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President Kennedy Issues Statement on Birmingham Church Bombing

Sept. 16, 1963 - President Kennedy issued a statement today that suggested that Governor George Wallace of Alabama was responsible for the violence and deaths in Birmingham yesterday. The President expressed a “deep sense of outrage and grief” over the church bombings that killed four Negro children. He went on: “It is regrettable that public disparagement of law and order has encouraged violence which has fallen on the innocent.” The reference to “public disparagement of law and order” was considered an unmistakable allusion to the Governor’s action last week in frustrating court orders for the desegregation of public schools in Birmingham, Tuskegee, Huntsville, and Mobile. Mr. Kennedy at that time finally called the Alabama National Guard into Federal service and Governor Wallace ended his defiance of the Federal courts. Negro leaders have called for the occupation of Birmingham by regular Army troops as a federal grand jury was ordered to probe the city’s racial troubles. U.S. District Judge Clarence Allgood, a native of Birmingham, summoned the grand jury into special session to indict anyone obstructing court-ordered desegregation of Birmingham’s school. Today, after consultations with Burke Marshall, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, who is in Birmingham, the President and the Attorney General concluded that there was no immediate basis for sending Federal forces to Birmingham. The situation in Birmingham was described by an Administration spokesman as “very, very tense.”


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