Wade on Birmingham

Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks: Chris McNair


In August, we’re celebrating Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks, whether they be liars, thieves, extortionists, swindlers or thugs. Running daily until Birmingham mayor Larry Langford’s Aug. 31 federal trial. Thanks to Bhamwiki for helping with this project.

Chris McNair

Chris McNairPositions held: milkman, photographer, Jefferson County commissioner, state legislator (one of the first black representatives since Reconstruction). Also, father of Denise McNair, one of the four girls killed in the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

Wanted for: bribery and conspiracy related to awarding contracts in the Jefferson County sewer debacle.

Date of conviction: April 21, 2006

Sentence: 5 years in prison and more than $850,000 in restitution. However, McNair, 83, remains out on bond pending an appeal 2 years after sentencing.

Criminally fun fact: McNair once had a health clinic named in his honor, until the Jefferson County Board of Health renamed it as the West End Health Center in 2008.

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9 Yips for “Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks: Chris McNair”

  1. citizen a
    Friday, August 7, 2009, 12:14 am

    Very unfortunate that Chris was chosen to be the fall guy for opportunists. It is always the little guy who takes the hit and does the time. So, if he did accept favors etc…where are those guys? It is easier for the authorities to rope in one little fish with a big name and title than to go after the whole school. One wonders and hopes Chris is not protecting anyone.

  2. Wade
    Friday, August 7, 2009, 9:21 am

    Others were convicted along with McNair in this scheme. Someone who owes $850,000 and has avoided actual prison time (despite sentencing) hardly qualifies as a “little guy / little fish” in my opinion.

    Given the number of commissioners convicted (five to date), it does seem like they’re going after everyone involved. But it takes time.

  3. Larry Arnold
    Thursday, August 13, 2009, 4:47 pm

    No one ever mentions McNair any more. Are they letting him off because of his age?

  4. Wade
    Thursday, August 13, 2009, 5:17 pm

    It would appear so. Or maybe he’s testifying in the upcoming trial. Who knows?

  5. Larry
    Friday, September 18, 2009, 11:19 am

    Or maybe they’re those who are still sympathetic to him because of the church bombing in 1963.

  6. Laurie
    Wednesday, January 5, 2011, 1:28 pm

    The irritating thing is this: this is business as usual for Birmingham. My aunt worked at city hall during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and corruption was rampant then. This is a case of a new set of fish coming in and being held to a higher standard of conduct. I have to wonder if the white guys who were in there before the African Americans came in weren’t showing them the ropes: i.e., this is how it’s done. At any rate, Mr. McNair was doing no worse than the good ol’ boys before him. And besides, considering that no one was convicted of the 1963 murder of his daughter until 1977, Birmingham could have lost great $ to him in settlement for the mishandling of that criminal investigation (if a fair lawsuit were possible). It’s awful to think of Mr. McNair in jail. Let’s consider the history, folks.

  7. Wade
    Thursday, January 6, 2011, 12:02 am

    While what happened to McNair’s family is tragic, that does not absolve him of crimes four decades later. He’s been found guilty by a jury of his peers and duly sentenced. Why he isn’t in jail mocks the very idea of equal treatment under the law and justice.

  8. Laurie
    Thursday, January 6, 2011, 12:02 pm

    I understand your point, but having grown up on the white side, I feel pretty certain that the jury was not exactly made up of peers. The handling of the murder of those little girls did not receive equal treatment. I don’t think criminal behavior should be condoned, but I just don’t see Mr. McNair as a dangerous criminal who should be behind bars. It’s a very difficult situation, but our forefathers created a mess and it would be nice if we could somehow resolve the years of injustice without creating an environment which excuses illegal activity. I don’t have an answer – it’s not that simple.

  9. Charles
    Tuesday, March 8, 2011, 6:41 pm

    Folks lets face it, when it comes to truth and justice they will never be as important as the DAs victory. What I dont understand is there are millions of dollars missing but the burden of this crime falls on the taxpaying people of Jefferson county and not the crooks.
    Im sympathetic for the loss of Mr. McNairs daughter however does this injustice extend courtesies to Mr. McNair that allow him to steal money from taxpayers because of civil rights? I do have a simple answer put him in jail and let this be an example to the rest of the crooks. I dont for one second believe that this was Mr. McNairs first time to commit a corrupt act but if we dont make an example out of these men we are asking for more.

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