Doug Jones Recounts Church Bombing Prosecution in New Book

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Senator Doug Jones has spent his life working to make Alabama a better place. He was born in Fairfield in 1954, to a U.S. Steel worker and a stay-at-home mom. He grew up in Alabama during a period of great change, and played a critical part of helping the state and her people overcome some of their darkest days. His early years forged his values and a deep sense of responsibility to treat everyone with dignity and respect.  As a product and life-long resident of the state, Senator Jones represents the best qualities of what it means to be an Alabamian. 

The Senator grew up during the tumultuous era of the desegregation of Alabamaís public schools. But from childhood, he was drawn to both leadership and to fighting for what was right.  He also found a love for politics and organizing. Through volunteering ñ campus affairs at Alabama, a statewide campaign to modernize Alabamaís court system, and Young Democrats ñ the power of one, determined young person became clear to him. He later served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama beginning in 1997. It was while serving in this position that Senator Jones successfully prosecuted two of the four men responsible for the 16th street church bombings - finally getting justice for the four little girls after more than 30 years.  Along with taking on the Ku Klux Klan, he prosecuted terrorists like Eric Rudolph, and many others who sought to use fear, hatred, and violence to inhibit the rights of others.

Senator Jones took that same passion with him when he ran in the 2017 Special Senate Election in Alabama and became the first Democratic senator elected from the state in 25 years. He understands that public service is a privilege that comes with the responsibility of making the country better for all Americans, not just those who look like us or agree with our politics. He will continue to fight for every Alabamian in the Senate to increase affordable access to healthca";s:17:"created_timestamp";s:10:"1529452800";s:9:"copyright";s:13:"Ralph Alswang";s:12:"focal_length";s:1:"0";s:3:"iso";s:1:"0";s:13:"shutter_speed";s:1:"0";s:5:"title";s:0:"";s:11:"orientation";s:1:"0";s:8:"keywords";a:0:{}}}
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The Klansmen who bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four black girls, did not face justice for years. In 1977, then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley won a conviction against Robert Chambliss for his role in the attack. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that two others were tried and convicted. Senator Doug Jones led those later prosecutions and writes about it in his memoir “Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Cvil Rights.”

WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Jones about the book.

cover-bending-toward-justice

Interview Highlights

Cutting class in law school to watch the Chambliss trial:

“As a lawyer, or a lawyer-wanna-be at the time, it was an amazing experience to see very, very good lawyers … but to understand and see how deeply the bombing had affected people and how that conviction of Chambliss was such an amazing thing to happen in 1977. You understand, I think, how deeply people feel about the need for justice and some type of, not just redemption, but I think a sense of justice and a sense of healing that that brought to the community even though people knew that there were still others that were not being prosecuted.”

Visiting convicted bomber Thomas Blanton in prison:

“I’ve always believed that one of the things that was missing in our case was a sense of reconciliation for the community. We got a measure of redemption, but not true reconciliation … I thought just maybe this last chance with Blanton, who is getting older, who is not in great health, who is likely to die in prison if he doesn’t do something to accept some responsibility, I just thought it was worth a shot. I really believe that some acceptance of that responsibility in telling the story, and Tommy Blanton is the last hope for that. But apparently he will go to his grave with all the secrets.”

Running for reelection in 2020 when Democrats still face long odds in Alabama:

“I see a path to victory the same way we did in 2017 and that is focusing on the issues that we have in common, focusing on issues that people talk about every day with their families, and not the issues that divide us. You’re already seeing this divisive rhetoric coming from the other side and that’s just typical. I think people are tired of that.”

 

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