Last parent of child killed in 1963 church bombing, dies

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The last living relative of one of four black girls killed in the 1963 Alabama church bombing died on Sunday. She was 93 years old.

Maxine McNair’s family announced her death in a press release. A cause of death was not given.

McNair’s daughter, Denise McNair, 11, was the youngest girl killed in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, the civil rights movement’s deadliest attack. Three 14-year-olds were also killed: Addie Mae Collins, Carole Rosamond Robertson and Cynthia Dionne Wesley.

Three members of the Ku Klux Klan were ultimately convicted in this case, the first in 1977 and two more in the early 2000s.

Maxine McNair worked as a teacher for 33 years in the Birmingham public school system. Her daughter, Lisa McNair, said she changed many lives through education and left a lasting legacy for the students she touched.

“Ms. McNair was an amazing wife and mother and as a 33 year old teacher in the Birmingham Public School System she passed on knowledge into the lives of hundreds of people. Her laughter and humor will be missed. The family would appreciate all your thoughts and prayers, ”the family statement read.

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Maxine McNair’s husband, Chris McNair, passed away in 2019 at the age of 93. He was one of the first black members of the Alabama legislature since Reconstruction and a Jefferson County commissioner.

In 2013, Maxine McNair attended the Oval Office ceremony in which President Barack Obama awarded the four girls the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian accolades.

Funeral arrangements for a celebration of the life of Maxine McNair are pending.

Denise McNair was one of five girls who gathered in a bathroom on the ground floor of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, when a time bomb planted by members of the KKK exploded outside under a staircase.

Addie Mae Collins’ fifth daughter and sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, was blinded in one eye by the explosion. She then provided testimony that helped convict the men accused of planting the bomb.

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The bombing of the church came at the height of the civil rights struggle in America, and as Birmingham’s public schools were desegregated. The four girls became emblems of the racist hatred that emanated from much of the opposition to equal rights.

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