BIRTH: November 17, 1951
DEATH: September 15, 1963
Denise, 11, was murdered inside a church during the Civil Rights Movement in a bombing. Along with Denise, Addie Mae Collins, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14, were also killed.
On the morning of the bombing, a man was seen getting out of a white and turquoise Chevrolet car and placing a box under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Soon afterwards, at 10:22 a.m., the bomb exploded killing the four girls. The girls had been attending Sunday school classes at the church. Twenty-two other people were also hurt by the blast.
A witness identified Robert Chambliss, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, as the man who placed the bomb under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. He was arrested and charged with murder and possessing a box of 122 sticks of dynamite without a permit. On October 8, 1963, Chambliss was found not guilty of murder and received a hundred-dollar fine and a six-month jail sentence for having the dynamite.
The case was unsolved until Bill Baxley was elected attorney general of Alabama. He requested the original Federal Bureau of Investigation files on the case and discovered that the organization had accumulated a great deal of evidence against Chambliss that had not been used in the original trial. In November, 1977 Chambliss was tried once again for the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. Now aged 73, Chambliss was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Chambliss died in an Alabama prison on 29 October 1985.
On 18 May 2000, the FBI announced that the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing had been carried out by the Ku Klux Klan splinter group, the Cahaba Boys. It was claimed that four men, Robert Chambliss, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry had been responsible for the crime. Cash was dead but Blanton and Cherry were arrested and Blanton has since been tried and convicted.
The song “Birmingham Sunday,” recorded by Joan Baez memorialized the victims of the bombing. In 1997 a documentary film on the bombing called “4 Little Girls” was released. A youth center dedicated to her was established in Birmingham.