The man convicted of the murder of four girls in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham has died at the Kilby Correctional Facility.
The bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963 killing Denise McNair, age 11; Carole Robertson, age 14; Addie Mae Collins, age 14, and Cynthia Wesley, age 14.
Cherry was indicted in 2000 and the former Klansman was convicted of the bombing in 2002 and was serving four consecutive life sentences. Cherry sometimes claimed he was a "political prisoner."
The prosecutor who made convicting Cherry a top priority got the news while conducting a discussion on Birmingham's racial history at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones says its difficult to mourn Cherry, but says he was glad the Klansman lived long enough for justice to be served.
Cherry didn't face the possibility of death row because his case was governed by the laws of 1963, the year of the bombing. At that time a moratorium on the death penalty had been declared.
Two other Klansmen were convicted earlier in the bombing and another died before he was charged. For many people who followed the case closely, Cherry's conviction meant the end of a long and hard fought struggle to solve a crime almost four decades old.
Important dates in the investigation of the 1963 bombing are listed below as compiled by the Associated Press.
-- September 15, 1963: Dynamite bomb explodes outside Sunday services at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, and injuring 20 others.
-- May 13, 1965: FBI memorandum to director J. Edgar Hoover concludes the bombing was the work of former Ku Klux Klansmen Robert E. Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Frank Cash and Thomas E. Blanton, Jr.
-- 1968: FBI closes its investigation without filing charges.
-- 1971: Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopens investigation.
-- November 18, 1977: Chambliss convicted on a state murder charge and sentenced to life in prison.
-- 1980: Justice Department report concludes Hoover had blocked prosecution of the Klansmen in 1965.
-- October 29, 1985: Chambliss dies in prison, still professing his innocence.
-- 1988: Alabama Attorney General Don Siegelman reopens the case, which is closed without action.
-- 1993: Birmingham-area black leaders meet with FBI, agents secretly begin new review of case.
-- February 7, 1994: Cash dies.
-- July 1997: Cherry interrogated in Texas; FBI investigation becomes public knowledge.
-- October 27, 1998: Federal grand jury in Alabama begins hearing evidence.
-- May 17, 2000: Blanton and Cherry surrender on murder indictments returned by grand jury in Birmingham.
-- April 10, 2001: Judge delays Cherry trial, citing defendant's medical problems amid questions over his mental competency.
-- May 1, 2001: Blanton convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
-- January 3, 2002: Judge rules Cherry competent to stand trial after period of confinement in state institution.
-- May 21, 2002: Jury of nine whites and three blacks convicts Cherry of murder, sentenced automatically to life in prison.