-Wair and Melba Pattillo Beals, collectively known as the Little Rock Nine. The group is being honored in recognition of the selfless heroism they exhibited and the pain they suffered in the cause of civil rights when the integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.

The Little Rock Nine medals were authorized by H.R. 2560, the Little Rock Nine Medals and Coins Act, sponsered by Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Senator Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.). H.R. 2560 was included in the FY99 Omnibus Appropriations bill which was enacted into law on October 21, 1998. This bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by 302 House members and 42 Senators. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor that the United States Congress can bestow on a civilian.

On September 25, 1957, the Little Rock Nine entered Central High School when President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Army Infrantry Division (Airborne) to escort them and to enforce the order of the Supreme Court ruling Brown vs. Board of Education. Last year, on November 6, 1998, at a White House Ceremony, the President signed into law a bill, authored by Senator Bumpers and Congressman Thompson, establishing Little Rock Central High School as a National Historic Site.

On November 4, 1999, Daisy Bates, of Arkansas, passed away. She was known chiefly as a leader during the crisis of Central High School in 1957 and as a mentor to the Little Rock Nine. During her 84 years, she received over 200 awards for her civil rights work.

The first Congressional Medal was awarded to George Washington on March 25, 1776. During the Clinton-Gore Administration 10 people have received this award: Rabbi Menachem Schneerson in 1994, Rev. Billy and Ruth Graham in 1996, Frank Sinatra in 1997, Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1997, Bartholomew I in 1997, President Nelson Mandela in 1998, Mrs. Rosa Parks in 1999, and President Gerald R. and Mrs. Betty Ford in 1999. This is the first Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony to be held at the White House during the Clinton-Gore Administration.

The audience of approximately 250 will include family and friends of the Little Rock Nine. Prominent civil rights leaders including Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King III and Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of the NAACP, are also to attend. Administration officials expected include: Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West Jr., SBA Administrator Aida Alverez, FEMA Director James Lee Witt, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. In addition, more than 60 members of Congress will attend.

Order of Events:
Secretary of Education Richard Riley makes opening remarks Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) makes remarks Senator Blanche Lambert-Lincoln makes remarks Senator Dale Bumpers makes remarks
Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) makes remarks House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) makes remarks Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (S.D.) makes remarks Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) makes remarks President Clinton makes remarks
Congressional Gold Medals are awarded to the members of the Little Rock Nine
Ernest Green, member of Little Rock Nine, makes remarks President Clinton introduces Reverend Wintley Phipps Reverend Phipps sings "We Will Be Free"

A list of biographies is attached.



Elizabeth Eckford
Elizabeth Eckford, daughter of Oscar and Birdie Eckford, was one of six children. The image of fifteen-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.

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.

Carlotta Walls LaNier
The oldest of three daughters of 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 fourteen, she was the youngest of the "Little Rock 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, Whitney 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.

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.

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 fifteen 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 the Columbus, Ohio, and is an accountant with the United States Department of Defense.

Minnijean Brown Trickey
Minnijean Brown was sixteen 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 years at Central, Brown was first suspended, and then expelled for retaliating to 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 is now a freelance writer. She lives on a farm in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where she and her husband reared their six children.

Melba Pattillo Beals
Melba Pattillo was fifteen 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, from which she graduated in 1954. During the 1958-59 school year, Beals moved to Santa Rosa, California 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.

Gloria Ray Karlmark
Gloria Ray was fifteen 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 now resides in the Netherlands.

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.