2019-05-11 03:47:00 UTC
Chris McNair, former commissioner, father of bombing victim, dead at 93
Updated May 8, 2019;
Posted May 8, 2019
By Howard Koplowitz | ***@al.com
Chris McNair, the father of one the girls killed in a 1963 church bombing and who was later elected to the Jefferson County Commission and imprisoned for bribery, has died. He was 93.
“Mr. McNair and his family are forever tied to our country’s civil-rights legacy,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement. “When he tragically lost his daughter, Denise, in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, his courage and fortitude fueled our march for peace. He was the consummate family man, showcasing an unconditional love for humanity that paved the way for social justice in Birmingham and in our nation.”
McNair, a Fordyce, Ark. native, was the father of Denise McNair, killed in the KKK’s bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963.
“He took it with grace,” said state Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, a longtime friend of McNair’s, about Denise’s death.
“He was a great person and I’m going to miss him,” Rogers said. “He was a great guy, a great friend.”
Rogers noted that McNair was one of the first blacks on the county commission and in Montgomery, where McNair was a state representative in the 1970s.
A photographer who was later elected to the Jefferson County Commission, McNair was convicted of bribery and conspiracy to solicit bribes in April 2006 in connection with Jefferson County sewer construction. He also pleaded guilty in February 2007 to soliciting $140,000 in other sewer construction bribes from contractors.
The bribery charges centered on money and services provided by contractors for construction on McNair's photography studio. McNair contended that the money and help from sewer contractors stemmed from friendship and not some quid pro quo to get business from the county.
When McNair reported to prison on June 6, 2011, he was the last to go to prison of 21 people convicted in public corruption cases involving the sewer system construction and financing for the project. Four of the defendants were given probation, and the remainder received various prison sentences.
McNair lost appeals to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court before being ordered to prison to begin serving his sentence. While in prison McNair was required to have a portion of his monthly Jefferson County pension garnished to help pay the $425,000 in court-ordered restitution he owed the county.
U.S. District Court Judge Lynwood Smith in August 2013 issued an order for McNair’s release from the federal medical facility in Rochester, Minn., where he was serving his five year sentence.
His release came just before the 50th anniversary of the church bombing. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., was McNair’s attorney at the time and helped secure his release.