Behind the Scenes of the Birmingham Alabama Bombing Medal Deserves Praise

The extraordinary efforts of the employees of the United States Mint to design, manufacture and distribute a Congressional Gold medal in just three months included a few firsts that could now be reported since the medal has been awarded. (PLEASE NOTE: The quickest Congressional Medal was for Pope John Paul II Congressional Gold Medal Act (PL 106-250, July 27, 2000). The Mint produced the Gold Medal in seven days.

Don Everhart’s sketch of the Birmingham Alabama medal is depicted here for the first time. Everhart redesigned one of the options presented to the CCAC after listening attentively to everyone’s comments. His skill as an artist and his ability to incorporate the ideas of other people shine through this sketch.

A member of Congress addressed the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee; the Mint’s top artist sketched a design for the medal at a public meeting; and the teamwork of a newly constituted senior staff at the US Mint showed the full flowering of the positive changes that have been made at the Mint since January 6, 2012.

The people of the United States commemorated the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963 with the award of the Congressional Gold medal to the four children who were killed–Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were all 14, and Denise McNair, who was 11. While their sacrifice will never be forgotten, their memory will now be forever preserved in gold and bronze because of the diligent efforts of so many.

President Barak Obama signed PL 113-11 into law on May 24, 2013. A gold medal was designed and approved by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the Commission of Fine Arts, as required by law. Finally, it was selected by the Secretary of the Treasury in enough time to be sculpted and minted at the Philadelphia Mint. The price premium for any private mint to meet these deadlines would have been enormous if it was possible at all.

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala and Richard Peterson, Acting Director of the United Sates Mint are shown here addressing the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. This was the first time a member of Congress has personally addressed the CCAC.

Now that the award has been presented and the solemnity of the event is a part of American history, it is important to appreciate the efforts of so many people who made this possible. Heading the list is Rosie Rios, Treasurer of the United States, and Richard Peterson, Acting Director of the United States Mint.  They have selected a new top management team that has totally transformed the U.S. Mint from the dysfunctional bureaucracy it was just two years ago to manufacturing company that can compete favorable to any private Mint in the world.

The Mint staff skillfully managed the complex processes riddled with passionate people, artistic divas (that includes me) with divergent tastes, and big government “can’t do” bureaucrats. Consequently, they were able to convert an idea expressed by legislation to the reality of a U.S. Mint manufactured product in a little over three months.

Seen in this picture are relatives of those who died in the bombing of the First Baptist Church of Alabama in 1963 and members of the Committee that worked hard for passage of the legislation to commemorate that event.

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala took the unprecedented measure of personally expressing the importance of the congressional gold medal to the members of the CCAC. She spoke with conviction and persuasiveness that moved many members of the committee. Her appearance at the committee meeting made a strong, favorable impression.

Following the congresswoman’s address, the CCAC deliberated and participated with Don Everhart, the Mint’s top artist, in a redesign of the CCAC’s top pick. The Mint staff listened attentively to all comments by the public and by the committee. They went to unprecedented lengths to satisfy all interests, including the artistic interests to accomplish the Congressional mandate to produce a fitting national commemorative medal of this important event.