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February 24, 2008 - Interfaith Gathering: The Little Rock Nine and VIP reception Adams Mark Hotel

What: A Celebration of Courage

Where: Congregation Emanuel, Denver and Adam's Mark

When: Feb. 24, 2008, and Feb. 25, 2008

Beneficiary: Fundraiser for the Iliff School of Theology

Host(s): Rabbi Steven Foster and Congregation Emanuel

Honoree(s): The Little Rock Nine

Gala Chairperson(s): Barbara Baldwin and Dr. Al Yates

Honorary Chairperson(s): Dr. Vincent Harding, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Wellington Webb, and Wilma Webb

Introductions: The Rev. Dr. David Trickett, president Iliff School of Theology

Welcome: Dr. Steven Foster

Music: Gathering Music: Mile High Chapter Choir, Cantor Regina Heit, St. Mary’s Academy Honors Choir

Sponsors: Ball Corporation; Molson Coors Brewing Company; Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado; Chambers Family Fund; CH2MHill; Post News Community Programs of the Denver Newspaper Agency; Comcast; KUSA 9News; Merrill Lynch; The Bohemian Foundation; Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company; Neusteter Colorado Company/Auer Family Fund; Barbara Bridges; Rutt Bridges Family Foundation; Rhondda and Peter Grant; Mary and George Sissel; Wells Fargo; Susan Duncan; Pepsi Bottling Group; PricewaterhouseCoopers; Orbit Design; 1st Bank Holding; Adam’s Mark Hotel; Dovetail Solutions; Keyline Graphics; Gay and Barry Curtiss-Lusher; Barbara and Dennis Baldwin; Forest City Stapleton; Beverly and Hal Haddon/Barbara and Dave Sheldon; Holme Roberts and Owen; Kamlet Shepherd and Reichert, LLP; Alma Lantz; Caz Matthews; Mountain States Employers Council, Inc.; The Piton Foundation; Jared Polis; Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company; Susan and David Trickett; US Bank; Judi and Joe Wagner; Suzy and Cap Witzler; Xcel Energy.

Attire: Sunday Dress

Special Thanks: Congregation Emanuel, Rabbi Steven Foster, and Administrator Janet Bronitsky

Event Coordinator: Rev. Dr. Catherine Kelsey, Mary Underwood, and Greta Gloven

Board of Directors: Rhondda Grant: Chairperson; Susan Duncan: Exec. Vice Chairperson; Rev. Janet Forbes: Vice Chairperson; Rev. Youngsook Kank: Secretary; Dr Jim Greisemer: Treasurer.

Steering Committee: Rev. Dr. Catherine Kelsey, Rabbi Steven Foster, and Rev. Ralph Beechum

Blacktie Photos by: Paul Docktor M.D.

 The Little Rock Nine: from left rear: Jefferson Thomas, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Terrence Roberts, Minnijean Brown Trickey. Front from left: Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed Wair
The Little Rock Nine: from left rear: Jefferson Thomas, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Terrence Roberts, Minnijean Brown Trickey. Front from left: Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed Wair

 Arkansas History Commission

It seemed like eons ago, and yet in some respects just yesterday. In 1957-1958, America was a nation of inequalities, a country without a Civil Rights Act--a segregated land where skin color determined not only where you sat on the bus, but where you lived, the type of job you were allowed to hold and the social circles you could move in. The Supreme Court in 1954 mandated "integration with all due speed," and in 1957 the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas began its desegregation plan. 517 African American students were eligible to attend the prestigious Little Rock Central High School, but nine brave souls actually agreed to do so that first year. Tempers flared and opposition abounded. Astoundingly, it took an order from President Eisenhower and 1,000 members of the army's 101st Airborne Division to restore order, and, escorted by troops, the nine were allowed to enter Central High School in 1957.

The year was marked by terror as these nine pioneers were taunted, jeered, kicked and spat upon. The troops could not accompany them in the classroom, and the nine were barred from any extra curricular activities. Some of the nine's homes were bombed and parents lost jobs. But the nine persisted, and Ernest Green became the first African American to graduate from Central High School in 1958. The next year, public schools were closed to prevent integration, and it took almost 20 years to become fully integrated in public schools.

Today, these Congressional Medal of Honor recipients excel in a variety of areas:

  • Minnijean Brown Trickey is a leader in social advocacy;
  • Elizabeth Eckford has enjoyed success as a teacher, employment advisor and a reporter;
  • Ernest Green is an executive with a Washington D.C. investment firm and former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs;
  • Thelma Mothershed Wair is a retired teacher;
  • Melba Pattillo Beals is an established author and accomplished journalist;
  • Carlotta Walls LaNier is a successful real estate broker;
  • Terrence Roberts, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and former chairperson of the department;
  • Jefferson Thomas is a retired accountant;
  • Gloria Ray Karlmark has enjoyed careers as a mathemetician, technical writer and editor of an international trade journal.

Thanks to Carlotta Walls LaNier, a Denver resident and board member of the Iliff School of Theology, Denver was proud to host the 50th reunion of the Little Rock Nine, a remembrance of the brave perseverence of the Nine and a celebration of their successes through a three-day program coordinated by Iliff (sold out since last November.) 

There was first an Interfaith Gathering on Sunday, Feb. 24 at Congregation Emanuel in Denver. Rabbi Steven Foster introduced the Little Rock Nine, and Rev. Dr. David Trickett, President of the Iliff School of Theology. Leaders from various spiritual groups spoke, gospel and high school choirs sang, and three of the Little Rock Nine gave inspired stories of their history-making year in 1957 at Central H.S. in Little Rock, Arkansas. Carlotta Walls LaNier remembered that she learned to quickly sum up a room for potential danger, learned to walk with her books toward the wall, and never bent down unless she had her back to the wall.

A baton was passed throughout the sanctuary beginning with the nine former students and each individual passed it along to the person sitting adjacent repeating: "Move for Justice! Pass it On."  To put the times in perspective, Bill Clinton was 11 years old, growing up 50 miles away in Hot Springs. The former president credits the “Nine” with liberating him from racial prejudice. Reverend Dr. David Tricket, President of the Iliff School of Theology, was visiting his grandparents in Arkansas and also watched the events unfold. The importance and stature of this 50th reunion (only the 5th time that all 9 students that they have all reunited) is of unparalled magnitude, and brings with it unprecedented emotional, spiritual, intellectual and educational dimensions.

The festivities continued on Feb. 25th with a VIP reception at the Adams Mark Hotel Windows Room. About 200 people attended, including Iliff Trustees, event committee members and corporate sponsor representatives. Honorary co-chairs Wellington and Wilma Webb and Carlotta Walls Lanier were present along with Mayor John Hickenlooper. Brief comments about the Little Rock Nine were made by event co-chairs Barbara Baldwin and Dr. Albert Yates. Barbara stated that it was the Nine's commmitment to civil rights that modeled the way for all who came after them. Without the LIttle Rock Nine, America would be a very different nation than the one we know today. Dr. Yates expressed gratitude to the nine courageous men and women who changed the course of American history forever. Rev. Dr. David Trickett, President of the Iliff School of Theology, reviewed that for more than a century, the Iliff School of Theology has been committed to teaching students the value of reconciliation, nonviolence and and appreciation for our differences. We celebrate our history today by commemorating the courage of the Little Rock Nine who helped create real change in America.

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