This year marks the 60th Anniversary when a group of twelve African-American students integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee two years after the US Supreme Court’s historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that ruled segregation unconstitutional.
Known as the “Clinton 12,” these teenagers valiantly walked to class together on streets lined with agitators on a daily basis. Having to face racism in all directions, the students put up with constant threats, but still managed to persevere.
Victor Boyce speaking with his family about this historical marker to his mother.
Local cyclist Victor Boyce is a part of this legacy, as his mother, Jo Ann Boyce, is one of those original students who broke the color barrier back in 1956. Passing his heritage down to his two children is an important component of his family life and recently, all three generations of the Boyce family went to take in the statue commemorating the Clinton 12.
Their visit was filmed by Disney, as Victor’s son, Cameron, also happens to be the star of the Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, Disney’s Descendants, Jessie, and a number of other films and Disney shows.
We caught up with Victor to talk about bikes, Los Angeles, and the deeper bond that came from visiting the Clinton 12 Monument.
How did you get involved with cycling?
I got hooked on cycling the moment I got my first cool bike, a brand new Schwinn Sting Ray in the late sixties. Unfortunately, that bike was stolen. I replaced it with a green Schwinn Varsity 10 speed. That bike got me into gears and speed. A few years later I bought my first “real” bike from I. Martin Imports in L.A. It was a pearl gold Lygie. That was when I found out about Major Taylor and the Tour de France. I’ve been obsessed ever since.
Climbing Mt. Baldy is no joke, but you’ll always find a smile on Victor’s face.
What do you like the most about biking across Los Angeles?
The fact that World Class road riding and mountain biking are so close to my house.
What are your favorite roads to ride around the area?
There are many great climbs to do in the Santa Monica Mountains, but my favorite has to be Latigo Canyon starting at PCH. It’s a tough climb with Alps-style switchbacks. The view gets more and more spectacular as you gain elevation. In seemingly no time, you are HIGH above the ocean while riding past awesome homes and private vineyards. When you finish the climb you have a feeling of accomplishment because no matter how many times you’ve done it since it is always challenging.
Victor is not afraid to take on all comers no matter what the surface.
How did your family relocate from Tennessee to Los Angeles?
I’m a Los Angeles native. My mom is from Tennessee. My grandfather decided to move his family to California to escape oppressive racism in the South. There were also much better employment opportunities in Los Angeles at the time. I wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t made that choice. My parents met in L.A.
What was it like to have three generations of the Boyce family on hand for the 60th anniversary of the Clinton 12? Surreal, touching, exciting. It really put life into perspective for me.
Did you know your mother was this famous growing up or was she just “mom” to you?
Well, she wasn’t famous. She will tell you that she and the other members of the Clinton 12 didn’t know the impact they would have on our nation’s history. It’s only been recently that my mom has garnered any notoriety.
Three generations of the Boyce family. From L to R: Maya, Victor, Jo Ann, Libby, and Cameron.
What were some of the things your mom has passed on to you from going through that experience?
My mom never made a big deal about her involvement with the Clinton 12, but she was always a huge advocate for education and also inclusion. It’s interesting to me that despite the hatred she endured from white Southerners in the ’50s, I’ve never heard my mom speak badly of white people. In fact, she taught us to be respectful of all people. She leads by example, and I think I’m a better person for it.
Now as a father, how have you passed on this heritage to your children?
My children are mixed race. As such, it is extra important to me that they understand what their ancestors had to go through. Things my kids take for granted are things that people literally died for in order to obtain. Luckily for me, my kids are very smart. My wife and I made sure that that our children heard the stories, visited the places, and felt the pain of our history. I’m grateful for the people that paved the way for my lifestyle, and I think my children are too.