Family of 16th St. bombing says victim's name is wrong - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Family of 16th St. bombing victim says name has been wrong for decades

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Cynthia Morris Cynthia Morris
BIRMINGHAM - AL -

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement.  It was a year of hardships - and victories that changed the nation. Part of the struggle was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. But now, the family of one of the four victims says there's a big mistake in how the girls are remembered.

There are markers all over the nation remembering the four girls who died that day.  The family of one of the girls - says her name on every one of those markers is wrong. They hope in this 50th anniversary, she's remembered as they knew her. 

"I was standing up for what I believed in," Fate Morris, Cynthia's brother said.

The events of 1963 are still vivid in Fate Morris' memory.

"Hosed down with a big, powerful water hose, chased by the dogs down there," Morris said.

Fate and his sister, Cynthia, were raised by a single mother.  In order to enter a better school, Cynthia stayed with Claude and Gertrude Wesley - who were unable to have children. She came home on weekends.

September 15, 1963 left the Morris' with a pain that hasn't faded.

"And then I heard - 'I've got another body over here but she has no head.' But I went home," Morris said. "My friend came by later on and said, 'what happened? You should have stayed. The girl they found with no head - that was your sister. But I didn't stay - I left her buried under all of those bricks."

"I first heard on TV they were calling her Cynthia Wesley," Morris said. "I asked my mother, does that bother you? And she said, yeah of course that bothers me."

The Wesley's  told Ms. Morris they would send a car to pick them up for the funeral. The car, never came.

"We waited a long time and we ended up taking a cab to the funeral," Morris said.

"Another family who you've befriended is going to help you, and you get to the church and you're sort of pushed aside so that these other people can stand by your daughter's casket?" Stephanie Engle, a researcher helping victims of 1963 said.

Fate says his mother was too deep in grief for a public fight with the Wesley's. The grave in Greenwood Cemetery reads Cynthia "Dionne" - but on her birth certificate, it's Cynthia Diane Morris.

"How do you live every day for 50 years knowing your sister was wrongly named?" Engle said. "It's murder followed by identity theft."

Fate used these papers to prove her identity and changed her death certificate. This year, the four girls were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. The name on the medal, "Cynthia Wesley."

"It shouldn't be that way," Sarah Collins Rudolph, who was in the church during the bombing and a friend of Cynthia's said. "She should have her name changed so she can be recognized in history with her real name."

"Initially, the Congressional Medal was a nice gesture," Engle said. "I really do. I think it was phenomenal. The problem is - you have to fix the problem first then award the recipients."

Fate says he hopes during this 50th commemoration - people will remember his sister as she was born. The goal now is to move her remains to the Morris family plot.

"Hearing her name used as Cynthia Wesley and not Cynthia Morris - I'm not crying about Cynthia Wesley, I'm crying about Cynthia Morris.... my sister," Morris said.

In an interview years later, Gertrude Wesley said they never fully adopted Cynthia. The Wesley's have passed away - along with most of their family members. A statue is being built in Kelly Ingram Park memorializing the four girls. We asked the city how her name would appear, but the city was not willing to comment.

 

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