Senate Agrees to Posthumously Award Congressional Gold Medal to Birmingham Victims

The Senate swiftly passed a bill today posthumously awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to four young victims of violence in the Civil Rights Era.

Addie Mae Collins, 14, Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14, were killed on Sept. 15, 1963, during the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor. Alabama Republican Richard Shelby introduced the measure in the Senate.

“As the 50th anniversary of this tragedy approaches, I believe that awarding the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award bestowed upon civilians by the United States Congress, is an appropriate way to honor the memories of the victims," Shelby said. "Their deaths continue to serve as a reminder of the struggle for freedom and equality for which many sacrificed their lives.”

The House approved the bill, introduced by Reps. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), on April 25.

“The 50th anniversary of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing marks one of the most tragic events in our state’s history and the impetus for immense social and cultural change. We will never forget those young innocent lives, murdered because of the color of their skin," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

"Birmingham is to be commended for the way it has fully acknowledged the enormity of this wrong in its past and has been a leader worldwide in the promotion of racial reconciliation. An excellent example of that, among others, is the 'Birmingham Pledge' which calls on all people to treat everyone with dignity and respect and to end social prejudice," Sessions continued. "This Congressional Gold Medal is a lasting tribute to their precious memory.”