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Subject: Thomas Blanton, last surviving member of those convicted in 1963 Alabama church bombing, dies in prison aged 82 ....

Ed Tracey
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Date Posted: Friday, June 26, 11:14:55am

16th Street Baptist Church bomber Thomas Blanton dies in prison

By Carol Robinson, AL.com - Updated 12:37 PM; Today 12:12 PM

The last surviving Ku Klux Klan member convicted in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four little girls has died.

Thomas E. Blanton, 82, died of natural causes Friday morning at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Jefferson County. He was found at 5 a.m. having cardiac issues, taken to the infirmary at Donaldson. He went into full arrest and was pronounced dead at 6:10 a.m., according to Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates.
Blanton was one of three Klansmen eventually convicted in the Sept. 15, 1963 10:15 a.m. blast that killed 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Cythnia Wesley and Carole Robertson. The girls were killed as they changed into their choir robes.

Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry both were arrested in 2000 on murder charges, nearly four decades after the deadly Birmingham bombing.

“While serving a life sentence, Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr., the last surviving 16th Street Baptist Church bomber, has passed away from natural causes. His role in the hateful act on September 15, 1963 stole the lives of four innocent girls and injured many others,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a public statement. “That was a dark day that will never be forgotten in both Alabama’s history and that of our nation. Although his passing will never fully take away the pain or restore the loss of life, I pray on behalf of the loved ones of all involved that our entire state can continue taking steps forward to create a better Alabama for future generations.

“Let us never forget that Sunday morning in September of 1963 and the four young ladies whose lives ended far too soon, but let us continue taking steps forward to heal, do better and honor those who sacrificed everything for Alabama and our nation to be a home of opportunity for all.”

Cherry and Blanton were two of the four longtime suspects in the bombing. The initial investigation in the 1960s yielded no charges. Then, a decade later, Attorney General Bill Baxley conducted a second investigation which led to the conviction of Robert Chambliss, who died in prison in 1985. A fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died in 1994.

The case was reopened secretly in 1996 at the direction of former FBI Birmingham head Rob Langford. FBI Special Agent Bill Fleming and retired Birmingham police Sgt. Ben Herren were assigned the case in 1996, spending a year poring through voluminous case files and then interviewing more than 800 people.

The FBI in 1997, by then under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge Joseph Lewis, announced it had reopened its investigation. The agency went public with the information as it prepared to expand the probe to begin questioning people with possible knowledge of the crime.

In the 1960s, Blanton was a KKK member and a staunch fighter against Birmingham school integration. He was 25 years old in the fall of 1963. At the time of the arrest, he was guarding property in Fultondale.

“At that time (1963), he was pretty wild and crazy,” said former Klansman Wyman S. Lee. “He has a lot of hate, anger and resentment built up in him,” Lee said.

Though the case was federally investigated, Blanton and Cherry were arrested on state murder charges.

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Dying in prison, good riddance to trash who killed 4 little girls. It took Justice decades to prosecute and sentence Blanton, ...now it's God's turn. (NT)Rot!Friday, June 26, 11:24:47am

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