Birmingham Church Bombing Victims One Step Closer To Congressional Gold Medal As House OKs Honor
By HENRY C. JACKSON
04/24/13 04:34 PM ET EDT
WASHINGTON -- Four young victims of a deadly Alabama church
bombing that marked one of the darkest moments of the civil rights
movement are one step closer to receiving Congress' highest civilian
By a 420-0 vote, the House on Wednesday passed a measure that
posthumously would award the Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae
Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair.
The girls were killed when a bomb planted by white
supremacists exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham,
Ala., in September 1963. The measure will now be considered by the
The House effort was led by Alabama Reps. Terri Sewell, a Democrat,
and Spencer Bachus, a Republican. The two represent Birmingham and
presented Wednesday's vote as a way to honor the legacy of the victims.
"It was there blood which was shed for the bounty that so many of us now enjoy," Sewell said.
Bachus said the tragedy pushed the civil rights movement forward and
honoring its victims was the correct way to commemorate their legacy.
While Congress has shown broad support for awarding the medal, the
idea has split relatives of the four victims. Some are supportive but
others are seeking financial compensation.
The sisters of two of the victims, Denise McNair and Carol Robertson,
sat in the House gallery to watch the vote, with Sewell noting their
presence after the vote and asking members to applaud them.
Relatives of Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley, also known as
Cynthia Morris, have both said they do not want the congressional honor.
Addie Mae's sister Sarah, was critically injured in the bombing,
losing an eye, though she recovered and later married. In an interview
with The Associated Press this month, Sarah Collins Rudolph said she is
now seeking millions in financial compensation and would not accept the
"I can't spend a medal," she told the AP.
Cynthia Wesley's brother, Fate Morris, said he also wants compensation and isn't interested in accepting a medal for his sister.
September will mark the 50th anniversary of the church bombing. Three
KKK members were convicted years after the attack. Two are dead, with
one is still in prison.
Past recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include Jackie
Robinson, former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, and Pope
John Paul II.