Maxine McNair, mother to Denise McNair, the youngest of four girls killed in a planned Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963 of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, passed away on Sunday. McNair, 93, was the last living parent of the girls killed in the tragic bombing.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin remembered Mrs. McNair in a Facebook post.
“Our hearts go out today to the family and friends of Mrs. Maxine McNair, who passed today at age 93. Mrs. McNair was mother of Denise McNair and the last living parent of the Four Little Girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. Mrs. McNair was a matriarch of social justice in our city, an incredible wife and mother who imparted love and wisdom on hundreds of young minds while serving 33 years in the Birmingham public school system.”
McNair’s beloved husband, Chris, died in 2019 at 93. He was one of the first Black members of the Alabama legislature since Reconstruction.
The church bombing was considered one of the most brutal attacks against Black Americans during America’s civil rights movement. It took the lives of four innocent Black girls. Denise McNair was 11 years old when she died in the bombing and three 14-year-olds: Addie Mae Collins, Carole Rosamond Robertson and Cynthia Dionne Wesley. A fifth girl, sister of Addie Mae Collins, survived but lost an eye in the bombing.
The case against the bombers went unsolved for years. Three members of the Ku Klux Klan were eventually convicted, the first in 1977 and two more in the early 2000s. The family attended trials in 2001 and 2002 of two men identified as suspects in 1965 but not prosecuted for more than 30 years.
The lives of the girls’ families were chronicled in the 1997 documentary film Four Little Girls, created by producer/director Spike Lee. In 2013, Maxine McNair attended the Oval Office ceremony in which President Barack Obama awarded the four girls the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the country’s highest civilian honors.