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Carole Robertson

Carole Robertson

Birth date:

April 24, 1949

Death date:

September 15, 1963

Age at Death:



Ms. Robertson grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and was a good student who loved reading and dancing. She attended the city’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Her family had deep roots in the community. Her father, Alvin, and her mother, Alpha, an older sister, Dianne, and an older brother, Alvin Jr. lived in Birmingham’s Smithfield neighborhood, an African-American section of the city. Her dad was an educator with an interest in music, and Carole was a musical child herself. She sang in the chorus at Wilkerson Elementary School, played the clarinet and was a member of Parker High School’s marching band.
Ms. Robertson was a high-achieving student—she participated in Saturday dance lessons, the science club, Girl Scouts and Jack and Jill of America, a civically minded youth and family organization.

Carole was among the bombing victims at the 16th Street Baptist church who included Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), and Denise McNair (11). Ms. Collins' younger sister, Sara Collins Rudolph, survived the explosion, losing an eye, and remembers the moments prior to the explosion as her sister Addie was tying the dress sash of little Denise. It was a racially motivated crime.

Was justice served?

Yes. The murders were seen for years as an unsolved crime until the 1970's, when Robert Chambliss, a member of the Ku Klux Klan was seen placing the dynamite under the church steps, was arrested in 1963, but tried only for illegal possession of explosives. The case remained dormant until 1971, when Attorney General William Baxley reopened it. Baxley obtained FBI files containing substantive information, including the names of suspects, which had been withheld by J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s. In a later statement, the FBI stated that their investigation had been impeded by the lack of witness cooperation in Birmingham. In 1977, a 73-year-old Chambliss was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. Two other perpetrators—Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry—were convicted in 2001 and 2002, respectively. A fourth suspect, Herman Frank Cash, died in 1994, before he could be charged. The victims are recognized as civil rights martyrs.

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