Congressional Gold Medal Bill honors ‘Four Little Girls’

U.S. President Barack Obama (5th from l) signs a bill in the Oval Office designating the Congressional Gold Medal to commemorate the four young girls killed during the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, as (l to r) Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Dr Sharon Malone Holder, Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Thelma Pippen McNair, mother of Denise McNair, Lisa McNair, sister of Denise McNair and Dianne Braddock, sister of Carole Robertson look on May 24 in Washington, D.C. The medal, the highest Congressional civilian honor, was given posthumously to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair who died September 15, 1963 when a bomb planted by White supremacists exploded at the church
(photo by Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty Images).

Special from the Greene County Democrat

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (NNPA) — U.S. Rep. Terri A. Sewell (Ala.-07) joined President Barack Obama at the White House for a bill signing ceremony for the Congressional Gold Medal Bill honoring the ‘Four Little Girls.’ H.R. 360 passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on April 24 by a vote of 420-0.

Rep. Sewell and Rep. Spencer Bachus (Ala.-06) introduced the bill along with the entire Alabama delegation and Alabama natives Rep. John Lewis (Ga.-05) and Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.-02).

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved H.R. 360 on May 9. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who garnered co-sponsorship from over two-thirds of the Senate, introduced the Senate version of the bill along with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

Also in attendance at the bill signing ceremony were the following: Surgeon General Regina Benjamin; Birmingham Mayor William Bell; Rev. Arthur Price, Jr., pastor of the 16th Street Baptist Church; Dianne Braddock, the sister of Carole Robertson; and Lisa and Maxine McNair, the sister and mother of Denise McNair.

“I applaud President Obama for signing the Congressional Gold Medal Bill to honor the lives of Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. I am pleased that this nation has finally honored the sacrifices of these four little girls that ignited the spark, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And though we will never be able to replace the lives lost or the injuries suffered, this medal will serve as a compelling reminder of the sacrifices so many freedom fighters made to help us achieve equality and social change,” said Rep. Sewell.

“This Congressional Gold Medal will commemorate the legacy of four beautiful little girls whose lives, while far too short, led to permanent change in our society and who are part of the honor roll of the civil rights movement. The fact that this moved from being a legislative proposal to a law signed by the president in such a relatively short period of time is a recognition of the historic significance of 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and its aftermath. It was a pleasure to work with Congresswoman Sewell and our entire Alabama delegation in the House and Senate on this deserved honor,” said Rep. Bachus.

“Thanks to Congresswoman Sewell and Congressman Bachus along with the entire Alabama delegation for wanting to have this recognition and for pursuing it in Congress as well as ensuring that the bill was passed by the house and Senate. I’m very grateful. I’m sure the country will be grateful for their vision and diligence in awarding this honor to the four little girls,” said Dianne Braddock, sister of Carole Robertson.

“What a glorious day. This makes us feel so good. We are so grateful to Congresswoman Sewell and Congressman Bachus for their continued efforts to pass this bill. It has also been such a pleasure to meet the first African American president. I look forward to the ceremony in the fall,” said Lisa McNair, sister of Denise McNair.

Later in the fall, there will be a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in the U.S. Capitol.