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1963 Birmingham church bombing timeline

Published On: Sep 13 2013 12:52:05 PM EDT   Updated On: Jan 16 2015 01:57:30 PM EST
Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church sign

Library of Congress

(CNN) -

September 15, 1963 -- A dynamite bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson.

1965 -- Birmingham FBI agents recommend that at least four suspects be charged with the bombing. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover blocks the prosecution of the suspects, saying the chance of winning a conviction was "remote."

1968 -- Federal authorities pull out of the investigation without charges being filed.

1971 -- Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopens the case.

September 26, 1977 -- Robert Chambliss, 73, a retired auto mechanic and former Ku Klux Klan member, is indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on four counts of first-degree murder.

November 18, 1977-- Chambliss is convicted of first-degree murder in connection with Carol's death and sentenced to life imprisonment.

1980 -- Jefferson County's district attorney reopens the case after a U.S. Justice Department report found that Hoover had blocked evidence that prosecutors could have used. No additional charges are filed.

October 29, 1985 -- Chambliss dies of natural causes at age 81 without ever publicly admitting any role in the bombing.

October, 1988 -- Federal and state prosecutors reopen their investigation into the church bombing after Gary A. Tucker, a former bus driver dying of cancer, said he helped set the bomb. No new charges are filed.

July 10, 1997 -- The FBI reopens its investigation into the bombing after a secret yearlong review.

May 4, 2000 -- A lawyer for longtime bombing suspect Bobby Frank Cherry says his client rejected a deal in which he would receive probation if he pleaded guilty to transporting explosives over state lines. Cherry, in jail in Texas on charges of raping his stepdaughter in 1971, continues to deny any involvement in the bombing.

May 17, 2000 -- Former Ku Klux Klan members Cherry and Thomas Blanton Jr. surrender to authorities after a Jefferson County, Alabama, grand jury indicts them on first-degree murder charges in connection with the 1963 bombing.

April 2, 2001 -- A judge rejects a request by lawyers for Blanton and Cherry to move the trial out of Birmingham. The defense argues that pretrial publicity and the emotional nature of the case warrant a change of venue. The men face life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

May 1, 2001 -- Blanton is found guilty of first-degree murder and is sentenced to four life terms.

May 22, 2002 -- Cherry is found guilty and given a sentence of four life terms.