By Toni Newborn, Interim Assistant Director – Complaint Investigations Division
The Southern Minnesota Regional Law Services (SMRLS) hosts an annual appreciation luncheon to highlight unique contributions to legal services for low-income persons from members of the legal and business communities. This annual event also allows SMRLS to trumpet some of its own achievements and spread the word regarding its important work. This year, on November 20, 2012, staff members of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department Complaint Investigation Division (MDCR, CID) attended the luncheon and experienced much more than delicious food.
The Luncheon was preceded by a presentation about the prosecution of the 16th Street Baptist church bombing case in Birmingham, Alabama. This horrific bombing in 1963, which resulted in the death of four girls proved to be a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. The presenters, former Alabama Attorney General William Baxley and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, made the recounting of the bombing so impactful because they had spent significant portions of their careers investigating and ultimately bringing the bombers to justice.
Mr. Jones and Mr., Baxley explained how four young girls were murdered in the bombing. They painted a clear picture of how this form of racial terrorism affected families across Birmingham and the United States. Finally, they recounted their painstaking efforts to track down and successfully prosecute the bombers after many years and indeed decades later.
The staff of the Civil Rights Department left the presentation feeling the intensity of this tragedy and its repercussions through society and across our legal landscape. Mr. Baxley and Mr. Jones captured the significance of this heartbreaking injustice through vivid stories, photos, video, and recordings from the people most intimately involved.
The work of Mr. Baxley and Mr. Jones has become intertwined with this piece of living American History. It was a great honor to visit with them and thank them following the presentation. They stood bravely on the side of social justice as did so many others who have sacrificed so much to move the ball forward in an ongoing fight for equality and civil rights.