Blanton, 78, was not convicted until 2001, four decades after he took part in the bombing that killed four black girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church. He is serving four back-to-back life sentences for his crime at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, and has reportedly not accepted responsibility or expressed remorse for the bombing, but sought to be released to die as a free man. His petition was denied by an Alabama parole board on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.
Those present at the hearing reportedly greeted the news with applause.
Two other KKK members were also convicted in the bombings, and have died in prison. Blanton was convicted in part thanks to furtive recordings made by a KKK friend of his who became an informant for the FBI. Blanton bragged about the bombing in the tapes, using offensive language and saying, “I was on the corner watching the big blast” and “They ain’t going to catch me when I bomb my next church.”
The four victims, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11, were posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2013.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr.’s age. It is 78.