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Alabama governor apologizes to survivor of 1963 Birmingham church bombing

Sarah Collins Rudolph survived when local KKK members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.

Sarah Collins Rudolph AP

Earlier this month, the attorneys of Sarah Collins Rudolph, the surviving “fifth girl” of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, asked Alabama’s governor to offer their client restitution for the losses and burdens she’s suffered since the racially motivated attack took place.

On Wednesday (Sep. 30), Governor Kay Ivey offered a formal apology to Rudolph and proposed that they “continue this very important dialogue” very soon.

“Thankfully, the violence that unfolded on that fateful Sunday morning — and other incidents during this difficult chapter of American history — resulted in many positive changes that have been beneficial to our national story during the years and decades that followed,” Ivey wrote.

“Moreover, there should be no question that Ms. Collins Rudolph and the families of those who perished — including Ms. Collins Rudolph’s sister, Addie Mae, as well as Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carole Denise McNair — suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded pain and suffering over the ensuing decades,” she continued. “For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology — an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation.”

Rudolph’s legal team said they were “gratified” by the governor’s apology and acknowledgement of injustice. They also said they “look forward to engaging in discussions in the near future with the Governor about compensation, which Ms. Collins Rudolph justly deserves after the loss of her beloved sister and for the pain, suffering and lifetime of missed opportunities resulting from the bombing.”

Rudolph was the only survivor in the blast that killed her sister and three other young girls, who were all between the ages of 11 and 14. The five girls were in the church’s basement bathroom when the bomb, which was planted by local KKK members, exploded. Rudolph lost an eye in the attack.

Following the bombing, Rudolph says she often felt overlooked by her family who mourned her sister, by the media who only mentioned the four girls who were killed and by the federal and state officials who never offered her compensation.

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