Home News News Blog 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Revisited

16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Revisited

On September 15, 1963—50 years ago this Sunday—five young girls preparing for Sunday worship services were in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, when a bomb tore through the church’s east wall, killing four of them. One man was convicted in 1977, but evidence suggested others were responsible. Here, two retired investigators reflect on finally closing the once-cold case assigned to them in 1996.

16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Revisited


On September 15, 1963—50 years ago this Sunday—five young girls preparing for Sunday worship services were in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, when a bomb tore through the church’s east wall, killing four of them.

The FBI sent dozens of agents to investigate, but reluctant witnesses and a lack of prosecutable evidence made it hard to bring the bombers to justice. It wasn’t until a decade later in 1977 that one of the bombers, Robert “Dynamite” Chambliss, was convicted for his role in the case, but evidence still suggested more conspirators. In the mid-‘90s FBI Birmingham Special Agent in Charge Rob Langford re-opened the case, assigning senior agent Bill Fleming and recruiting Birmingham Police Department Sgt. Ben Herren to work it full-time. Here, the two retired investigators reflect on finally closing the once-cold case.

Full story

Sep 13, 2013 12:00 PM