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Celebration of Life for Maxine McNair, mother of girl killed in Birmingham church bombing

Maxine McNair with her daughter, Denise, who was killed at age 11 in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church. (CONTRIBUTED)

 By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

The Celebration of Life services for Maxine McNair, the last living parent of one of the four girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, will be held Saturday, January 8 at 11 a.m. at New Hope Baptist Church. Visitation will be from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Davenport and Harris Funeral Home in Titusville.

Mrs. McNair died Sunday, Jan. 2. She was 93.

Birmingham City Councilors on Tuesday honored McNair.

“Mrs. McNair, as most of you know, was the mother of Denise McNair, who was one of the four little girls killed in the Sixteenth Street Church bombing in 1963,” said Council President Wardine Alexander. “Mrs. McNair was a matriarch of social justice in our city, incredible wife and mother who imparted love and wisdom on hundreds of young minds during her long tenure . . . Mrs. McNair and her family lived around the corner from me, so just growing up and witnessing her strength as a mother, as a wife, and just knowing the great loss [of her daughter] she had but the blessings that she had in her other children.”

Mrs. McNair is survived by daughters Lisa McNair and Kimberly Brock.

Alexander added, “I never met anyone who didn’t think so well and so fondly of Mrs. McNair and her family . . . so we wrap our arms around the McNair family today.”

Denise McNair, 11, was killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing with 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Rosamond Robertson and Cynthia Dionne Wesley.

Council President Pro Tempore Crystal Smitherman shared the story of her mother, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Carole Smitherman’s, friendship with Denise and how that shaped her mom’s life.

“Denise McNair was actually my mom’s best friend growing up. I don’t know if you guys have heard the story. [My mother has] been on a couple of documentaries. She was actually supposed to go with [Denise] that day, but my granny told her she couldn’t go. She had to clean up her room. She says to this day, she doesn’t really understand. Maybe [my granny] knew, but I know that’s had an impact on [my mother], and that’s part of the reason why she became a prosecutor and a judge, growing up, so I think it’s very significant that we do this resolution for her and just acknowledge that Birmingham is the birthright of Civil Rights.”

Times staff writer Ryan Michaels contributed to this post.