Citizens nationwide ‘glad’ to see 16th Street Baptist Church bomber denied parole

Visitors look at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, July 29, 2016. The church was the scene of a Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed four black girls in 1963, and Alabama's parole board is scheduled next week to consider the early release of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., the last man serving time for the slayings. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — People from all over the country gathered at 16th Street Baptist Church on Wednesday, but most didn’t even realize that the day had some significance for the church and it’s members.

“It just seemed like a really unique opportunity to be here in Birmingham,” explained Mariah May, from Arizona, “and to be able to be on the site where it happened and to see for ourselves the things that we read about.”

The church’s last convicted bomber, Thomas Blanton, had a parole hearing in Montgomery on Wednesday.  Early that morning, people boarded buses so that they could attend and ask the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to keep him behind bars.  Ultimately, that’s what the board decided to do.  As a result, the church was relatively quite when the tour groups came through.  The guide explained to the small crowd what had happened that day with Blanton.

“I believe that in that time, I was a very gritty environment,” said James Bledsoe, of New York.  “I definitely believe that he’s getting what he deserves by not being out of prison.”

Others agreed with Bledsoe.

“I did not know it was happening today,” said his mother, Susan Bledsoe, “but I’m very glad that we’re here.”

The tour guide relayed to the crowd what he had heard about the parole hearing–mentioning that Blanton did not express remorse or apologize to family members of victims.  “At least a sign of remorse or apology to the family members would show some sort of action towards reconciliation,” said May.  Her sister, Charity agreed.  “It also shows a type of respect.  A type of respect that he obviously still doesn’t feel.”

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