Alabama board denies parole for Birmingham church bomber

MONTGOMERY, Ala.(WIAT) — Although there were chairs set up in anticipation of supporters, no one spoke on behalf of granting parole for Thomas Blanton during his first parole hearing. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls.

The first person to speak against parole for Blanton was Dianne Robertson Braddock. Her sister, Carol Robertson, was killed in that blast.

“After 53 years that you’ve been able to to put the past behind and to try to forgive and you have your memories of your loved one. And to have this letter being sent to me on June 22nd telling me telling me of the possibility of a parole for a gentleman who walked around for 39 years free and who has only been in jail for 15 years and he was convicted of four counts of murder, and after 15 years we are talking about parole. It is appalling,” said Braddock.

Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole  Chairman Cliff Walker told the family of the victims that the board was denying parole for Thomas Blanton and also delaying his next parole hearing as long as they legally could- 5 years.

Loved ones of the four little girls who were killed in the 1963 bombing in Birmingham say the 78-year-old former Klansman has never apologized.

“I would very much like to hear that. I would very much like to hear that as a victim’s family. As a human being,” said Lisa McNair, sister of bombing victim Denise McNair. “And being as old as he is you would think he would want that for himself.”

Sarah Collins Rudolph says Blanton once wrote a letter from jail in response to one from her husband. According to Rudolph, in the letter Blanton stated that he was innocent.

“He never did own up to it, but we all know from the trial that he put the bomb there,” said Rudolph.

Braddock tells us to her it doesn’t matter at this point.

“It doesn’t change the trauma I’ve lived all these years. It doesn’t bring my parents back who mourned themselves to death. So at this point it’s a thing for him to do. That’s about his soul’s salvation. You know I am clear that, I’m happy justice has prevailed,” said Braddock.

Thomas Blanton will be eligible for parole again in 2021. Records from the Alabama Department of Corrections show that Blanton is serving his sentence in the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville.

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