On Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama (seated center) signed a bill effectively awarding the four young victims of the tragic 1963 Birmingham church bombing with the Congressional Gold Medal.
With Alabama representatives Terri Sewell, a Democrat, and Spencer Bachus, a Republican, leading the effort, the House swung in favor last month to posthumously award the deceased, which was a major step in properly upholding the legacy of the bombing victims.Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Addie Mae Collins, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14; from left, are shown in these 1963 photos. A former Ku Klux Klansman, Thomas Blanton Jr., 62, was convicted of murder Tuesday, May 1, 2001, for the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing that killed the four girls on Sept. 15, 1963.
Ku Klux Klan members used dynamite in the blast that killed four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair while injuring nearly two dozen others. The church was a frequent meeting place for civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and more.
Watch video of the 1963 church bombings here:
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award given to civilians, and includes a list of recipients, such as the many victims of the September 11th attacks in Washington and New York. The signing took place at the White House, after the President returned from Annapolis, where he delivered a commencement speech at the Naval Academy.
Several family members of the girls who were killed were in attendance in addition to members of Congress at the time of the signing.