Doug Jones Recounts Church Bombing Prosecution in New Book

 1526662594 
1552415912

Ralph Alswang

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.”

More Arts and Culture Coverage

Legislative Wrap-Up: What Died And What Passed On The Final Day

Many bills made it out before Monday's deadline. But the lawmakers also expect a special session later this year.

Alabama Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Legislation

Lawmakers had a change of heart after decades of debate on the issue.

UAB Closes Three COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Sites While Alabama’s Vaccination Rate Remains Below 50%

UAB announced this week it's closing the majority of its public COVID-19 vaccination sites because of a decline in participation. Meanwhile, Alabama remains at the bottom nationally for the number of adults that have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

‘When Buses Were A-Comin’: Remembering The Freedom Riders 60 Years On

A group of young civil rights activists began their journey to the South to challenge segregation on interstate buses in May 1961. The riders were taunted and beaten by white mobs – and jailed. Participants of the movement share what their fight means now.

Using Pastors And Pints, Gulf States Try To Boost COVID Vaccination Rates In White Communities

Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama have the lowest vaccination rates nationally, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health officials are considering creative incentives to get the numbers up from church events to possible beer giveaways.

As Demand Drops, Health Officials Look For Ways To Encourage Vaccinations

Health officials say at first they were focused on vaccinating elderly and at-risk people in Alabama. Now the focus is shifting to people who are skeptical or apathetic about the vaccine.

More Arts and Culture Coverage