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16th Street Church Bomber Eligible for Parole, State Offers Tax Amnesty Program

16th Street Baptist Church bombing
Investigation following 16th Street Baptist Church bombing

A former Ku Klux Klan member convicted in a church bombing that killed four black girls is up for parole in Alabama.

The state parole board has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday for 78-year-old Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. Blanton won't attend the hearing, but opponents of his release are expected to address the board.

Blanton was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 for his part in a group of Klansmen who planted a bomb outside Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. The deaths of the four girls who were killed became a symbol worldwide of the depth of racial hatred in the segregated South.

Blanton was the second of three people convicted in the bombing. Robert Chambliss and Bobby Frank Cherry both died in prison.

Alabamians who haven’t paid their taxes have a chance to come clean.  

The Alabama Department of Revenue is running an amnesty program for people to help fix their tax issues without penalties. For the rest of August, taxpayers who qualify will be able to get an understanding of what they owe and work toward a clean slate with the state.

Julie Magee is the Alabama Revenue Commissioner. She says she would like to see people come out and make an effort to fix their tax issues.

“If they want to get right with the state, we will help them in a non-intimidating, non-threatening way; no legal action, no litigation, all we’re going to do is settle up with them and put them on the path for being in compliance going forward.”

Magee says it takes very limited qualifications to be accepted into the program. This is the first time the program has been offered since 1980. The amnesty program ends August 30th.

With the Zika virus appearing in the United States, a group of blood centers in Alabama is now actively testing for the disease.  APR student reporter Cole Thompson has more.

The One Blood company operates blood banks in southern Alabama as well as Florida and Georgia. These centers are now testing blood donations for the Zika virus. This follows reports that a woman in Florida came in contact with the virus.

Susan Forbes is the Vice President of Communications at One Blood. She says her company has been working on a proactive plan for over a year.

“The folks at the blood center have been working diligently to be ready for this moment, and so basically when the test became available, we applied to be able to use that test. We received that approval and then we started to train our employees on it.”

Forbes says the company will test all blood donors for the virus and will contact them if they test positive for Zika.

The mayor of Birmingham hopes to have a city civil rights landmark recognized on a national scale.

This week, Mayor William Bell plans to ask President Barack Obama to issue an executive order designating the AG Gaston Freedom Center and Civil Rights District as a National Historic Park. reports the mayor plans to make the request this week.

Earlier this year, the Birmingham City Council approved a $10 million proposal to restore the former A.G. Gaston Motel and build a Freedom Center. The legendary “war room” of the motel will be returned to its 1963 state. The mayor’s office says every local college in Birmingham has agreed to use classroom space at the facility as part of civil rights curriculums at each school.

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