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Former residents of Clinton to sing, play at concert

Small world at 'Blue Monday'

by Bob Fowler
Reprinted with permission from Knoxville News Sentinel.

CLINTON - They didn't know it at the time, but their lives intertwined during a turbulent chapter in Southern history.

In 1956, Jo Ann Boyce was one of the Clinton 12, those black students at the vanguard of efforts to integrate all-white Clinton High School.

Doug Davis, a member of a well-to-do white family, was a young child then. His father, attorney Sidney Davis, had been court-appointed to argue the case against integration.

The two are making a triumphant return on Memorial Day to Clinton's Ritz Theater for "Blue Monday," a jazz concert featuring many of Davis' award-winning compositions and Boyce's soaring vocals.

After the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down the separate-but-equal doctrine, Sidney Davis helped escort black teens to Clinton High, walking through angry white crowds.

Doug Davis' mother, Eleanor Davis, was an English teacher at Clinton High during integration.

Twice, she stood in school hallways between knife-wielding blacks and whites.

By sheer force of will, she twice convinced them to surrender their weapons.

Both Doug Davis, now an internationally known jazz composer, and Boyce, who would become a renowned jazz singer, watched movies more than 50 years ago in the 700-seat Ritz.

Under Jim Crow customs, Boyce sat in the balcony while Davis could sit downstairs.

In view of the histories they unknowingly shared, Clinton Vice Mayor Jerry Shattuck said the May 26 concert should prove "poignant and gratifying."

It's part of the Smithsonian Institution's "American Roots Music" program under way in Clinton.

"Now, I'm happy to be the warm-up for the headliner," Davis said of Boyce. Davis will be part of a sextet of jazz musicians performing some of his award-winning works.

He is now director of the Cal State Bakersfield Jazz Program.

Davis also organized the Bakersfield Jazz Festival and first met Boyce during the just-wrapped 22nd annual edition of the event.

"She is one of the most gracious and intelligent ladies you could ever meet," Davis said.

Boyce, also now a resident of California, has sung in numerous cabarets and shows, as well as the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles.

Bob Fowler, News Sentinel Anderson County editor, may be reached at 865-481-3625.

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