Ms Collins Rudolph was 12 years old when members of the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church, setting off an explosion that killed four other young Black girls, including her sister. Although she survived, Ms Collins Rudolph, who was called the "fifth little girl," lost her right eye and was hospitalized for two months after the attack.
In her letter to Ms Collins Rudolph's attorneys, Ms Ivey tried to make amends for the hateful attack, acknowledging that the survivor and the rest of the victims' families "suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades.
"For that," the Republican governor added, "they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology — an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation."
The gesture comes weeks after Ms Collins Rudolph and her lawyers pressed the governor to offer restitution for the decades of physical and emotional suffering she has endured. Ms Collins Rudolph said she was never offered an apology, medical treatment, counseling, or any recognition from state officials. Now that the US is again confronting systemic racism, her lawyers say the time is right for their client to receive "long overdue justice."
While the state of Alabama wasn't responsible for planting the bomb, Ms Collins Rudolph's lawyers acknowledged in their letter, its governor and other state leaders at the time "played an undisputed role in encouraging its citizens to engage in racial violence." The letter specifically named then-Gov George Wallace, who championed segregation throughout the South and, according to the lawyers, emboldened the bombers through "racist rhetoric." For those reasons and more, they wrote, Ms Collins Rudolph deserves restitution.
"She has born the burdens of the bombing for virtually her entire life, and we believe her story presents an especially meritorious and unique opportunity for the State of Alabama to right the wrongs that its past leaders encouraged and incited," the letter to Ms Ivey stated.
In her response, the governor invited Ms Collins Rudolph's lawyers to meet with attorneys from the state legislature to discuss the demands — though she did not promise any type of financial restitution. Ms Ivey wrote that beginning a conversation "without prejudice for what any final outcome might produce but with a goal of finding mutual accord" could be part of her administration's efforts to "foster fruitful conversations" about race.