Carlotta Walls LaNier

Carlotta Walls stepped into history in September 1957, when at age 14 she became the youngest of nine students chosen to integrate Little Rock Central High School.  The students became known around the world as the Little Rock Nine, and with great courage and determination, they changed the face of American education forever. After Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus closed Little Rock’s high schools the next school year to avoid further integration, Carlotta was forced to sit out her junior year and take correspondence courses.  But she was one of the two members of the original nine who returned to Central in 1959.  On May 20, 1960, she became the first African American girl to participate in a graduation ceremony at Central; others received their degree via the mail when Faubus closed the schools or graduated from out of state high schools.

Carlotta attended Michigan State University for two years and then moved to Denver and her family followed a year later.  She continued her education there and in 1968 graduated from Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado, where she once sat on the Board of Trustees.  The same year, she married Ira C. “Ike” Lanier.  She began her career in the nonprofit sector, working for the YWCA as a program administrator and founded her own real estate brokerage firm, Lanier and Company, in 1977.

Among the many awards she has received are the Congressional Medal of Honor, which President Bill Clinton presented to each member of the Little Rock Nine, and five honorary doctorate degrees. She has two children, Whitney and Brooke, and lives in Englewood, Colorado, with her husband.  She recently authored her memoir, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey To Justice At Little Rock Central High School, published Aug. 25, 2009, by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House.  President Bill Clinton wrote the foreword, and it already has received wide acclaim.