Clinton 12’s McSwain dies at age 77

Alvah McSwain Lambert, 77, a member of the Clinton 12, died Monday, June 2, 2019, in Wilmington, Calif.

“On behalf of the Green McAdoo Cultural Organization, the City of Clinton, and the State of Tennessee, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Mrs. Alvah J. McSwain. Alvah passed away this morning in Wilmington, California, surrounded by family and friends,” Marilyn Hayden messaged Monday afternoon.

“She was one of the Clinton 12 students that fought for the integration of Clinton High School in 1956 blazing a trail for all Black students to achieve equal education under the law. According to Alvah, in June 1963 her mother and her graduated from John C. Fremont high school together. That was one of the happiest days of her life. She will be missed by family, friends, and all those blessed to know her.”

Despite being a trailblazer, McSwain kept quiet about her achaivements.

“I had no idea that happened, what she — they — did,” McSwain Lambert’s nephew, Sam Turner, said. “Noy until the city began the process to renovate Green McAdoo.

“I don’t think they ever talked about it.”

In an interview with “Tennessee4me” a couple of years ago, McSwain Lambert talked a little about the changes that were happening in the early 1950s.

“(Black parents had to pay tuition before 1951 for their kids to go to the Knoxville school.) The babies of the family were triplets. My mother thought about that. By the time they got to the age to go to school, there would have been five children in school at one time. And my mother and father…wouldn’t be able to pay for five. So she (mother) filed the lawsuit against Anderson County for us to go to Clinton,” she said.

Lambert’s death leaves eight members of the Clinton 12 still living.

Details of McSwain Lambert’s funeral arrangements were not available at press time.