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1963 Birmingham Church Bombing Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

(CNN) — Here’s a look at the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing that killed four African-American girls during church services in 1963.

September 15, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing.


September 15, 1963 – A bomb blast at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, kills four African-American girls during church services. At least 14 others are injured in the explosion, including Sarah Collins, the 12-year-old sister of victim Addie Mae Collins, who loses an eye.

Three former Ku Klux Klan members are eventually convicted of murder for the bombing.


Addie Mae Collins, 14
Denise McNair, 11
Carole Robertson, 14
Cynthia Wesley, 14


September 15, 1963 – Four girls are killed and 14 injured in a bomb blast at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
– Riots break out, and two African-American boys, Virgil Ware, 13, and Johnny Robinson, 16, are also killed. In all, at least 20 people are injured from the initial bombing and the ensuing riots.
– Alabama Governor George Wallace sends 500 National Guardsmen and 300 state troopers to the city. The next day, they are joined by 500 police officers and 150 sheriffs’ deputies.

September 16, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy responds by saying, “If these cruel and tragic events can only awaken that city and state – if they can only awaken this entire nation to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress before more lives are lost.”

September 16, 1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holds a press conference in Birmingham, Alabama, saying that the US Army “ought to come to Birmingham and take over this city and run it.”

1965 – Suspects emerge: Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Robert Chambliss and Herman Frank Cash, all Ku Klux Klan members. Witnesses are reluctant to talk and physical evidence is lacking, so charges are not filed.

1976 Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopens the case.

September 26, 1977 – Chambliss, 73, a retired auto mechanic, is indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on four counts of first-degree murder.

November 15, 1977 – On the second day of the trial, Chambliss’s niece, Elizabeth Cobb, testifies that before the bombing, Chambliss confided to her that he had “enough stuff put away to flatten half of Birmingham.”

November 18, 1977 – Chambliss is convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment.

1985 – Chambliss dies in prison.

1994 – Cash dies without being charged in the bombing.

July 1997 – The case is reopened by the FBI, citing new evidence.

May 16, 2000 – A grand jury in Alabama indicts former Klansmen Cherry and Blanton with eight counts each of first-degree murder – four counts of intentional murder and four of murder with universal malice.

May 1, 2001 – Blanton is found guilty of first-degree murder and is sentenced to four life terms.

May 22, 2002 – Cherry is found guilty and given a sentence of four life terms.

November 8, 2004 Cherry dies in prison.

February 20, 2006 – The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is declared a national historic landmark.

September 12, 2013 – Fifty years after the bombing, all four girls who died are awarded Congressional Gold Medals.

September 14, 2013 – A bronze and steel statue of the four girls is unveiled. It is located at Kelly Ingram Park, on the corner of Sixteenth Street North and Sixth Avenue North.

August 3, 2016 – Blanton, the last living convicted bomber, is denied parole. Now 86, he had asked the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to let him die as a free man. He won’t be eligible for parole again until 2021.

June 26, 2020 – Blanton dies in prison of natural causes, according to a statement released by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.

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