Bobby Frank Cherry, convicted of killing four black girls in a racially motivated bombing of a Birmingham, Ala. church in 1963, died Thursday in prison. He was 74.
Cherry died about 3:30 p.m. in the hospital unit at Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery, a Department of Corrections spokesman said. The cause of death was not announced.
Cherry was convicted in May 2002 and sentenced to life in prison in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a gathering place for civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham.
Cherry, a former Marine trained in demolition, was among three former Ku Klux Klan members convicted in the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing, which killed the four girls -- Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, all 14 -- as they were preparing to take part in a Sunday morning service.
Collins’ sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, lost an eye in the blast, but her husband expressed sorrow that Cherry had died.
“I hope he was saved. I hope he repented,” George C. Rudolph said.
Cherry had been ill and complained last summer that he was not receiving proper treatment and was being held as a political prisoner.
Thomas Blanton was convicted in 2001 and is serving a life prison sentence. Robert Chambliss, convicted in 1977, also died in prison. Cherry and Blanton were prosecuted after new evidence, including FBI files, became available.
Cherry’s daughter, Karen Sunderland, said the family would take Cherry’s body to Texas, where she lives and where her father had moved before his arrest and trial, for burial.