A judge sided with the Obama administration today and ordered the early release from prison of a former Alabama politician whose daughter died in Birmingham's racist church bombing of 1963. US District Judge Lynwood Smith approved the release of Chris McNair after the Justice Department sought McNair's freedom on grounds of compassion. The judge said the 87-year-old should be freed because of his advanced age and deteriorating health.
McNair was part of the Jefferson County Commission that made deals resulting in a municipal bankruptcy over more than $4 billion in debts. The administration's request for leniency asked a judge to reduce McNair's five-year sentence to the time he has served since entering prison in 2011. He'll be out as soon as travel arrangements can be made. McNair is the father of Denise McNair, one of the four black girls killed when Ku Klux Klansmen bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. A bell from the landmark church was rung at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday during commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. (Read more Birmingham stories.)