Mr. Murray Sams, Jr. is an Army Veteran with six years of service. He joined in 1964 and was stationed in Munich, Germany where he was with the Fifth Battalion, 32nd Armory as a gunner and tank commander. But before his heroic service, the 74 year old was working as an orderly at Hillman Hospital in Alabama on a Sunday morning 55 years ago.
It was 10:22am September 15, 1963, when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL was bombed. Many were hurt, but four little girls lost their lives while in Sunday School. Denise McNair was just 11 years old. Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley were 14 years old. That infamous church bombing was one of the most horrific of the Civil Rights Movement and Mr. Sams, Jr. was there when the girls were brought into the hospital.
It was no surprise the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was targeted. It had been a central meeting place for the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. Following the terrorist attack, it continued as a historic strong hold in the fight for racial justice. Members of the KKK Cahaba Group were eventually convicted in the deadly bombing. Herman Cash was suspected, but died before being prosecuted. Robert Chambliss was convicted in November 1977, Thomas Blanton was convicted in 2000 and Bobby Cherry was ultimately convicted in May 2002.
Four little girls died that day 55 years ago, as did two other teenagers when fires and rioting broke out throughout the city of Birmingham. This violent church bombing was a costly, yet pivotal moment in the civil rights struggle.