Maxine McNair, the last living parent of one of the four children killed in the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing, has passed away at the age of 93. McNair’s family announced in a press release that she died on Sunday. A cause of death is yet to be given.
McNair was the mother of 11-year-old Denise McNair, who was the youngest girl killed in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all aged 14 years old, and Denise McNair were in the bathroom on the morning of September 15, 1963, when a bomb planted by Ku Klux Klan members, Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., Herman Frank Cash, Robert Edward Chambliss, and Bobby Frank Cherry, went off.
The explosion resulted in a hole in the church’s rear wall, and a two-foot-deep crater in the ladies’ basement lounge. It even blew a motorist out of his car and destroyed several cars near the site as well as other properties close to the church. The bombing that saw the death of the four Black girls and injured many others became one of the vital events in the civil rights movement and contributed to support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Ku Klux Klan members were eventually convicted in the case, the first in 1977 and two more in the early 2000s, according to AP.
“I couldn’t stop screaming for several days,” McNair recalled decades later when talking about the horrific bombing that killed her daughter. “They had to give me an injection to calm my nerves.”
McNair, in her later years, suffered from Alzheimer’s, according to CNN. She was a teacher for over three decades in Birmingham public schools. She changed the lives of many in her community through education, her daughter, Lisa McNair, said.
“Mrs. McNair was an amazing wife and mother and as a teacher of 33 years in the Birmingham public school system imparted knowledge in the lives of hundreds. We are going to miss her laughter and her humor. The family would appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers,” the statement by the family said.
In 2013, McNair attended an Oval Office ceremony where President Barack Obama awarded the four girls the Congressional Gold Medal, one of America’s highest civilian honors.
Six years later, McNair lost her husband, Chris. He died at the age of 93. According to AP, he was one of the first Black members of the Alabama legislature since Reconstruction, and a Jefferson County commissioner.
Meanwhile, funeral arrangements for McNair are yet to be announced. “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,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a post on Facebook.