Wade on Birmingham

Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks: 16th Street Baptist Church bombers


In August, we’re celebrating Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks, whether they be liars, thieves, extortionists, swindlers or thugs. A 30-part series running daily until Birmingham mayor Larry Langford’s Aug. 31 Oct. 19 federal trial. Thanks to Bhamwiki for helping with this project.

16th Street Baptist Church bombers

Thomas Blanton Jr., Herman Frank Cash, Robert Chambliss and Bobby Frank Cherry

Robert ChamblissChambliss, also known as “Dynamite Bob,” led a secret cell of the Ku Klux Klan and was the ringleader among the church bombers. He was convicted in 1977 for the murder of four girls caused by the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. Chambliss was sentenced to several terms of life in prison, and died there in 1985, still claiming innocence. Much of the testimony against him came from female relatives disgusted by his physical abuse of wife, Tee. Chambliss supposedly had help building the bomb from fellow Klansman Troy Ingram.

Bobby Frank CherryCherry worked as a welder, carpet cleaner and truck driver. A member of the Klan, he supposedly married five times and had 15 children. He learned how to work with explosives while active with the Marines. Cherry’s ex-wife Willadean Brogdon testified, “He said he lit the fuse.” He was convicted in 2002 of murder and sentenced to life in prison. He died there in 2004, but maintained all along on his Web site that he was innocent, a “political prisoner in the state of Alabama.”

Thomas Blanton Jr.Blanton has worked as a security guard at the Liberty Park subdivision in Vestavia Hills and a sporting goods sales associate at the Walmart in Hoover, as well as an aircraft mechanic in the Navy in the 1950s. A state investigator said that Blanton would wait in grocery store parking lots and put acid on car seats belonging to black shoppers so it would burn their skin on contact. The Klansman was convicted in 2001 of murder and sentenced to life in St. Clair Correctional Facility.

Cash was a truck driver and Klan member. In 1965, the FBI considered him a top suspect in the church bombing, but he passed a polygraph test. Cash was arrested on weapons charges a few months before the bombing. He was never indicted for the bombing and died in 1994 in Pinson.

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1 Yip for “Birmingham’s Biggest Crooks: 16th Street Baptist Church bombers”

  1. Gavin D
    Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 7:57 am

    Wow just wow

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