Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams often tells the story of how the high school he attended once shut done rather than integrate, and during a technology conference in Arkansas this week he got to see where the public showdown first began.
At the conference, Williams also got to ride in a self-driving vehicle and heard from the “Elliot Ness of cyber crime.”
As for the school, a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering the integration of public schools was met with hostility. In Little Rock, nine black students were denied entrance to all-white Central High School, forcing a very public conflict between President Eisenhower and the Arkansas governor.
At Warren High School in Virginia, where Williams graduated in 1981, the school board decided to close the school rather than allow blacks to attend, which is why there was no graduating Class of 1959.
Williams said the area was still mired in backward thinking when he first attended school, which created an economic decline in the town, which is why he first got involved in politics.
“When I was 17 years old I gathered a group of friends together and we passed out literature to everyone walking into a polling place,” Williams often tells young leaders. “And through that we were able to change the power in my area from one party to my party. So I understand the importance of youth involvement.”