LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The nine Black teenagers who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in September 1957 all went on to seek higher education. Eight remain alive.
This combination of file photos (left) shows the nine black teenagers who had to be escorted by federal troops past an angry white mob and through the doors of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Sept. 25, 1957. Top row from left are Minnie Brown, Elizabeth Eckford and Ernest Green; middle row, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, and Gloria Ray; bottom row, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls. (AP Photo), (right) This combination of Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 photos shows eight of the Little Rock Nine, the black teenagers who had to be escorted by federal troops past an angry white mob and through the doors of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 25, 1957. Top row from left are Minnijean Brown Trickey, Elizabeth Eckford and Ernest Green; middle row, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Melba Pattillo Beals, and Gloria Ray Karlmark; bottom row, Terrence Roberts and Carlotta Walls LaNier. (AP Photo/Kelly Kissel)
While they’re most known for their collective story, they have their individual achievements as well.
Here are their stories, as provided by organizers of the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine’s desegregation of all-white Central.
MELBA PATTILLO BEALS
Melba Pattillo Beals currently lives in the San Francisco area. Her mother, Lois, had been among the first Black graduates from the University of Arkansas.
Beals earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Francisco State University, a master’s at Columbia and a doctorate at the University of San Francisco. She worked as a reporter in public television and at an NBC affiliate and also wrote “Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School.”
Because all of Little Rock’s high schools were closed a year after the desegregation battle, Elizabeth Eckford moved to St. Louis, where she obtained her GED diploma. She attended Knox College in Illinois and received a bachelor’s degree in history at Central State University in Ohio.
Eckford served in the U.S. Army. She and a key tormentor captured in a 1957 photograph outside Central High School received a humanitarian award from the National Conference for Community and Justice after their reconciliation more than three decades after the crisis. Eckford lives in Little Rock.
Ernest Green was the first of the Little Rock Nine to earn a diploma at Central High School. He worked in public finance for Lehman Brothers in Washington and was listed in Black Enterprise’s 2006 list of the “75 Most Powerful Blacks on Wall Street.”
Green has a bachelor’s degree in social science and a master’s in sociology from Michigan State University, plus honorary documents from Central State University, Michigan State and Tougaloo College.
GLORIA RAY KARLMARK
Gloria Ray Karlmark is the youngest granddaughter of a former slave. After leaving Little Rock for Missouri while her hometown schools were closed, she graduated from the newly integrated Kansas City Central High School in 1960. After graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, she joined IIT’s research institute as an assistant mathematician.
In the 1970s, she and her husband immigrated to Sweden and she joined IBM’s Nordic Laboratory. She retired in 1994.
CARLOTTA WALLS LANIER
Carlotta Walls LaNier is the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, entering Central High School at age 14. She graduated from Central in 1960 and attended Michigan State University for two years and later graduated from the University of Northern Colorado.
She received an honorary doctorate from Northern Colorado and is in the Colorado Woman’s Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She wrote “A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School” and is a real estate broker.
Terrence Roberts entered Central High as a junior, completed the school year and moved with family to California, where he graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1959. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University, Los Angeles, a master’s in social welfare from UCLA and a doctorate in psychology from Southern Illinois University.
He was on the faculty at Pacific Union in the 1970s and was assistant dean at the UCLA School of Social Welfare from 1985 to 1993. He has written “Lessons from Little Rock” and “Simple, Not Easy: Reflections on Community, Social Responsibility and Tolerance.”
Jefferson Thomas was running track at all-Black Dunbar Junior High School when he volunteered to help integrate all-white Central High School as a sophomore in 1957. He graduated from Central in 1960 and subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Los Angeles State College. He was an accounting supervisor at Mobil Oil and joined the Department of Defense when Mobil moved its credit card operations out of Los Angeles. He moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1989.
The 27-year federal employee retired in 2002 and died in 2010.
MINNIJEAN BROWN TRICKEY
Minnijean Brown Trickey was the first of the Little Rock Nine to be suspended, after retaliating against her tormentors. She moved to New York and lived with a pair of social scientists who had played a role in the Brown v. Board of Education case and graduated from the New Lincoln School in 1959.
She studied journalism at Southern Illinois University and later received a bachelor’s of social work in native human services from Laurentian University and a master’s of social work at Carleton University, both in Ontario. She worked in President Bill Clinton’s administration as deputy assistant secretary for workforce diversity at the Department of the Interior.
THELMA MOTHERSHED WAIR
Thelma Mothershed Wair completed her high school work through correspondence courses and summer school in St. Louis. She received her diploma by mail.
Wair graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in home economics education and earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Southern Illinois. She worked in East St. Louis, Illinois, schools for 28 years — 10 as a home economics teacher and 18 as a counselor — before retiring in 1994 and moving back to Little Rock.
For more information, visit www.centralhigh60th.org