History Podcasts

How Doug Jones Brought KKK Church Bombers to Justice

How Doug Jones Brought KKK Church Bombers to Justice

In a special election on December 12, 2017, Alabama chose Democrat Doug Jones over Republican and alleged sexual predator Roy Moore. Jones will now head to the U.S. Senate, bringing to a close an election that drew national and international attention—unusual for a state election, but even more so for Alabama.

Much of the media attention on Jones, the first Democrat elected in the state in a quarter century, focused on his role in prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members who had planted a bomb that killed four girls at a black church.

The terrorist attack occurred on September 15, 1963, when a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The church was a known meeting place for Civil Rights organizers, and was targeted for that reason. The bomb injured at least 20 people and killed four young girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair.

According to Glenn D. Brasher, a history professor at the University of Alabama, the FBI determined that four KKK members had planted the bomb. FBI agents, then led by Director J. Edgar Hoover, knew the attackers’ names, and had even made secret recordings to prove it.

However, “the FBI under Hoover sealed those files away, because J. Edgar Hoover was not exactly a proponent of the civil rights movement,” Brasher says.

By doing this, Hoover ensured that a court could not use them as evidence to prosecute the attackers, making it more difficult to convict. For 14 years after the bombing, none of the men were prosecuted for their crime. The first one to be arrested (and convicted) was Robert Edward Chambliss in 1977—whose trial a young Doug Jones attended when he was in law school.

Chambliss “was prosecuted largely on circumstantial evidence,” Brasher says. “The prosecution didn’t have access to all of the information that the FBI had collected immediately after the attack in the ‘60s.” Nevertheless, the overwhelming circumstantial evidence let to a conviction.

Although Jones was only a boy himself when the bombing happened, the government didn’t release the FBI’s evidence against these men for decades. By the time the government finally declassified the these files, Jones had been appointed a U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama by President Bill Clinton, and was able to prosecute the case.

This was in the late 1990s, after one of the attackers, Herman Frank Cash, had already died. But two of the men were still alive, and Jones realized he had the chance to continue the work of that trial from over 20 years ago. Using the newly revealed evidence, Jones successfully prosecuted two more of the attackers that the FBI had identified: Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., convicted in 2001; and Bobby Frank Cherry, convicted in 2002.

According to Sharony A. Green, a professor of history at the University of Alabama, Jones’ victory is particularly significant given the state’s racial politics: Jones, a man who made his name prosecuting the KKK, beat an opponent who, when asked when American was last “great,” replied: “I think it was great at the time when families were united, even though we had slavery.”

“People knew how enormous the results, the outcomes of yesterday’s election, would be for Alabama,” Green says. “You had folks who probably wanted to vote for a Republican, but instead voted for someone who was better aligned with some of their values.”


Sen. Doug Jones Discusses His Memoir 'Bending Toward Justice'

NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., about his new memoir, Bending Toward Justice, which recounts his prosecution of the Birmingham church bombing perpetrators.

The year was 1963. The names were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair - four little girls who were killed in one of the most notorious bombings of the civil rights era.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Sunday morning September 15 - in a Baptist church in Birmingham, Ala., the Sunday school lesson is from Matthew. I say unto you, love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. Then a bomb blows up under the church steps.

The attack made national headlines. Martin Luther King described it in his eulogy as one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. Alabama Senator Doug Jones was 9 years old at the time, living in an all-white neighborhood outside Birmingham. And for him, the violence of the civil rights battles was a world away.

DOUG JONES: You know, it just was not something that affected me. I was concerned about Alabama football, whether the Yankees would get in the World Series. I mean, those were the things that a 9-year-old white kid cared about. And I think we were also sheltered during that time when - as things were coming up, I think our parents took great pains to shelter us, to keep us from seeing all of the good, the bad and the ugly.

SHAPIRO: You think a 9-year-old black kid would have been aware of it.

JONES: Oh, absolutely. There is no question about that. It would have been - they would have been aware of it, and their parents would have been talking about this and other things for them because they had to be on guard. I didn't have to be on guard in my neighborhood.

SHAPIRO: In 1963, no one was held accountable for the crime. That changed in 1977. By then, Doug Jones was a law student, and he cut class to sit in on the trial of the first bomber to be prosecuted in the case, ringleader Robert Dynamite Bob Chambliss. For Jones, that closing argument of Alabama Attorney General William Baxley is still vivid more than 40 years later.

JONES: Baxley's emotional closing argument with the black and white photographs that were taken of these girls in the makeshift morgue at the hospital and the people in the audience, the people in the jury and the tears in their eyes, including mine - it was an amazing experience not only for the history of Birmingham and what it meant for me to sit there and watch that history come to life and to see that justice be done but as a lawyer watching what can be done for a community - good lawyering and good public servants.

SHAPIRO: I sat down with Alabama Senator Doug Jones to talk about the bombings because they are at the center of his new book called "Bending Toward Justice." In the late 1990s shortly after Jones was appointed U.S. attorney in Alabama, he picked up the morning paper and saw that the investigation into the bombing had been reopened.

JONES: And it was just stunning. I sat on this little rock wall and read it. When I walked in, I told my wife, who didn't know my history - she just did not know the history of watching the cases and all. And I said, look at this. This is incredible. And her response is, yeah, you know, that's awesome. I really hope they can be successful this time. I said, no, no, you don't understand. That's my case. That's why you want to go back.

SHAPIRO: It's not they. It's we.

JONES: Yeah. It's why you want to go back into public service. And it's almost just like, you know, there was a higher power, the planets lining up just right to say, we need to put you right here at this time.

SHAPIRO: I know that there were questions about whether the case could succeed. Were there are also questions in your mind about the value of reopening something so painful so many decades after the fact.

SHAPIRO: . When the wound had scarred over and healed over.

JONES: It had not healed over.

JONES: That's the thing. No, there was never a question in our mind about that. I mean, these families - you - healing had not occurred. It wasn't scarred. It was still kind of an open wound in Alabama.

SHAPIRO: Tell me what you mean when you say it was still an open wound.

SHAPIRO: How did that manifest itself?

JONES: It was still an open wound because no one had been brought to justice. You couldn't tell the story.

SHAPIRO: Well, one person had in 1977.

JONES: Yeah. But everybody knew that there were more people involved. And it was just one of those open questions that Birmingham lived with. It wasn't just the black and white images of the fire hoses and the dogs. We had a community in which a bomb occurred that killed four innocent little children that never had seen the full measure of justice. And we did hear some of the naysayers saying we - you know, those are old wounds we don't want to see the fire hoses and dogs again. But we were always going to do the right thing. The only question was whether or not we would be able to get enough evidence to bring the case, to bring an indictment and to get a conviction.

SHAPIRO: I'd like you to describe one breakthrough in the case where the FBI goes to Texas to interview Bobby Cherry, the man believed to be at the center of the bombing, and he doesn't confess. And so the FBI leaves Texas feeling disappointed. And then what happens?

JONES: So they came back disappointed thinking they were probably going to close it. And he does one smart thing and then one dumb thing. The smart thing was he hired a lawyer. The dumb thing was his lawyer let him talk to the media, and he held this press conference to dog the FBI, to dog the Justice Department and the prosecutors, to say.

SHAPIRO: He says, they're out to get me they're hounding me.

JONES: Out to get me - they've been.

SHAPIRO: They won't let me live in peace.

JONES: . Persecuting me for all of these years. You know, yes, I was in Klan, but I was not a violent guy. I didn't do this. And when that video of those press conferences was shown in Texas where he was living and in Alabama, the phones started lighting up. And one of the first calls was his granddaughter who called us. We had another guy from - that was living in Birmingham who had been with Cherry in Texas in 1980.

SHAPIRO: And these are people Cherry had bragged to about.

SHAPIRO: . Committing the crime.

JONES: Yeah. We found the ex-wife through a different way. There was another man who had grown up - he was, like, 11 or 12 at the time - with Cherry's son, saw them sitting around the kitchen table planning the bomb, talking about the 16th Street Baptist Church. And all of this had just kind of gotten back in everybody's recesses of their mind. And when they saw Cherry in all his glory in front of the TV cameras, it all came rushing back to them, and they picked up the phone to call the FBI. And they were critical, critical witnesses.

SHAPIRO: It was far from certain that you would be able to get these convictions 40 years after the crime was committed. And I'd like to play you a cut of tape from 2002.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JONES: This verdict today doesn't have just the historical significance of 1963. This verdict today sends a message that's important today that the people that bomb and kill our innocent citizens and children - we will never give up. It doesn't matter how long it takes. We will never give up.

SHAPIRO: This verdict, guilty - what's it like for you to hear that?

JONES: It's pretty awesome. All I can say, it's just awesome. I, you know - look I'm a United States senator right now, but there's nothing better than hearing those two guilty verdicts in 2001 and 2002.

SHAPIRO: These convictions can give people a sense of closure and reconciliation, and they speak to accountability. But just last month, an editor of an Alabama newspaper called for the KKK to ride again. He lost his job over that. But it does speak to racial attitudes that in some cases just seem not to have changed over all these decades.

JONES: And that's why, Ari, I want to correct you. It does bring a sense of reconciliation. But I don't think it brings a sense of closure. Or we shouldn't let it bring a sense of closure because it says, OK, all of this is behind us. And I think that editor from Linden, Ala., proved that it is not all behind us. I think that there is still a lot of tension throughout the country. I think that those tensions may be rising more now than they have been in years past.

And so one of the things for this book - there were two reasons I wanted to get this down on paper. One is just the historical significance of the bombing and the trials that we did. And the second one is to just make sure people understand where we were in those days, that we don't repeat those same mistakes.

SHAPIRO: Senator Jones, thank you so much.

JONES: Thank you. It's my pleasure.

SHAPIRO: Alabama Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat - his new book with Greg Truman is "Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing That Changed The Course Of Civil Rights."

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR&rsquos programming is the audio record.


How Doug Jones Brought KKK Church Bombers to Justice - HISTORY

AP Language and Composition

The Most Courageous Politician in 2017

Courage. A word with so many different meanings. What does it mean to be courageous? Politically speaking, being courageous means to put the good of other people and the nation in front of one's own personal gains. Throughout the years there have been so many courageous politicians. In today radical style of government that the United States has been experiencing in the last year, there has been one Senator that has stood out in particular: Doug Jones. He has recently won a positions as a Democratic Senator, representing Alabama. He achieved the impossible by becoming the first Democratic Senator in Alabama in 25 years. But what makes him so courageous?

Being politically courageous requires one to understand that a politicians decisions should reflect the values of the people that voted them into office. Reflecting off of politicians in the past, it is evident that a being a courageous politician has so many different responsibilities. Throughout Jones’ campaign speeches, and past actions as a Federal Judge who prosecuted KKK members in the state of Alabama, Jones has clearly realized that his prosecutions do not put him in a positive light for the conservatives in Alabama, but show his ability to act on principle and morals, even if it meant judicial sabotage. This was evident when Becky Little, an author for History.com, reported, “ Chambliss was prosecuted largely on circumstantial evidence,” Brasher says. “The prosecution didn’t have access to all of the information that the FBI had collected immediately after the attack in the ‘60s.” Nevertheless, the overwhelming circumstantial evidence let to a conviction.” 1 This resonance on the idea of maintaining moral over political gains. Jones’ prosecution against his attack was solely made for the purpose of maintain the moral of the American people. Even though this could have had major effects on him as a politician in such as a state as Alabama where a large amount of KKK crimes were committed and never brought to justice because of political views. This example of political courage is the upholds the same ideas that former President Barack Obama mentioned in an interview with the John F Kennedy Foundation. “The measure of courage is not that you don’t worry or aren’t afraid. It’s that you still make a decision to do what you think is right at any given moment.” 2 This further backs Jones’ reasoning for prosecuting a KKK attack that happened in 1963. It takes extreme political courage to attempt a prosecution of that manner, especially in the state of Alabama. However, this kind of political move also put him on the map as a politician who upholds morals of the people, not the views of his peers. 3 Furthermore, Jones (2017) agreed with this statement in an interview with Aldotcom during his recent campaign, “Our goal is to have people look at our campaign and say I want to vote because it’s the right thing to do, not what a political party to me to. This message has helped the both Democrats and Republicans of Alabama vote for real change.” 4 Jones reiterates the fact that his premise as a politician is to uphold the rights and views of the citizens that vote him into office.

Being politically courageous also means to be able to act on quickly in times of political scrutiny. In the past, Doug Jones has done during his time as a judge. This ties into the idea of common sense as a politician. Which is surprisingly a courageous attribute for a politician in this day and age. Ted Barrett, a senior congressional producer for CNN, agrees with the claims that Jones has acquired these attributes that make him a politically courageous senator. "I think there's a lot of reason for optimism about Doug Jones' career in the Senate. He ran as a pro-choice, pro-Obamacare, common-sense leader," he said. "On the issues where McConnell is having a harder time holding his caucus together, Senator Jones is going to make a very positive difference." 5 Not to mention, in a recent interview with former Vice President Joe Biden, Justin Sullivan, a political reporter for The Boston Globe, agrees with Barrets claims particularly when he said, “I can count on two hands the people I’ve campaigned for that have as much integrity, as much courage, and a sense of honor and duty that Doug has,’ Biden said at the rally.” 6 With the support and trust of a highly respected politician, these claims further prove the courageousness and trustworthiness that Doug Jones possesses. From a different perspective, political courage that authors like Justin Sullivan mention may not be the only kinds of politically courageous acts. “Whether it’s racial issues, whether it’s gender issues, whether it is terrorist activities similar to what Mr. Blanton perpetrated in 1963, the message is that we have to stop the hate and abide by morals, not tradition” Jones reportedly said at the hearing.” 7 This further proves how multiple authors and political experts agree that Doug Jones has displayed many different kinds of political courage throughout his career.

Doug Jones ran as a Democratic Senator in one of he biggest ‘red states’ in the country. At the beginning of his campaign, Jones was the underdog, fighting against a strong intuition that had no changed its political views in 25 years. His odds of winning this race were against him. News Networks, and even the people of Alabama did not believe he would win. 8 Some also argue that Doug Jones has not displayed political courage because he has not been a senator long enough to display these acts. But in retrospect, when he served as a judge. However, they failed to consider that when Jones as a judge, he acted courageously by prosecuting KKK members on a crime committed 40 years prior, in a extremely conservative state where many KKK members reside, regardless of the repercussion he would face by prosecuting them. 9

Jones did not run for Senate for personal benefit, he ran for Senate to give a voice to the underrepresented minorities in Alabama. Showing courageousness by putting principle above all else. This was evident in 2017, when he stated, “This race is not about Democrats or Republicans. It is about the people of Alabama – giving them honest answers while working to protect their health care, rights and economic interests.” 10 Moreover, in the book, Profiles Of Courage, John F Kennedy talks about what it means to be a courageous politician in situation where agreeing with the masses will solve issues, rather than upholding the view of the people that voted them into office. Interestingly enough, Kennedy agrees with Jones’ statement about what it means to be a Senator when he said, “The primary responsibility of a Senator, most people assume, is to represent the views of his state. Who will speak for Massachusetts if her own Senators do not? . Her equal representation in Congress is lost…” 11 In an interview with veteran GOP senator Chuck Grassley, Ted Barrett, backs the argument made by both Kennedy and Jones. Concluding that Jones will be able to achieve a lot during his time as a Senator. "You've got to realize that the people of Alabama think differently than people from a lot of states that a lot Democrats represent, and he's going to do his darndest to represent them," Grassley told CNN on Tuesday. "And I would predict that even though he comes from what's today a Republican state, that it will be hard to defeat him." 12 This hope that political experts have in Jones stems for him politically courageous actions that have landed him a seat in the Senate.

Thus, Doug Jones has displayed acts of political courage through his career as a Judge and newly appointed politician. Done so by reinforcing the idea that he stands to uphold the views of the citizens that voted him into office and amintai morality in the Senate. 13 Staying true to these ideals, during an interview with Jen Kirby, a political activist with Vox his last statement reflected how his will act as Senator in his next term. “As a politician, I must uphold the views of my fellow citizens, while also complying with my own ideas and morals, in order to bring real change to this country.” 14


Contents

Doug Jones was born in Fairfield, Alabama to Gordon and Gloria (Wesson) Jones. [7] [8] His father worked at U.S. Steel and his mother was a homemaker. [9] Jones graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in political science in 1976, and earned his Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1979. He is a member of Beta Theta Pi. [10]

Jones's political career began as staff counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for Alabama Senator Howell Heflin. [11] Jones then worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1980 to 1984 before resigning to work at a private law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, from 1984 to 1997. [12]

President Bill Clinton announced on August 18, 1997, his intent to appoint Jones as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, [13] and formally nominated Jones to the post on September 2, 1997. [14] On September 8, 1997, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama appointed Jones as interim U.S. Attorney. The Senate confirmed Jones's nomination on November 8, 1997, [14] by voice vote. [15]

In January 1998, Eric Rudolph bombed the New Woman All Women Health Care Center in Birmingham. Jones was responsible for coordinating the state and federal task force in the aftermath, and advocated that Rudolph be tried first in Birmingham before being extradited and tried in Georgia for his crimes in that state, such as the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. [16] [17]

16th Street Baptist Church bombing case Edit

Jones prosecuted Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, two members of the Ku Klux Klan, for their roles in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The case was reopened the year before Jones was appointed, but did not gain traction until his appointment. A federal grand jury was called in 1998, which caught the attention of Cherry's ex-wife, Willadean Cherry, and led her to call the FBI to give her testimony. Willadean then introduced Jones to family and friends, who reported their own experiences from the time of the bombing. A key piece of evidence was a tape from the time of the bombing in which Blanton said he had plotted with others to make the bomb. Jones was deputized to argue in state court and indicted Blanton and Cherry in 2000. [18] [19] Blanton was found guilty in 2001 and Cherry in 2002. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Blanton was up for parole in 2016 Jones spoke against his release, and parole was denied. Cherry died in prison in 2004. [20] [21]

Jones recounts the history of the bombings and his subsequent involvement in Blanton and Cherry's prosecution in his 2019 book Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Civil Rights. [22]

Jones left office in 2001 and returned to private practice, joining the law firm of Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker. [23] In 2004, he was court-appointed General Special Master in an environmental cleanup case involving Monsanto in Anniston, Alabama. [24] [25] [26] In 2007, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute gave Jones its 15th Anniversary Civil Rights Distinguished Service Award. [27] Also in 2007, Jones testified before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary about the importance of reexamining crimes of the Civil Rights Era. [28] [29] In 2013, he formed the Birmingham firm Jones & Hawley, PC with longtime friend Greg Hawley. [24] Jones was named one of B-Metro Magazine's Fusion Award winners in 2015. [30] In 2017, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alabama chapter of the Young Democrats of America. [31]

2017 election Edit

On May 11, 2017, Jones announced his candidacy for that year's U.S. Senate special election, running for the seat left open when Jeff Sessions was appointed Attorney General. Sessions, a Republican, had held the seat since 1997, after Democrat Howell Heflin chose not to run for reelection. [32] Jones won the Democratic nomination in August, [33] and became the Senator-elect for Alabama after defeating former Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore in the general election on December 12, which was also Jones's 25th wedding anniversary. [34] [35]

Jones received 673,896 votes (50.0%) to Moore's 651,972 votes (48.3%) with 22,852 write-in votes (1.7%). [34] After the election, Moore refused to concede. He filed a lawsuit attempting to block the state from certifying the election and called for an investigation into voter fraud, as well as a new election. [36] On December 28, 2017, a judge dismissed his suit and state officials certified the election results, officially declaring Jones the winner. [37]

Tenure Edit

Jones was sworn in on January 3, 2018, alongside fellow Democrat Tina Smith of Minnesota, and his term ran through January 3, 2021, the balance of Sessions's term. [38] [39] He was the first Democrat to represent the state in the U.S. Senate in 21 years, and the first elected in 25. [40] [41] Jones was one of five Democratic senators who voted for the continuing resolution that failed to pass and consequently led to the United States federal government shutdown of 2018. [42] According to Morning Consult, which polls approval ratings of senators, as of October 17, 2019 [update] , Jones had a 41% approval rating, with 36% disapproving. This trails Jones's fellow Alabama senator, Republican Richard Shelby, who has a 45% approval rating, with 30% disapproving. [43]

On January 8, 2019, Jones was one of four Democrats to vote to advance a bill imposing sanctions against the Syrian government and furthering U.S. support for Israel and Jordan as Democratic members of the chamber employed tactics to end the United States federal government shutdown of 2018–2019. [44]

In September 2019, after the House launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, Jones urged caution on the part of the media and his colleagues because his experience with law had led him to believe that it was "very unlikely there’s going to be an absolute smoking gun on either side". He stated his support for "fact-finding" by the House, only after which he would make a decision about Trump's guilt. [45] [46] In February 2020, Jones voted to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, saying the evidence presented "clearly proves" that Trump used his office to seek to coerce a foreign government to interfere in the election. [47]

Committee assignments Edit

2020 election Edit

Jones ran for a full six-year term. He was seen as the most vulnerable senator from either party since Alabama is a deeply Republican state and the circumstances and controversy surrounding his Republican opponent in 2017 were no longer a factor.

The Democratic Party nominated Jones for the seat unopposed. [49] The two top contenders in the Republican primary were former football coach Tommy Tuberville and former United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had held Jones's seat before resigning to become Attorney General in 2017. U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne was also a contender, sometimes even outpolling the other candidates, but in the first round of the primary, on March 3, Tuberville and Sessions finished second and first. Since neither had a majority of the vote, they advanced to a runoff, which Tuberville won. Jones is the only Democratic senator to lose re-election in 2020. [50]

Tuberville won the general election with over 60% of the vote. [51] [52]

In November 2020, Jones was mentioned as a potential candidate for United States Attorney General in the Biden administration. [53] The position was ultimately filled by Merrick Garland.

On January 29, 2021, Jones joined CNN as a political commentator. He also became a politics fellow at Georgetown University. [54]

The editorial board of The Birmingham News has described Jones as a "moderate Democrat". [55] Former Alabama Democratic Party chair Giles Perkins described Jones as "a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy". [56] Describing his own views, Jones said: "If you look at the positions I've got on health care, if you look at the positions I got on jobs—you should look at the support I have from the business community—I think I'm pretty mainstream." [57] Jones's campaign has emphasized "kitchen-table" issues such as health care and the economy. [58] [59] [60] He has called for bipartisan solutions to those issues [61] and pledged to "find common ground" between both major parties. [62] Jones said that people should not "expect [him] to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats". [63] During his campaign, he had supporters from both parties, including Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. [64] [65] According to FiveThirtyEight, Jones had voted with President Donald Trump's position about 35% of the time as of September 2020. [66]

A July 2018 NBC News editorial stated that Jones had voted with Trump more often than all but three of his fellow Democratic senators while also taking liberal positions more in line with his party, including LGBT rights. [67]

Abortion Edit

Jones is mostly pro-choice on abortion with the exception of late-term abortion stating during a virtual rally "I have never, never supported what is known as a late term abortion." Also in the same virtual rally he stated "I support the Hyde Amendment I have said that over and over." In 2018, Planned Parenthood gave him a 100% rating, while the National Right to Life Committee gave him a 0% rating. Jones voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the pregnant woman's health. [68] He also pledged to support Planned Parenthood as a senator. [69] In May 2019 he criticized the passage of an abortion ban in Alabama, calling it "shameful". [70]

In February 2019, Jones was one of three Senate Democrats to vote for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, legislation requiring health care practitioners present at the time of a birth "exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age." [71] Jones is a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.

Agriculture Edit

On December 11, 2018, Jones voted for the conference farm bill, which included his provisions for farmers, rural health, wastewater infrastructure, and high-speed internet. [72] In May 2019, he co-sponsored the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Ben Sasse and Jon Tester intended to reform hours of service for livestock haulers by authorizing drivers to have the flexibility to rest at any point during their trip without it being counted against their hours of service and exempting loading and unloading times from the calculation of driving time. [73]

Broadband Edit

In June 2019, Jones and Republican Senator Susan Collins cosponsored the American Broadband Buildout Act of 2019, a bill that requested $5 billion for a matching funds program that the Federal Communications Commission would administer to "give priority to qualifying projects" and mandated that at least 15% of funding go to high-cost and geographically challenged areas. The legislation also authorized recipients of the funding to form "public awareness" and "digital literacy" campaigns to further awareness of the "value and benefits of broadband internet access service" and served as a companion to the Broadband Data Improvement Act. [74]

Criminal justice reform Edit

In December 2018, Jones voted for the First Step Act, legislation aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners by expanding job training and other programs in addition to expanding early-release programs and modifying sentencing laws such as mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, "to more equitably punish drug offenders." [75]

Jones supports the reversal of mandatory three-strikes laws for nonviolent offenses to give judges flexibility in giving sentences. [59]

Corporate disclosure Edit

In June 2019, along with Democrat Mark Warner and Republicans Tom Cotton and Mike Rounds, Jones introduced the Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act, a bill mandating that shell companies disclose their real owners to the United States Department of the Treasury and updating outdated federal anti-money laundering laws by bettering communications among law enforcement, regulatory agencies, the financial industry, and the industry and regulators of advanced technology. Jones said he was "all too familiar with criminals hiding behind shell corporations to enable their illegal behavior" from being an attorney. [76]

Gun policy Edit

Jones supports some gun control measures, including "tighter background checks for gun sales and to raise the age requirement to purchase a gun from 18 to 21", [77] but has said that he does not support an assault weapons ban and that such a ban could not pass Congress. [78] Jones himself is a gun owner. [79]

In March 2018, Jones was one of 10 senators to sign a letter to Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Lamar Alexander and ranking Democrat Patty Murray requesting they schedule a hearing on the causes and remedies of mass shootings in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. [80]

In 2018, Jones co-sponsored the NICS Denial Notification Act, [81] legislation developed in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that would require federal authorities to inform states within a day after a person failing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System attempts to buy a firearm. [82]

Immigration Edit

In 2018, Jones participated in votes concerning immigration and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). He voted in favor of the McCain–Coons proposal to offer a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, which did not include funding for a border wall voted against withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities voted for Susan Collins's bipartisan bill to offer a pathway to citizenship and federal funding for border security and voted against Trump's proposal to offer a pathway to citizenship while reducing overall legal immigration numbers and using federal funds for a border wall. [83] He has also proposed reassessing the current quota system. [84] He has agreed that improvements in border security are needed but does not believe it is a national emergency. [85]

LGBT rights Edit

Jones supports same-sex marriage and said that his son Carson, who is gay, helped change his views. [86] In 2017, he was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, which supports LGBT rights. [87] Jones supports protections for transgender students and transgender troops. [88]

Defense Edit

In March 2018, Jones voted against Bernie Sanders's and Chris Murphy's resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. [89]

In an interview with The Birmingham News, Jones said he favored increasing defense spending, saying it would boost Alabama's local economy, particularly in the areas around NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal, and protect the United States from foreign threats. [90]

Jones voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as U.S. Secretary of State, joining with Republicans and five other Democratic senators. He opposed Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA director. [91]

In May 2019, Jones co-sponsored the South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act, a bipartisan bill reintroduced by Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin intended to disrupt China's consolidation or expansion of its claims of jurisdiction over the sea and air space in disputed zones in the South China Sea. [92]

In August 2019, after Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were denied entry into Israel due to their support for BDS, Jones said he was "concerned the relationship with Israel is beginning to see some cracks for political reasons" and that the US-Israel relationship was being "used as a political weapon to try to divide people for political gain" in both countries. He added that while he did not agree "with a lot of their views on Israel", Tlaib and Omar were entitled to them, and cited the necessity of having to defend other members of Congress when they are barred from "the right to go and visit with other members". [93]

In October 2019, Jones was one of six senators to sign a bipartisan letter to President Trump calling on him to "urge Turkey to end their offensive and find a way to a peaceful resolution while supporting our Kurdish partners to ensure regional stability" and arguing that to leave Syria without installing protections for American allies would endanger both them and the US. [94]

Economy Edit

Newsweek has described Jones as an economic populist. [95] He was one of five Democrats to vote for the Republican budget deal in January 2018 [96] and one of 17 Democrats to vote with Republicans in favor of a bill to ease banking regulations. [97] Jones opposes the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. [98]

Education Edit

In February 2019, Jones was one of 20 senators to sponsor the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, enabling employers to contribute up to $5,250 to the student loans of their employees. [99]

In July 2019, Jones and Tina Smith introduced the Addressing Teacher Shortages Act, a bill to allow school districts across the United States to apply for grants to aid the schools in attracting and retaining quality teachers. The bill also funded the Education Department's efforts to help smaller and under-resourced districts apply for grants. [100]

On September 19, 2019, Jones took to the Senate floor to request unanimous consent to pass legislation that would further the $255 million in federal funding for minority-serving colleges and universities ahead of its expiration date in weeks. The vote was shut down by Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, who instead called for support for the passage of "a long-term solution that will provide certainty to college presidents and their students" and "a few additional bipartisan higher education proposals." [101]

Environment Edit

In March 2019, Jones was one of three Democrats to vote with all Senate Republicans against the Green New Deal when it came up for a procedural vote. All other Senate Democrats voted "present" on the legislation, a move anticipated as allowing them to avoid having a formal position. [102]

In June 2019, Jones was one of 44 senators to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act, legislation that would prevent Trump from using funds in an attempt to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and directing the Trump administration to instead develop a strategic plan for the United States that would allow it to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement. [103]

Healthcare Edit

Jones opposes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but he has called for changes to the U.S. health-care system, which he calls broken. [104] He supports the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program [104] and during his senatorial campaign repeatedly criticized his opponent for lacking a clear stance on the program. [104] [61] Jones says he is open to the idea of a public option, but that he is "not there yet" on single-payer healthcare. [59] In January 2018, Jones was one of six Democrats to join most Republicans in voting to confirm Alex Azar, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. [105]

In December 2018, Jones was one of 42 senators to sign a letter to Trump administration officials Alex Azar, Seema Verma, and Steve Mnuchin arguing that the administration was improperly using Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize states to "increase health care costs for millions of consumers while weakening protections for individuals with preexisting conditions". The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress". [106]

In January 2019, Jones was one of six senators to cosponsor the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act, delaying the Health Insurance Tax for two years. [107]

In January 2019, Jones was one of six Democratic senators to introduce the American Miners Act of 2019, a bill that would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to swap funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the 1974 Pension Plan as part of an effort to prevent its insolvency as a result of coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. It also increased the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax and ensured that miners affected by the 2018 coal company bankruptcies would not lose their health care. [108]

In January 2019, during the 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown, Jones was one of 34 senators to sign a letter to Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb recognizing the efforts of the FDA to address the effect of the government shutdown on public health and employees while remaining alarmed "that the continued shutdown will result in increasingly harmful effects on the agency's employees and the safety and security of the nation's food and medical products". [109]

In February 2019, Jones was one of 11 senators to sign a letter to insulin manufactures Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi over increased insulin prices and charging that the price increases caused patients to lack "access to the life-saving medications they need". [110]

In September 2019, amid discussions to prevent a government shutdown, Jones was one of six Democratic senators to sign a letter to congressional leadership advocating the passage of legislation to permanently fund health care and pension benefits for retired coal miners as "families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico" would start to receive notifications of health care termination by the end of the following month. [111]

In October 2019, Jones was one of 27 senators to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer advocating the passage of the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act, which was set to expire the following month. The senators warned that if the funding for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) was allowed to expire, it "would cause an estimated 2,400 site closures, 47,000 lost jobs, and threaten the health care of approximately 9 million Americans." [112]

United States Postal Service Edit

In March 2019, Jones co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution led by Gary Peters and Jerry Moran that opposed privatization of the United States Postal Service (USPS), citing the USPS as a self-sustaining establishment and noting concerns that privatization could cause higher prices and reduced services for USPS customers, especially in rural communities. [113]

Taxes Edit

Jones has not called for tax increases and has instead called for reductions in corporate taxes "to try to get reinvestment back into this country". [114] He opposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, calling it fiscally irresponsible and skewed to benefit the wealthy while ignoring or hurting the middle class. [114]

In 2019, along with fellow Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republicans Pat Toomey and Bill Cassidy, Jones was a lead sponsor of the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act, a bill to undo a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that raised the tax on the benefit children receive from a parent's Department of Defense survivor benefits plan to 37% from an average of 12% to 15%. The bill passed in the Senate in May 2019. [115]

Trade Edit

In 2018, along with Joni Ernst and Rob Portman, Jones introduced the Trade Security Act, a bill that would modify Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to require that the Defense Department justify the national-security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and implement an increase of congressional oversight of the process. Jones said the process currently led by the Commerce Department to investigate whether a trading partner is undermining U.S. national security had "been misused to target important job-creating industries in Alabama like auto manufacturing" and that the bill would refocus "efforts on punishing bad actors, rather than hurting American manufacturers, workers, and consumers." [116]

In December 2018, Jones stated that automakers and soybean farmers were fearful of the Trump administration's trade policy and added that his constituents in Alabama were questioning Trump's success. [117]

In February 2019, amid a report by the Commerce Department that ZTE had been caught illegally shipping goods of American origin to Iran and North Korea, Jones was one of seven senators to sponsor a bill reimposing sanctions on ZTE in the event that ZTE did not honor both American laws and its agreement with the Trump administration. [118]

In a July 2019 committee hearing, Jones predicted that tariffs would eventually directly hit the consumer and they would witness "tariffs that are going to cause a depletion in supply of things like Bibles and artificial fishing lures, which are fairly standard staples in Alabama." [119]

Addressing the North Alabama International Trade Association in September 2019, Jones said Alabama had a fairly robust economy that was also "pretty fragile and it could go completely bust if we don't get this trade war with China and other trade issues resolved and resolved soon", and that uncertainty about tariffs was affecting business confidence. [120]

Veterans Edit

In December 2018, Jones was one of 21 senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie calling it "appalling that the VA is not conducting oversight of its own outreach efforts" in spite of suicide prevention being the VA's highest clinical priority and requesting that Wilkie "consult with experts with proven track records of successful public and mental health outreach campaigns with a particular emphasis on how those individuals measure success". [121]

Jones married Louise New on December 12, 1992. [122] They have three children. [123] Jones's father died of dementia on December 28, 2019. [124]

Jones has been a member of the Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook for more than 33 years. [125] He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Blackburn Institute, a leadership development and civic engagement program at the University of Alabama. [126]


Sen. Doug Jones: We must learn the "unvarnished" truth of history of racism

Before being elected to the U.S. Senate, Doug Jones was a U.S. attorney for north Alabama who focused on righting a historic wrong: the unsolved bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. Four black girls &ndash Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley &ndash were killed while they were getting ready for church.

It would be 14 years before Robert Chambliss was convicted in the attack. Later, nearly 40 years after the bombing, Jones won the conviction of two other men, Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry , in 2001 and 2002.

Jones writes about the process in his new book, "Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing That Changed the Course of Civil Rights." (The title comes from a famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.")

Appearing on "CBS This Morning" Monday, Jones said the bombing (which occurred when he was nine years old), had been swept under the carpet for so long, but he defended pursuing justice so many years later.

All Points Books

"I think you have to understand what happened in order to try to prevent things from happening in the future," he said. "We've unfortunately seen a lot of hate-filled rhetoric these days we've seen more hate crimes. I think when we keep [the history of racism] to the front, and people understand, we can prevent things from going on in the future."

Jones said the death of the little girls in the bombing, which was conducted by members of the Ku Klux Klan, was a gamechanger when it came to racist acts. "We had had so many bombings in Birmingham. The fact is, no one had been even hurt, much less killed. And now four innocent children, they weren't part of the movement, they were kids going to a worship service. That changed everything.

"It woke up the conscience of America, I think, when these children died, and the conscience of a Congress and a president."

Co-host Norah O'Donnell asked, "Where are we now, do you think, as a former prosecutor? Where are we in terms of is racism getting worse, or we hear more about it?"

Every State Has A Story

"I think we hear more about it it's been below the surface, but we hear more," he replied. "And what worries me more is the social media. We all are in our silos &ndash we only hear what we want to hear, and talk what we want to talk. Social media, really, I think propagates a lot of racist [talk].

"I think not talking about it in a very honest and straightforward way &hellip is wrong. We've seen Charlottesville, we've seen South Carolina, we've seen Pittsburgh, it's not just black-and-white anymore. It is race, it's religion, it's gender, it's nationality. And so, we've got to have more dialogues about this, I think, in this country.

Jones said he believes the teaching of the history of the civil rights movement also needs to be re-evaluated. "When we were selecting a jury, there were young African-American kids that didn't know, they really didn't appreciate and fully understand, Dr. King and his legacy," he said. "I think we need to teach more about what happened, and just do it unvarnished. Let the good and the bad come out so that people can understand.

"We can only go forward if we learn from the lessons."

O'Donnell asked, "What was the biggest challenge in terms of prosecuting [the bombers] four decades later?"

"The biggest challenge was time," Jones said. "I mean, if people were dying, people were older, they were forgetting, we were trying to pull together old evidence, some new evidence from admissions. I think what people got was such a sense of healing. I don't use the word 'closure' for these cases. You should never 'close' these cases. We always need to remember.

"But it was such healing for my community, for Birmingham, for the state, particularly for these families. That's incredibly important. That's why I think this new cold case bill that Ted Cruz and I did is also going to help bring these records to light and let people learn about them."


Doug Jones’ story about the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and the prosecution of the Klansmen who did it, provides perspective on the past and present.

St. Martin’s Press

“Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Civil Rights” by Doug Jones with Greg Truman (St. Martin’s Press, 2019)

“Maxine McNair’s screams were primal,” Doug Jones writes in Bending Toward Justice. As McNair searched for her daughter Denise in the rubble of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church she knew, the way a mother would know, that the unthinkable had finally happened.

The 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing that killed Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins happened because white Americans were angry. Birmingham’s public schools were integrated the week before the bombing, and as whites saw dents and cracks appearing in the wall that separated them from black Americans they became resentful and afraid. And a few whites, bitter losers clinging to the bottom rung of the white racial hierarchy, were willing to do more than just gripe about it. They were willing to commit murder.

The three men eventually convicted and sent to prison for the church bombing were horrible human beings. “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss was the violent racist bomb maker of the group. Once in prison he whined and wallowed in self-pity (his prison letters are preserved in the Birmingham Public Library Archives). Bobby Frank Cherry was an obnoxious braggart who sexually molested his stepdaughter and his granddaughter. His third wife escaped her abusive husband by driving off one day and leaving Cherry standing by the side of the road. She went all the way to Montana. And the third was Tommy Blanton, who one night while on a date tried to run over a black man with his car.

I met Blanton once, shortly before his trial. During our brief chat he explained to me that another Klansman had bombed the church. He grinned and described his upcoming vacation (presumably his last) to Panama City Beach. Blanton seemed so ordinary that, as Jones writes, he “would have blended into any crowd.” He reminded me of men I knew growing up — tiresome and completely uninteresting.

As Jones recounts, it took years to put Chambliss, Cherry and Blanton in prison for their crimes. And it took brave people willing to sacrifice their safety and careers. Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley likely lost his chance to become governor of Alabama when he prosecuted and convicted Chambliss in 1977. Investigators never completely let go of the case. And bravest of all were the women — former wives, nieces, daughters and granddaughters of the bombers — who provided evidence and testified. These women knew these awful men better than anyone, and knew they deserved to go to jail.

The investigation did not look promising when Doug Jones inherited it after becoming U.S. attorney in 1997. But Jones, who grew up admiring the fictional attorney Atticus Finch and skipped classes in law school to watch Baxley prosecute Chambliss, has a knack for pulling off the improbable. He convicted the church bombers and won a U.S. Senate seat against Roy Moore. Bending Toward Justice is the story of the church bombing prosecutions, but it is also a campaign biography. Jones still has things to do. And while it is difficult to envision a long career for him as Alabama’s U.S. senator, it would be unwise to ever count Jones out.

Bending Toward Justice accomplishes what good history should accomplish. The book helps readers understand the past and the present. And the events of 1963 are relevant now because sometimes history does backflips. That’s not to say that history repeats itself, because it doesn’t really. But occasionally, without looking where we’re going, we jump back to a spot we thought we had left behind. And then we have to retrace our steps to see how it all turns out this time.

The convicted church bombers, and their cohorts who escaped justice by dying before they could be indicted, were the self-appointed storm troopers of white supremacy. And many other whites, people not willing to personally beat a black man to the pavement or blow up a black woman’s home, let this bunch do the dirty work for them. And white political leaders got and held political power by encouraging white racial paranoia. And right-wing media peddled lies and half-truths to legitimize the worst white fears about race.

And now we find ourselves in another self-inflicted backflip moment. Like 1963, we are living in a time when white political leaders shamelessly exchange bigotry for votes, and right-wing media irresponsibly exchange paranoia for ratings. And many seemingly decent whites stay silent.

The ugliness of our time feels too familiar, and that can be discouraging to those of us who naively thought that old racist order was dying off. But if history doesn’t repeat, it does go in cycles. Today’s bigoted demagogues and white supremacist thugs should take a lesson from their church-bombing forefathers. Justice sometimes comes slowly, but sometimes it still comes. And when justice comes to the dregs of history, their emptiness is revealed and they are cast off and left to rot. Robert Chambliss died in prison in 1985. Bobby Frank Cherry died in prison in 2004. And someday Tommy Blanton will do the same. There’s some justice in that.

Additional reading on the church bombing:

Until Justice Rolls Down: The Birmingham Church Bombing Case by Frank Sikora (University of Alabama Press, 1991, 2005)

Long Time Coming: An Insider’s Story of the Birmingham Church Bombing that Rocked the World by Elizabeth H. Cobbs/Petric J. Smith (Crane Hill, 1994)

The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory by Renee C. Romano and Leigh Raiford, editors (University of Georgia Press, 2006)

Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner (Calkins Creek, 2010)

While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn McKinstry (Tyndale House Publishers, 2011)

Last Chance for Justice: How Relentless Investigations Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers by T. K. Thorne (Lawrence Hill Books, 2013)

James L. Baggett

About Reading Birmingham: James L. Baggett, a Birmingham archivist, has assisted with research on many of the 450 books about Birmingham and Alabama since 1970. He reviews new publications and older titles that address the city and state for Birmingham Watch. He has authored or edited five books on Birmingham and Alabama history. Baggett received the Alabama Library Association’s 2019 Eminent Librarian Award.


Doug Jones Prosecuted KKK Members, Roy Moore Didn't Mind Slavery

Just days ago, Doug Jones won the widely covered Alabama Senate election against alleged sexual predator Roy Moore. Now there's a shift in attention to Jones, particularly because of the way he brought justice to one of the most memorable acts of violence of the KKK.

American History books now include the story of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. On September 15, 1963, a bomb went off in this church, which was targeted because it was a meeting place for Civil Rights organizers. The bomb injured at least 20 but also killed four little girls. Their names were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair.

J. Edgar Hoover, then FBI Director, knew the identity of the attackers at the time but kept that information secret because he wasn't an advocate of the civil rights movement. There were four attackers, and the crime was executed by the KKK.

14 years later, the files containing the attackers' identities were disclosed. Only one of them before this had been successfully prosecuted.

Doug Jones then comes into the story. He was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama by former President Bill Clinton.

It was already over 20 years after the attack, and one of the attackers, Herman Frank Cash, was already deceased. But Doug Jones took up the case. Using the evidence that was released from the FBI, Jones prosecuted the remaining attackers - Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. in 2001 and Bobby Frank Cherry in 2002.


Contents

Doug Jones was born in Fairfield, Alabama to Gordon and Gloria (Wesson) Jones. [7] [8] His father worked at U.S. Steel and his mother was a homemaker. [9] Jones graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in political science in 1976, and earned his Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1979. He is a member of Beta Theta Pi. [10]

Jones's political career began as staff counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for Alabama Senator Howell Heflin. [11] Jones then worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1980 to 1984 before resigning to work at a private law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, from 1984 to 1997. [12]

President Bill Clinton announced on August 18, 1997, his intent to appoint Jones as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, [13] and formally nominated Jones to the post on September 2, 1997. [14] On September 8, 1997, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama appointed Jones as interim U.S. Attorney. The Senate confirmed Jones's nomination on November 8, 1997, [14] by voice vote. [15]

In January 1998, Eric Rudolph bombed the New Woman All Women Health Care Center in Birmingham. Jones was responsible for coordinating the state and federal task force in the aftermath, and advocated that Rudolph be tried first in Birmingham before being extradited and tried in Georgia for his crimes in that state, such as the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. [16] [17]

16th Street Baptist Church bombing case Edit

Jones prosecuted Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, two members of the Ku Klux Klan, for their roles in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The case was reopened the year before Jones was appointed, but did not gain traction until his appointment. A federal grand jury was called in 1998, which caught the attention of Cherry's ex-wife, Willadean Cherry, and led her to call the FBI to give her testimony. Willadean then introduced Jones to family and friends, who reported their own experiences from the time of the bombing. A key piece of evidence was a tape from the time of the bombing in which Blanton said he had plotted with others to make the bomb. Jones was deputized to argue in state court and indicted Blanton and Cherry in 2000. [18] [19] Blanton was found guilty in 2001 and Cherry in 2002. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Blanton was up for parole in 2016 Jones spoke against his release, and parole was denied. Cherry died in prison in 2004. [20] [21]

Jones recounts the history of the bombings and his subsequent involvement in Blanton and Cherry's prosecution in his 2019 book Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Civil Rights. [22]

Jones left office in 2001 and returned to private practice, joining the law firm of Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker. [23] In 2004, he was court-appointed General Special Master in an environmental cleanup case involving Monsanto in Anniston, Alabama. [24] [25] [26] In 2007, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute gave Jones its 15th Anniversary Civil Rights Distinguished Service Award. [27] Also in 2007, Jones testified before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary about the importance of reexamining crimes of the Civil Rights Era. [28] [29] In 2013, he formed the Birmingham firm Jones & Hawley, PC with longtime friend Greg Hawley. [24] Jones was named one of B-Metro Magazine's Fusion Award winners in 2015. [30] In 2017, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alabama chapter of the Young Democrats of America. [31]

2017 election Edit

On May 11, 2017, Jones announced his candidacy for that year's U.S. Senate special election, running for the seat left open when Jeff Sessions was appointed Attorney General. Sessions, a Republican, had held the seat since 1997, after Democrat Howell Heflin chose not to run for reelection. [32] Jones won the Democratic nomination in August, [33] and became the Senator-elect for Alabama after defeating former Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore in the general election on December 12, which was also Jones's 25th wedding anniversary. [34] [35]

Jones received 673,896 votes (50.0%) to Moore's 651,972 votes (48.3%) with 22,852 write-in votes (1.7%). [34] After the election, Moore refused to concede. He filed a lawsuit attempting to block the state from certifying the election and called for an investigation into voter fraud, as well as a new election. [36] On December 28, 2017, a judge dismissed his suit and state officials certified the election results, officially declaring Jones the winner. [37]

Tenure Edit

Jones was sworn in on January 3, 2018, alongside fellow Democrat Tina Smith of Minnesota, and his term ran through January 3, 2021, the balance of Sessions's term. [38] [39] He was the first Democrat to represent the state in the U.S. Senate in 21 years, and the first elected in 25. [40] [41] Jones was one of five Democratic senators who voted for the continuing resolution that failed to pass and consequently led to the United States federal government shutdown of 2018. [42] According to Morning Consult, which polls approval ratings of senators, as of October 17, 2019 [update] , Jones had a 41% approval rating, with 36% disapproving. This trails Jones's fellow Alabama senator, Republican Richard Shelby, who has a 45% approval rating, with 30% disapproving. [43]

On January 8, 2019, Jones was one of four Democrats to vote to advance a bill imposing sanctions against the Syrian government and furthering U.S. support for Israel and Jordan as Democratic members of the chamber employed tactics to end the United States federal government shutdown of 2018–2019. [44]

In September 2019, after the House launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, Jones urged caution on the part of the media and his colleagues because his experience with law had led him to believe that it was "very unlikely there’s going to be an absolute smoking gun on either side". He stated his support for "fact-finding" by the House, only after which he would make a decision about Trump's guilt. [45] [46] In February 2020, Jones voted to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, saying the evidence presented "clearly proves" that Trump used his office to seek to coerce a foreign government to interfere in the election. [47]

Committee assignments Edit

2020 election Edit

Jones ran for a full six-year term. He was seen as the most vulnerable senator from either party since Alabama is a deeply Republican state and the circumstances and controversy surrounding his Republican opponent in 2017 were no longer a factor.

The Democratic Party nominated Jones for the seat unopposed. [49] The two top contenders in the Republican primary were former football coach Tommy Tuberville and former United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had held Jones's seat before resigning to become Attorney General in 2017. U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne was also a contender, sometimes even outpolling the other candidates, but in the first round of the primary, on March 3, Tuberville and Sessions finished second and first. Since neither had a majority of the vote, they advanced to a runoff, which Tuberville won. Jones is the only Democratic senator to lose re-election in 2020. [50]

Tuberville won the general election with over 60% of the vote. [51] [52]

In November 2020, Jones was mentioned as a potential candidate for United States Attorney General in the Biden administration. [53] The position was ultimately filled by Merrick Garland.

On January 29, 2021, Jones joined CNN as a political commentator. He also became a politics fellow at Georgetown University. [54]

The editorial board of The Birmingham News has described Jones as a "moderate Democrat". [55] Former Alabama Democratic Party chair Giles Perkins described Jones as "a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy". [56] Describing his own views, Jones said: "If you look at the positions I've got on health care, if you look at the positions I got on jobs—you should look at the support I have from the business community—I think I'm pretty mainstream." [57] Jones's campaign has emphasized "kitchen-table" issues such as health care and the economy. [58] [59] [60] He has called for bipartisan solutions to those issues [61] and pledged to "find common ground" between both major parties. [62] Jones said that people should not "expect [him] to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats". [63] During his campaign, he had supporters from both parties, including Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. [64] [65] According to FiveThirtyEight, Jones had voted with President Donald Trump's position about 35% of the time as of September 2020. [66]

A July 2018 NBC News editorial stated that Jones had voted with Trump more often than all but three of his fellow Democratic senators while also taking liberal positions more in line with his party, including LGBT rights. [67]

Abortion Edit

Jones is mostly pro-choice on abortion with the exception of late-term abortion stating during a virtual rally "I have never, never supported what is known as a late term abortion." Also in the same virtual rally he stated "I support the Hyde Amendment I have said that over and over." In 2018, Planned Parenthood gave him a 100% rating, while the National Right to Life Committee gave him a 0% rating. Jones voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the pregnant woman's health. [68] He also pledged to support Planned Parenthood as a senator. [69] In May 2019 he criticized the passage of an abortion ban in Alabama, calling it "shameful". [70]

In February 2019, Jones was one of three Senate Democrats to vote for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, legislation requiring health care practitioners present at the time of a birth "exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age." [71] Jones is a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.

Agriculture Edit

On December 11, 2018, Jones voted for the conference farm bill, which included his provisions for farmers, rural health, wastewater infrastructure, and high-speed internet. [72] In May 2019, he co-sponsored the Transporting Livestock Across America Safely Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Ben Sasse and Jon Tester intended to reform hours of service for livestock haulers by authorizing drivers to have the flexibility to rest at any point during their trip without it being counted against their hours of service and exempting loading and unloading times from the calculation of driving time. [73]

Broadband Edit

In June 2019, Jones and Republican Senator Susan Collins cosponsored the American Broadband Buildout Act of 2019, a bill that requested $5 billion for a matching funds program that the Federal Communications Commission would administer to "give priority to qualifying projects" and mandated that at least 15% of funding go to high-cost and geographically challenged areas. The legislation also authorized recipients of the funding to form "public awareness" and "digital literacy" campaigns to further awareness of the "value and benefits of broadband internet access service" and served as a companion to the Broadband Data Improvement Act. [74]

Criminal justice reform Edit

In December 2018, Jones voted for the First Step Act, legislation aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners by expanding job training and other programs in addition to expanding early-release programs and modifying sentencing laws such as mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, "to more equitably punish drug offenders." [75]

Jones supports the reversal of mandatory three-strikes laws for nonviolent offenses to give judges flexibility in giving sentences. [59]

Corporate disclosure Edit

In June 2019, along with Democrat Mark Warner and Republicans Tom Cotton and Mike Rounds, Jones introduced the Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act, a bill mandating that shell companies disclose their real owners to the United States Department of the Treasury and updating outdated federal anti-money laundering laws by bettering communications among law enforcement, regulatory agencies, the financial industry, and the industry and regulators of advanced technology. Jones said he was "all too familiar with criminals hiding behind shell corporations to enable their illegal behavior" from being an attorney. [76]

Gun policy Edit

Jones supports some gun control measures, including "tighter background checks for gun sales and to raise the age requirement to purchase a gun from 18 to 21", [77] but has said that he does not support an assault weapons ban and that such a ban could not pass Congress. [78] Jones himself is a gun owner. [79]

In March 2018, Jones was one of 10 senators to sign a letter to Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Lamar Alexander and ranking Democrat Patty Murray requesting they schedule a hearing on the causes and remedies of mass shootings in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. [80]

In 2018, Jones co-sponsored the NICS Denial Notification Act, [81] legislation developed in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that would require federal authorities to inform states within a day after a person failing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System attempts to buy a firearm. [82]

Immigration Edit

In 2018, Jones participated in votes concerning immigration and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). He voted in favor of the McCain–Coons proposal to offer a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, which did not include funding for a border wall voted against withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities voted for Susan Collins's bipartisan bill to offer a pathway to citizenship and federal funding for border security and voted against Trump's proposal to offer a pathway to citizenship while reducing overall legal immigration numbers and using federal funds for a border wall. [83] He has also proposed reassessing the current quota system. [84] He has agreed that improvements in border security are needed but does not believe it is a national emergency. [85]

LGBT rights Edit

Jones supports same-sex marriage and said that his son Carson, who is gay, helped change his views. [86] In 2017, he was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, which supports LGBT rights. [87] Jones supports protections for transgender students and transgender troops. [88]

Defense Edit

In March 2018, Jones voted against Bernie Sanders's and Chris Murphy's resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. [89]

In an interview with The Birmingham News, Jones said he favored increasing defense spending, saying it would boost Alabama's local economy, particularly in the areas around NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal, and protect the United States from foreign threats. [90]

Jones voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as U.S. Secretary of State, joining with Republicans and five other Democratic senators. He opposed Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA director. [91]

In May 2019, Jones co-sponsored the South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act, a bipartisan bill reintroduced by Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin intended to disrupt China's consolidation or expansion of its claims of jurisdiction over the sea and air space in disputed zones in the South China Sea. [92]

In August 2019, after Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were denied entry into Israel due to their support for BDS, Jones said he was "concerned the relationship with Israel is beginning to see some cracks for political reasons" and that the US-Israel relationship was being "used as a political weapon to try to divide people for political gain" in both countries. He added that while he did not agree "with a lot of their views on Israel", Tlaib and Omar were entitled to them, and cited the necessity of having to defend other members of Congress when they are barred from "the right to go and visit with other members". [93]

In October 2019, Jones was one of six senators to sign a bipartisan letter to President Trump calling on him to "urge Turkey to end their offensive and find a way to a peaceful resolution while supporting our Kurdish partners to ensure regional stability" and arguing that to leave Syria without installing protections for American allies would endanger both them and the US. [94]

Economy Edit

Newsweek has described Jones as an economic populist. [95] He was one of five Democrats to vote for the Republican budget deal in January 2018 [96] and one of 17 Democrats to vote with Republicans in favor of a bill to ease banking regulations. [97] Jones opposes the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. [98]

Education Edit

In February 2019, Jones was one of 20 senators to sponsor the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, enabling employers to contribute up to $5,250 to the student loans of their employees. [99]

In July 2019, Jones and Tina Smith introduced the Addressing Teacher Shortages Act, a bill to allow school districts across the United States to apply for grants to aid the schools in attracting and retaining quality teachers. The bill also funded the Education Department's efforts to help smaller and under-resourced districts apply for grants. [100]

On September 19, 2019, Jones took to the Senate floor to request unanimous consent to pass legislation that would further the $255 million in federal funding for minority-serving colleges and universities ahead of its expiration date in weeks. The vote was shut down by Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, who instead called for support for the passage of "a long-term solution that will provide certainty to college presidents and their students" and "a few additional bipartisan higher education proposals." [101]

Environment Edit

In March 2019, Jones was one of three Democrats to vote with all Senate Republicans against the Green New Deal when it came up for a procedural vote. All other Senate Democrats voted "present" on the legislation, a move anticipated as allowing them to avoid having a formal position. [102]

In June 2019, Jones was one of 44 senators to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act, legislation that would prevent Trump from using funds in an attempt to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and directing the Trump administration to instead develop a strategic plan for the United States that would allow it to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement. [103]

Healthcare Edit

Jones opposes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but he has called for changes to the U.S. health-care system, which he calls broken. [104] He supports the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program [104] and during his senatorial campaign repeatedly criticized his opponent for lacking a clear stance on the program. [104] [61] Jones says he is open to the idea of a public option, but that he is "not there yet" on single-payer healthcare. [59] In January 2018, Jones was one of six Democrats to join most Republicans in voting to confirm Alex Azar, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. [105]

In December 2018, Jones was one of 42 senators to sign a letter to Trump administration officials Alex Azar, Seema Verma, and Steve Mnuchin arguing that the administration was improperly using Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize states to "increase health care costs for millions of consumers while weakening protections for individuals with preexisting conditions". The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress". [106]

In January 2019, Jones was one of six senators to cosponsor the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act, delaying the Health Insurance Tax for two years. [107]

In January 2019, Jones was one of six Democratic senators to introduce the American Miners Act of 2019, a bill that would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to swap funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the 1974 Pension Plan as part of an effort to prevent its insolvency as a result of coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. It also increased the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax and ensured that miners affected by the 2018 coal company bankruptcies would not lose their health care. [108]

In January 2019, during the 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown, Jones was one of 34 senators to sign a letter to Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb recognizing the efforts of the FDA to address the effect of the government shutdown on public health and employees while remaining alarmed "that the continued shutdown will result in increasingly harmful effects on the agency's employees and the safety and security of the nation's food and medical products". [109]

In February 2019, Jones was one of 11 senators to sign a letter to insulin manufactures Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi over increased insulin prices and charging that the price increases caused patients to lack "access to the life-saving medications they need". [110]

In September 2019, amid discussions to prevent a government shutdown, Jones was one of six Democratic senators to sign a letter to congressional leadership advocating the passage of legislation to permanently fund health care and pension benefits for retired coal miners as "families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico" would start to receive notifications of health care termination by the end of the following month. [111]

In October 2019, Jones was one of 27 senators to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer advocating the passage of the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence (CHIME) Act, which was set to expire the following month. The senators warned that if the funding for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) was allowed to expire, it "would cause an estimated 2,400 site closures, 47,000 lost jobs, and threaten the health care of approximately 9 million Americans." [112]

United States Postal Service Edit

In March 2019, Jones co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution led by Gary Peters and Jerry Moran that opposed privatization of the United States Postal Service (USPS), citing the USPS as a self-sustaining establishment and noting concerns that privatization could cause higher prices and reduced services for USPS customers, especially in rural communities. [113]

Taxes Edit

Jones has not called for tax increases and has instead called for reductions in corporate taxes "to try to get reinvestment back into this country". [114] He opposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, calling it fiscally irresponsible and skewed to benefit the wealthy while ignoring or hurting the middle class. [114]

In 2019, along with fellow Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republicans Pat Toomey and Bill Cassidy, Jones was a lead sponsor of the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act, a bill to undo a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that raised the tax on the benefit children receive from a parent's Department of Defense survivor benefits plan to 37% from an average of 12% to 15%. The bill passed in the Senate in May 2019. [115]

Trade Edit

In 2018, along with Joni Ernst and Rob Portman, Jones introduced the Trade Security Act, a bill that would modify Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to require that the Defense Department justify the national-security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and implement an increase of congressional oversight of the process. Jones said the process currently led by the Commerce Department to investigate whether a trading partner is undermining U.S. national security had "been misused to target important job-creating industries in Alabama like auto manufacturing" and that the bill would refocus "efforts on punishing bad actors, rather than hurting American manufacturers, workers, and consumers." [116]

In December 2018, Jones stated that automakers and soybean farmers were fearful of the Trump administration's trade policy and added that his constituents in Alabama were questioning Trump's success. [117]

In February 2019, amid a report by the Commerce Department that ZTE had been caught illegally shipping goods of American origin to Iran and North Korea, Jones was one of seven senators to sponsor a bill reimposing sanctions on ZTE in the event that ZTE did not honor both American laws and its agreement with the Trump administration. [118]

In a July 2019 committee hearing, Jones predicted that tariffs would eventually directly hit the consumer and they would witness "tariffs that are going to cause a depletion in supply of things like Bibles and artificial fishing lures, which are fairly standard staples in Alabama." [119]

Addressing the North Alabama International Trade Association in September 2019, Jones said Alabama had a fairly robust economy that was also "pretty fragile and it could go completely bust if we don't get this trade war with China and other trade issues resolved and resolved soon", and that uncertainty about tariffs was affecting business confidence. [120]

Veterans Edit

In December 2018, Jones was one of 21 senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie calling it "appalling that the VA is not conducting oversight of its own outreach efforts" in spite of suicide prevention being the VA's highest clinical priority and requesting that Wilkie "consult with experts with proven track records of successful public and mental health outreach campaigns with a particular emphasis on how those individuals measure success". [121]

Jones married Louise New on December 12, 1992. [122] They have three children. [123] Jones's father died of dementia on December 28, 2019. [124]

Jones has been a member of the Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook for more than 33 years. [125] He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Blackburn Institute, a leadership development and civic engagement program at the University of Alabama. [126]


Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Civil Rights

On September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed. The blast killed four young girls and injured twenty-two others. The FBI suspected four particularly radical Ku Klux Klan members. Yet due to reluctant witnesses, a lack of physical evidence, and pervasive racial prejudice the case was closed without any indictments.

But as Martin Luther King, Jr. famously expressed it, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Years later, Alabama Attorney General William Baxley reopened the case, ultimately convicting one of the bombers in 1977. Another suspect passed away in 1994, and US Attorney Doug Jones tried and convicted the final two in 2001 and 2002, representing the correction of an outrageous miscarriage of justice nearly forty years in the making. Jones himself went on to win election as Alabama’s first Democratic Senator since 1992 in a dramatic race against Republican challenger Roy Moore.

Bending Toward Justice
is a dramatic and compulsively readable account of a key moment in our long national struggle for equality, related by an author who played a major role in these events. A distinguished work of legal and personal history, the book is destined to take its place as a canonical civil rights history.


Thomas Blanton, KKK bomber of 16th St Baptist Church, dies

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., the last of three one-time Ku Klux Klansmen convicted in a 1963 Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls and was the deadliest single attack of the civil rights movement, died Friday in prison, officials said. He was 82.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said Blanton died of natural causes. He was being held at Donaldson prison near Birmingham, prison officials said.

In May 2001, Blanton was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Ivey, in a statement, called the bombing “a dark day that will never be forgotten in both Alabama’s history and that of our nation.”

When asked by the judge during sentencing if he had any comment, Blanton said: “I guess the good Lord will settle it on judgment day.”

Sen. Doug Jones, who prosecuted Blanton, said the fact that Blanton remained free for almost 40 years after the bombing “speaks to a broader systemic failure to hold him and his accomplices accountable.”

“That he died at this moment, when the country is trying to reconcile the multi-generational failure to end systemic racism, seems fitting,” Jones said in a statement.

The church bombing, exposing the depths of hatred by white supremacists as Birmingham integrated its public schools, was a tipping point of the civil rights movement. Moderates could no longer remain silent and the fight to topple segregation laws gained new momentum.

The investigation into the bombing was stalled early and left dormant for long stretches, but two other ex-Klansmen, Robert Chambliss and Bobby Frank Cherry, also were convicted in the bombing in separate trials. Chambliss was convicted in 1977 and died in prison in 1985. Cherry was convicted in 2002 and died in prison in 2004.

On Sept. 15, 1963, a bomb ripped through an exterior wall of the brick church, killing four girls who were inside preparing for a youth program. The bodies of Denise McNair, 11, and Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson, all 14, were found in the downstairs lounge.

Collins’ sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, survived the blast but lost her right eye and is known as the “fifth little girl.” Glass fragments remained in her chest, left eye and abdomen for decades after the explosion.

A parole hearing was scheduled next year for Blanton, and Rudolph and her husband planned to attend in opposition to his release, which was denied during a previous hearing.

"She hopes that he found Jesus Christ and repented,” George Rudolph said on behalf of his wife.

Lisa McNair, the sister of Denise McNair, said she also hoped Blanton had repented and added: “I wish I could have sat down with him to find out if he had had a change of heart.”

Blanton never admitted any role in the blast, but evidence showed he was part of a group of hard-core Klansmen who made a bomb and planted it on a Sunday morning.

During the trial, then-U.S. Attorney Jones, appointed as a special state prosecutor, said Blanton acted in response to months of civil rights demonstrations. The targeted church was a rallying point for protesters.

“Tom Blanton saw change and didn’t like it,” Jones said in the trial.

Blanton proclaimed his innocence years after being sent to prison. In a 2006 interview with Birmingham station WBRC-TV, he claimed the government used trumped-up evidence and lies to gain his conviction.

“I think I was cleverly set up by the government . and that’s why I’m here,” Blanton told the television station from prison. “I’m sorry it happened. Deeply sorry. But I’m not responsible for it.”

A 1993 meeting in Birmingham between FBI officials and Black ministers led to the reopening of the bombing case against Blanton and Cherry. The investigation remained quiet until 1997 when agents went to Texas to talk to Cherry.

A decade earlier, the U.S. Justice Department concluded that former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had blocked prosecution of Klansmen in the bombing.

Associated Press writer Daniel Yee in Atlanta contributed to this report.