Chris McNair through the years

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Prior to his legal woes, Chris McNair was a local political and civil rights icon.

His Birmingham legacy began 50 years ago, alongside the foot soldiers in the march for equality, which was a fight that led to his daughter’s death.

McNair’s story has always been connected to the tragedy that happened at the 16th Street Baptist Church.

His daughter, Denise, was one of four girls killed in a bombing at the church in 1963.

His rise and fall in politics since that time has always been on the public’s radar, especially in 2013, as the nation marks 50 years since his daughter’s death.

The McNairs have been a tangible reminder of a painful part of Birmingham’s history.

But in McNair’s political career, there was always the representation of how far the city had come.

He served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1973-1977 and on the Jefferson County Commission from 1986-2001.

He was elected as a state representative in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he served on the Jefferson County Commission, which is where he stayed for 15 years before suddenly resigning in 2001.

During that time, it was McNair’s responsibility to oversee the county sewer project – a responsibility that would mark the end of his political career.

McNair pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges in 2007 over contracts connected to the sewer project.

He’s being released from prison two years early and two weeks before the nation pauses to remember the moment that made the McNair name so significant in American history.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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