BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) 40 years later, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and former Mayor Richard Arrington come together to honor and remember the life of Bonita Beatrice Carter.
She was a woman whose death caused by police brutality sparked an issue that is credited for launching a successful bid for then council member Richard Arrington to become Birmingham’s first African American Mayor.
“Birmingham’s transition began with the death of Bonita Carter.” says, Former Mayor Richard Arrington as Bonita Carter’s life and legacy were remembered and honored in a special ceremony Thursday.
WATCH: Bonita Carter Memorial Ceremony with Birmingham Mayor Woodfin and Former Mayor Richard Arrington
June 22, 1979, 20-year-old Bonita Beatrice Carter was shot and killed by a Birmingham Police Officer, who was responding to an altercation at Jerry’s Convenience Store in the Stockham neighborhood near Kingston.
Carter was just two blocks from the home she shared with her parents when this tragic shooting happened. Bonita was a member of Parker Memorial Baptist Church and a graduate of C.W. Hayes High School.
The night of the tragic incident, Bonita had committed no crime but was accompanying a man who had been arguing with the store’s clerk and was getting into his car when Officer Sands shot her.
Even though she was shot several times at close range, a citizen review board ruled that Sands’ actions were justified.
That finding, and then Birmingham Mayor David Vann’s subsequent support for Sands, provoked mass demonstrations and reignited protests against suspected systematic brutality against African Americans.
Bonita Carter’s death sparked civil unrest and weeks of protest in the streets of Birmingham.
The Kingston neighborhood itself became ground zero for people on both sides of the issue looking to make trouble.
Tensions rose as a group of white citizens brandishing arms drove through Kingston to show support for Sands. Gunfire shot in the air and one person was injured by a thrown brick and several people were arrested in the area.
A group of 50 whites, including members of the Ku Klux Klan confronted 25 picketers at a store owned by Jerry Huff, who also owned the store where Carter was shot. Police were able to keep the groups separated, though taunts and slurs continued to be hurled.
Bonita Carter’s death would forever change politics in Birmingham, largely influencing Dr. Richard Arrington to run for mayor and ultimately becoming elected as the first African-American mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.
Thursday, October 24, 2019, 40 years later Mayor Woodfin and Former Mayor Arrington, honored and remembered the life of Bonita Beatrice Carter. A young woman who was gone too soon, but whose life changed the dynamic of the Magic City forever. Rest in Peace Bonita Beatrice Carter. Gone but definitely not forgotten.