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Sen. Doug Jones on prosecuting 2 white supremacists behind 1963 Birmingham Church bombing

Doug Jones on prosecuting 2 white supremacists
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones recounts prosecuting 2 white supremacists after 1963 Birmingham Church bombing 05:50

While recounting Southern politicians during the civil rights era in an interview Monday night on CBSN's "Red & Blue," Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said he's concerned history might repeat itself.

"Those folks empowered people," Jones told CBSN anchor Elaine Quijano. "They empowered people who would not otherwise commit a bombing or a murder to do those kind of things and get away with it. I'm worried that we're seeing some of that today."

Before his days in office, Jones was influential in a pair of landmark civil rights trials.

While a U.S. Attorney in the early 2000s, Jones brought two white supremacists to justice for the deadly 1963 Birmingham Church bombing. The attack killed four young African American girls: Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Roberston.

Victims of the 1963 Birmingham Church bombing. CBS News

Jones helped successfully put Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. behind bars, nearly 40 years after the bombing occurred. Jones said Birmingham had an "open sore" during the decades leading up to the prosecution. 

"This was the death of four children, in a house of worship, and people felt like that wrong needed to be made right," Jones added. 

Sen. Doug Jones on CBSN's "Red & Blue" on Mon., March 18, 2019. CBS News

Jones underscored the importance of reflecting on racial injustices from the era. In October of last year, Jones and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act.

The bipartisan legislation would re-open records from unsolved cases regarding racially motivated crimes. Jones says in a lot of instances, most of the witnesses or defendants are no longer be alive, but bringing light to their stories would still prove valuable. 

"It's a recognition that we can't always bring these cases to justice anymore," Jones said. 

"But we can learn a lot of lessons today, about what happened in the fifties and sixties."

All Points Books

Jones is the author of a recent book recounting his time prosecuting the Birmingham bombing white supremacists. In "Bending Toward Justice," Jones also describes his political rise as a democratic politician in what has been considered a Republican stronghold state.  

In 2017, Jones became the first democrat in 25 years to clinch an Alabama U.S. senate seat. Critics have called Jones' special election victory a fluke after his opponent, Roy Moore, was accused of sexual misconduct. Jones faces re-election in 2020, but asserts he's ready to hold onto his seat no matter the opponent. 

"It is going to be tough, I recognize that," said Jones. "I think all of politics these days is going to be very tribal going into 2020. We're just going to bust through that and continue doing what we're doing."

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