FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2004
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—A four-decade long struggle
for justice in six of the most historic civil rights era crimes
in the nation's history will be the topic of a series
of panel discussions during a daylong symposium on the Birmingham-Southern
College campus Friday, Feb. 13.
“The Gathering: Civil Rights Justice
Remembered” is bringing together for the first time
victims' families, law enforcement agents, prosecutors,
and media professionals to discuss their roles in the civil
rights murder cases and the circumstances that finally brought
the killers to justice.
The panel discussions will
be held in Munger Hall Auditorium on the Birmingham-Southern
campus. A brief reception will kick off the program at 8:30
a.m., followed by panel discussions with family members at
9 a.m., with law enforcement agents at 10:30 a.m., with prosecutors
at 1:30 p.m., and with media representatives at 3 p.m. The
panel sessions are free and open to the public.
Among the historic cases to be revisited
and remembered include the 1977 trial of Robert Chambliss
for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in
the 1994 trial of Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder
of Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers, the
1998 trial of Sam Bowers for the 1966 murder of Mississippi
leader Vernon Dahmer, the 2001 trial of Tommy Blanton for
the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the 2002 trial
Bobby Frank Cherry for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist
Church, and the 2003 trial of Ernest Avants for the 1966
murder of Mississippi sharecropper Ben Chester White.
“The assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing
of the 16th Street Baptist Church shocked the nation
in 1963,” said Doug Jones, the former U.S. attorney
and Birmingham lawyer who was lead prosecutor in the
Blanton and Cherry cases. “Despite public outrage,
the killers in these and several other murders in the
1960s related to the struggle for civil rights weren't
brought to justice for many years. The Gathering will
shed light on how these killers were finally brought
Among those scheduled to moderate sessions are Howell
Raines, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former executive
editor of The New York Times; Jerry Mitchell, the investigative
reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., who
helped bring to trial two of the men responsible for
the deaths of
civil rights leaders; and Andrew Sheldon,
a jury consultant who picked the juries in five of the six
In addition to Jones, others scheduled
to participate in the panel discussions include Myrlie Evers-Williams,
widow of Medgar Evers; Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize-winning
author of “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The
Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution”; former
Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley, who was lead prosecutor
in the Chambliss case; Hinds County (Miss.) Circuit Court
Judge Bobby DeLaughter, who was the lead prosecutor in the
Beckwith case; Diane Robertson Braddock, sister of 16th Street
Baptist Church bombing victim Carole Robertson; Eunice Davis,
sister of 16th Street Baptist Church victim Cynthia Wesley;
William Fleming and Ben Herren, the FBI agents who received
the 2002 Federal Employees of the Year Medal for their work
on the Blanton and Cherry cases; Chris and Maxine McNair,
parents of 16th Street Baptist Church victim Denise McNair; and
Collins Rudolph, a survivor
of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and sister of bombing
victim Addie Mae Collins.
said that the remaining program participants are currently
being finalized and will
be announced prior to the event.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, one of
the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement
and recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Non-Violent Peace
Prize, also will attend The Gathering and will address Birmingham-Southern
and Miles College students and program participants at a
luncheon that day.
An exhibit of civil rights
era photographs also will be on display during the day Feb.
13 courtesy of program participant Chris McNair, a longtime
Birmingham-based photographer and community leader.
“ This is a story of overcoming horrendous
legal barriers and racial hatred in order to achieve justice,” said
Dr. Neal R. Berte, chancellor and president of Birmingham-Southern,
one of the host organizations for The Gathering.
Other hosts include the Birmingham Pledge
Foundation, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and Miles
College. Sponsors are Alabama Power Company, Chris McNair
Studio and Art Gallery, City of Birmingham, Energen Corporation,
Protective Life Corporation, and Sheldon Associates Litigation
Attention Media: Print and electronic media are invited and encouraged
to cover and attend this event. Specific interview requests for
during the day Feb. 13, as well as any special needs or requests,
should be directed in advance to Bill Wagnon at Birmingham-Southern
College at 205/226-4901 or firstname.lastname@example.org or to Lori Johnson at
the Birmingham Pledge Foundation at 205/263-8251 or email@example.com.
Media also are welcome to cover the Lewis talk at noon in the Bruno
Great Hall of the Norton Campus Center on the Birmingham-Southern
campus; however, because space is limited, the lunch event is by
invitation only and not open to the general public. If you will
cover the luncheon, please contact Bill or Lori.