Alabama governor apologizes to survivor of 1963 Birmingham church bombing by KKK

Alabama governor apologizes to survivor of 1963 Birmingham church bombing by KKK
Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, received an apology from Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. (Dave Martin/Associated Press)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday apologized to a survivor of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963.

Sarah Collins Rudolph was 12 years old when the bomb, planted by the Ku Klux Klan, ripped through the basement of the church on Sept. 15, 1963, NPR reported. Rudolph survived the blast but lost an eye and was hospitalized for several months. Her sister, Addie Mae Collins, was killed, along with Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carole Denice McNair.

The girls were changing into their choir robes at the time of the explosion, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

Content Continues Below

On Wednesday, after Collins pressed state leaders for an apology for then-Gov. George Wallace’s role in inciting white supremacist violence that led to the church bombing, Ivey issued an apology, AL.com reported.

“There should be no question that the racist, segregationist rhetoric used by some of our leaders during that time was wrong,” Ivey said in a letter to Collins’ attorney, the Advertiser reported.

The governor also said she was extending a sincere apology “without hesitation or reservation,” and instructed her general counsel, Will Parker, to begin discussions with Ishan Bhabha, one of Rudolph’s attorneys, the newspaper reported.

Called the “fifth little girl,” Rudolph had glass in her chest, eye and abdomen for many years after the bombing, AL.com reported. She never received an apology, medical treatment, counseling or any recognition from state officials, her attorneys wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to Ivey.

“While the State of Alabama did not place the bomb next to the church, its governor and other leaders at the time played an undisputed role in encouraging its citizens to engage in racial violence,” Rudolph’s attorneys wrote in the letter, according to AL.com.

Ivey called the bombing a dark moment in Alabama’s history but added that it led to important changes in the civil rights movement. Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“While few can truly imagine what it was like to live through that tragic day, what Ms. Collins Rudolph has endured as a survivor is a testament to the Biblical belief that good does conquer evil,” Ivey wrote.