November 18, 1977 | Robert Chambliss Convicted in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing
On November 18, 1977, Robert Chambliss became the first of three Ku Klux Klansmen convicted in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. The evil and hatred of racism was unveiled for the world with the tragic killings of four young girls who died when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on September 15, 1963. According to the FBI, Addie Mae Collins age 14, Denise McNair age 11, Carole Robertson age 14, and Cynthia Wesley age 14 age died at the hands of four Ku Klux Klansmen who placed a bomb under the steps of the church. A witness identified Chambliss as the one who actually put the bomb under the church. He was sentenced to life in prison. One of the suspected murderers was never brought to trial.
The explosion at 10:22 a.m. took the lives of the young girls and injured over 20 others at the church. The innocence of youth was scarred that Sunday morning in Birmingham as the children were preparing for the church’s “Youth Day”. The world mourned with 8,000 persons who attended the funeral. Riots which occurred after the church bombing resulted in the deaths of two African American boys, Virgil Ware age 13, and Johnny Robinson age 16. African American leaders had reached a tipping point in their patience with the lack of government actions. NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins in a wire to President Kennedy said that unless the government provided more than “picayune and piecemeal aid against this type of bestiality” Negros will ” employ such methods as our desperation may dictate in defense of the lives of our people.” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a wire to segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace stated,” the blood of four little children…is on your hands. Your irresponsible and misguided actions have created in Birmingham and Alabama the atmosphere that has induced continued violence and now murder.”