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Monday, December 18, 2017, 2:42 p.m.

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PHOTOS: Bill Clinton, Little Rock Nine reflect on 60th anniversary of Central High School's desegregation

By Brandon Riddle

This article was originally published September 25, 2017 at 10:44 a.m. Updated September 25, 2017 at 2:50 p.m.

members-of-the-little-rock-nine-enter-central-high-schools-auditorium-at-an-event-monday-sept-25-2017-marking-the-60th-anniversary-of-the-schools-desegregation

Members of the Little Rock Nine enter Central High School's auditorium at an event Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, marking the 60th anniversary of the school's desegregation.

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Photos by Brandon Riddle


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Sixty years after facing an angry mob on their way to class for the first time at Central High School, the eight living members of the Little Rock Nine returned to the historic site Monday.

Inside the school’s auditorium, President Bill Clinton and other dignitaries were present alongside the civil-rights pioneers: Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls Lanier, Terrence Roberts, Minnijean Brown Trickey and Thelma Mothershed Wear.

In memory of the ninth member, Jefferson Thomas, a sash with the school’s colors — gold and black — was draped across a chair on stage next to the others. Thomas died in 2010.

Remarks at the eventy mentioned that progress had been made and addressed the significance of what desegregation at Central High had meant to the civil-rights movement.

Each of the eight members offered reflections of their time at Central High, many describing Sept. 25, 1957, the day they walked into class for their first full day at the school, while being escorted by federal troops.

In his commemorative address Monday, Clinton said he wished he could simply tell the civil-rights pioneers to solely reflect on their accomplishments. He said recent divisive rhetoric across the U.S. and around the world had made that impossible.

“I wanted to say, ‘You did 60 years. Take a victory lap. Put on your dancing shoes. Have a good time,” Clinton told the Little Rock Nine members.

Instead, he said, “You gotta put on your marching boots.”

Clinton spoke of the genetic makeup of humans, telling attendees who filled the auditorium’s upper and lower seats that people are much more alike than they are different.

“We are now living in a world where we are going back and revisiting the original questions of this country and the original things that tore this country apart in the civil-rights movement,” Clinton said.

“What is the matter with us?” he asked.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola referenced the progress made to combat divides among the population but noted that additional efforts must me made to bridge gaps, particularly in Arkansas’ capital city.

Stodola said the “stakes are incredibly high” when it comes to harnessing the potential in the city's residents.

“I recognize that while we have made great strides, we still have much work to do. At city hall, these goals are what keep us going in the areas we can help,” the mayor said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the Little Rock Nine’s “quiet determination and stubborn refusal” to abandon their dreams set an example for years to come.

“Arkansas claims you as pioneers, heroes and examples to follow,” he said of the Little Rock Nine.

In front of the iconic Central High steps, the school’s band played as attendees entered. Dozens of additional students wearing 60th anniversary T-shirts were seated behind the dignitaries on stage.

Nearby, a statue commemorating the desegregation of Central High recently erected at the site’s northeast end also welcomed those at Monday’s ceremony.

Read Tuesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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TravisBickle says... September 25, 2017 at 11:03 p.m.

Slick Willie style!!

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