Judge Sides with Obama, Releases Father of Racist Church Bombing Victim

Jay Reeves, Huffington Post, August 29, 2013

A former Alabama politician whose daughter died in a racist church bombing in 1963 was released from a prison medical facility Thursday after a judge sided with an Obama administration call to free him.

Chris McNair was released from prison hours after U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith issued her ruling, said Peggy Sanford, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Birmingham.

The U.S. Justice Department had sought the release of the 87-year-old McNair on grounds of compassion.

In her ruling, Smith said McNair, who was incarcerated at a federal prison medical center in Rochester, Minn., should be released as soon as his health allowed and travel arrangements could be made.

McNair was part of the scandal-plagued Jefferson County Commission that made deals resulting in a then-record municipal bankruptcy over more than $4 billion in debts.

The administration’s request for leniency asked a judge to reduce McNair’s five-year sentence to the time he has served since entering prison in 2011.

The request said McNair’s “serious and declining health problems are extraordinary and compelling reasons” warranting his release, but it did not mention his link to one of the most infamous crimes of the civil rights era.

McNair is the father of Denise McNair, one of the four black girls killed when Ku Klux Klansmen bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. {snip}


Chris McNair became one of the Alabama Legislature’s first black members since Reconstruction when he was elected as a state representative in 1973. {snip}


McNair was among 21 people convicted in corruption cases linked to a more than $3 billion sewer project in Alabama’s most populous county.

Citing more than $4 billion debts in all, the county filed what was then the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2011. County leaders are still trying to emerge from bankruptcy.

McNair’s commission duties included overseeing the sewer project, and prosecutors said evidence showed he collected bribes from contractors in return for government work.


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