WASHINGTON -- Nearly 50 years ago, white supremacists planted a bomb in a Birmingham, Ala., church that killed four young girls preparing to worship, an act of terror that shocked the nation and propelled Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Now, two members of the U.S. House from Birmingham want to honor those victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow.
Democrat Terri Sewel and Republican Spencer Bachus announced the effort to award the medal to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were 14 when they were killed, and Denise McNair, who was 11.
They were in a group of 26 children entering the church basement on Sept. 15, 1963, when dynamite equipped with a timer detonated.
In the aftermath, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a eulogy for the "martyred children."