House Votes to Give Birmingham Bombing Victims Congressional Medals

Victims are one step closer to winning Congress' highest civilian honor.

Posted: 04/25/2013 10:00 AM EDT

Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair were killed in the Birmingham, Alabama, Church Bombings, one of the most horrific moments of the civil rights movement, in September 1963.

The “four little girls” are one step closer to receiving Congressional Gold medals, Congress' highest civilian honor, according to the Associated Press.

The House voted 420-0 on Wednesday to pass the measure that will bring them one step closer to honoring the girls’ legacies as victims of the tragedy. Alabama Reps. Terri Sewell, a Democrat, and Spencer Bachus, a Republican, led the House in the effort to award the Congressional Gold medals.

"It was their blood which was shed for the bounty that so many of us now enjoy," Sewell said.

Some of the victims’ relatives support the medals, while others are not so forgiving and are seeking financial compensation.

The Associated Press reports:

The sisters of two of the victims, Denise McNair and Carol Robertson, sat in the House gallery to watch the vote, with Sewell noting their presence after the vote and asking members to applaud them.

Relatives of Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley, also known as Cynthia Morris, have both said they do not want the congressional honor.

Addie Mae's sister Sarah was critically injured in the bombing, losing an eye, though she recovered and later married. In an interview with the Associated Press this month, Sarah Collins Rudolph said she is now seeking millions in financial compensation and would not accept the medal.

"I can't spend a medal," she told the AP.

Cynthia Wesley's brother, Fate Morris, said he also wants compensation and isn't interested in accepting a medal for his sister.

Read the full story here.

It took more than a decade to prosecute and convict the three Ku Klux Klan members who bombed the Birmingham church. In 1977, Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss was convicted of murder of all four girls and sentenced to life in prison. In 2001, Thomas E. Blanton Jr. was sentenced to life in prison. Bobby Frank Cherry was sentenced to life in prison the following year and died in 2004. Herman Cash died in 1994 without being charged.

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(Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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