Former KKK member convicted in deadly bombing up for parole

This undated file photo shows Alabama inmate Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., a one-time Ku Klux Klansman convicted in the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls in Birmingham, Ala. Alabama's parole board is scheduled to consider Blanton for early release during a meeting on Aug. 3. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. was a young Ku Klux Klansman with a reputation for hating blacks in 1963, when a bomb ripped a hole in the side of 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four black girls during the civil rights movement.

Today, Blanton is old and imprisoned, the last survivor among three one-time KKK members convicted of murder in the bombing. Soon, Alabama's parole board will decide whether Blanton deserves to be free after serving 15 years of a life term for murder.

The board has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to consider parole for the 78-year-old Blanton. Inmates are not allowed to attend parole hearings in Alabama, but opponents of Blanton's release are expected to address the three-person board when it meets in Montgomery.

The president of the Alabama NAACP, Bernard Simelton, said releasing Blanton at a time when protests are occurring nationwide over police killings of black people would send a horrible message.