Thomas Blanton, the last living KKK member convicted of the 1963 Alabama church bombing that killed four black girls, has died in prison at the age of 81. Blanton, who was being held at Donaldson prison near Birmingham, died of natural causes, according to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office.
The church bombing was the deadliest attack of the Civil Rights Movement. Thomas Blanton orchestrated the attack along with ex-Klansmen Robert Chambliss and Bobby Frank Cherry. Chambliss died in prison in 1985 after spending 7 years in prison while Cherry died in 2004 after only two years behind bars.
Thomas Blanton wasn’t put in prison until 2001. While the attack by the white supremacists took place nearly 40 years earlier, it wasn’t until May 2001 that Blanton was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. However, he didn’t seem to have any regrets about his actions, telling the judge on the day of his sentencing, “I guess the good Lord will settle it on judgment day.”
The investigation into the bombing was abandoned for years. While an investigation was launched soon after the terror incident, it stalled pretty early on and was left alone for years, as evidenced by the fact that Chambliss wasn’t convicted until 1977 and the other two in the 21st Century.
Blanton was due for a parole hearing in 2021. Despite killing Denise McNair, 11, and Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson, all 14, Blanton clearly believed he’d done nothing wrong. However, thankfully authorities disagreed. His previous parole hearing saw him denied his freedom, and Collins’ sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, planned to oppose the next one too.
In fact, Blanton always claimed his conviction was a government conspiracy. “I think I was cleverly set up by the government … and that’s why I’m here,” Blanton said during a 2006 interview with WBRC-TV from the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama. “I’m sorry it happened. Deeply sorry. But I’m not responsible for it.” Looks like authorities disagreed.
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