Thomas Blanton (inmate)

Thomas Blanton (inmate)

Next Parole Hearing : August 2021 

 

Thomas Blanton, a white supremacist, brutally murdered four young girls

Denise McNair
Denise McNair
Thomas Blanton
Thomas Blanton
Inmate Name: Thomas Blanton Jr.
Inmate Number: 00216691
Victims: Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins,
Cynthia Dianne Wesley
Offense: Murder x 4
Min/ Max Sentence: 15 Years – Life
Next Parole Hearing: August 2021

Case Summary

On September 16, 1963 Thomas Blanton and three accomplices, all four who were well know white supremacists, planted a bomb consisting of a minimum of 15 sticks of dynamite below the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church. At 10:22AM an anonymous caller phoned the church and said, “three minutes.” A minute later the bomb exploded as five young children were changing into their choir robes in the basement of the church. The explosion shook the entire building, shattered all but one of the church’s windows, and blew a seven-foot hole in the church’s rear wall. Among the rubble were the bodies of Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley who were in the basement at the time of the explosion. A fifth girl Sara Collins, who was Addie Mae’s sister, somehow survived and was found with 21 pieces of glass in her face. She was blinded in one eye. It took authorities 39 years to convict Blanton and in 2001 he was convicted of four counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He is now eligible for parole.

The 16th Street Baptist Church Story

THOMAS EDWIN BLANTON JR.

Nearly 100 yrs. after the abolishment of slavery in he United States, Jim Crowe, racial segregation and discrimination was alive and well, especially in the south. Schools, restrooms, movie theaters, water fountains, and just about every other social gathering place was segregated, with black Americans forced to enter the back door, sit in the back rows, and take on only menial jobs offering the lowest of pay. To enforce segregation and discrimination, the KKK and surrogate white supremacy groups terrorized minority churches, businesses, families, and individuals threatening to tilt the balance of equality in the direction of a level playing field for all.

Denise McNair
Denise McNair

BIRMINGHAM OFTEN REFERRED TO AS ‘BOOMINGHAM’

It’s the early 1960’s and several national leaders are stepping forward to advance the cause of equal rights, namely President John F. Kennedy, his Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, among others. Freedom riders from the north flooded the south to join in organized marches, protests, and sit-ins. Birmingham, Alabama, considered to be one of the most segregated cities in the United States was often the target of civil rights activists calling for desegregation; aggressive voter registration drives, and equal job opportunities. In 1963, there were no black police officers or firefighters. Violent white supremacy groups were constantly on the prowl, often terrorizing minorities and advocates for change. Their methods of operation often included acts of arson and bombing. From 1955 until 1963, 21 bombings of black churches and institutions had rocked the city of Birmingham.

16TH ST. BAPTIST CHURCH BOMBING

On the Sunday morning of Sept. 15th, 1963, key church members arrived at the 16th St. Baptist Church to prepare for that morning’s services. The church had been a central rallying point for civil rights activities during the spring of that same year. Several adolescent children, part of the church choir were putting on their choir robes when at 10:22 a.m., an anonymous caller phoned the church, simply advising the teenage secretary, “Three minutes.” Less than a minute later a massive explosion ripped through the basement of the church, originating from underneath the front steps outside. Four young girls: Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11), all of whom were preparing their singing attire, were killed in the blast. 21 others were injured. The blast was so massive that it blew a passing motorist out of his car.

Cynthia Dianne Wesley
Cynthia Dianne Wesley

Investigators determined that approximately 15 sticks of dynamite had been planted underneath the front steps of the church, adjacent to where the young girls were changing their clothes in a women’s lounge area. The shock waves from the blast blew a 7-foot wide hole through the back wall of the basement and left a crater 5 feet wide and two feet deep. All of the stained glass windows were blown out of the church, except for one, a depiction of Jesus Christ leading a group of young children.

Dr. Martin Luther King would later comment that the bombing was “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes perpetrated against humanity.”

Four innocent young girls had now been cruelly murdered by cowards hiding in the shadows, by slipping a bomb underneath a place of worship. Nothing short of a horrific and terroristic act of cold-blooded murder.

JUSTICE DELAYED

Shortly after the bombing, rioting and chaos erupted in the city of Birmingham, prompting the segregationist Governor, George Wallace to send in 300 National Guardsmen to restore order.

Realizing the violence and upheaval created by the church bombing, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy dispatched 25 FBI agents to Birmingham to investigate and route out those responsible. Four strong suspects were eventually identified, however, due to a lack of physical evidence and the reluctance of witnesses to step forward, the case eventually went cold and therefore sealed and shelved.

Carole Robertson
Carole Robertson

Those suspects identified in the initial investigation were part of a splinter group of the KKK, named ‘The Cahaba Boys’. The members of The Cahaba Boys felt that the KKK had become ineffective in combating desegregation efforts and decided to step up the heat upon minorities and activists through any means necessary. Those believed to be directly responsible for the church bombing were identified as:

  • Robert Edward Chambliss…believed to be the ringleader
  • Herman Frank Cash
  • Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr.
  • Bobby Frank Cherry

Over the years following the murderous bombing, the case languished in local, state, and federal files. Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed in Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Then in 1971, Alabama State Attorney William Baxley reopened the case, re-interviewing witnesses; conducting surveillance and obtaining recorded implicating conversations of those already suspected in the dastardly crime. As a result of Baxley’s investigation, of the previously mentioned suspects, only Chambliss, the reputed ringleader was indicted on charges of murder in the deaths of the four young girls. He was subsequently found guilty only for the death of Carol Denise McNair. He died in prison in 1985.

In May of 2000, the FBI unsealed and reopened the case, later announcing their findings that Chambliss, Blanton, Cash, and Cherry were responsible. By this time, Herman Case was deceased, however, the FBI investigation provided sufficient cause and evidence to indict the two remaining suspects by the state of Alabama.

Addie Mae Collins
Addie Mae Collins

Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted of four counts of 1st degree murder and sentence to life. He died in prison of cancer in 2004.

Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. was indicted in April of 2001 and convicted of four counts of 1st degree murder. He too received a penalty of life in prison.

NO PAROLE: JUSTICE TO BE PAID IN FULL

Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. now remains the only surviving member of a ruthless band of murderers and domestic terrorists. This monster’s next parole hearing is scheduled to take place on August 3rd, 2016. Supporters would argue that he is now too elderly and in ill health to be a threat to society, however, there is a much larger point to consider. Blanton took part in a historic crime so horrific that it’s shock waves helped to change the face of civil rights in this country. Four innocent children were forever denied the right to grow up, have husbands, children, and grand babies…unlike Mr. Blanton, who enjoyed the luxuries of freedom almost four decades after his murderous deed. To say that he got off easy would be one of the top ten understatements of the century. To grant Thomas Blanton parole would not only desecrate the ideals of the civil rights movement and it’s inroads, but, in light of the current racial strife recently experienced in the U.S. would understandably be an insult to those continuing the fight for justice for all. Please sign the petition to help block the parole of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. an unrepentant murderer who gloated to friends and associates over the decades about the deaths of, in his own words, “four less niggers”.