The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied parole to an 86-year-old Ku Klux Klansman convicted of killing four African-American girls more than 50 years ago.
The decision to keep Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr, imprisoned was met with applause at the hearing in a Montgomery courthouse Wednesday morning.
Blanton is the last surviving KKK member convicted in 2001 for the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed the girls, who were at Sunday services — Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley — and that injured a fifth girl, Sarah Collins, the sister of Addie Mae Collins. Almost 30 years after the bombing, Blanton was sentenced to life imprisonment for planting a bomb outside the church during the height of the civil rights movement.
His two accomplices, Robert Chambliss and Bobby Frank Cherry, were also convicted of murder and have since died behind bars.
Across the country, civil rights activists opposed the parole, saying Blanton has served only 15 years of four life sentences.
Attorney General Luther Strange was among those in Alabama who joined in the disapproval of the potential parole of Blanton.
In a July 29 letter to the parole board, AG Strange stated, “Thomas Blanton was convicted of one of the most heinous crimes in Alabama history — the murder of four young girls who were attending Sunday school. The cold-blooded callousness of his hate crime is not diminished by the passage of time, nor is any punishment sufficient to expunge the evil he unleashed. Because he has never shown any remorse whatsoever for taking the lives of those innocent little girls, justice can only be served if Thomas Blanton spends the rest of his life in prison.”
Wednesday’s justice is perhaps only temporary. Blanton can be considered for parole again in five years.