Reverend Petric J. Smith – Transman and Birmingham Civil Rights Hero
Born in Birmingham in 1940, Petric J. Smith (née Elizabeth H. Cobbs) grew up on the north side of the city and attended its public schools. His mother’s sister Flora “Tee” married Robert “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss, who lived not far from the home where Petric (then Elizabeth) resided for a number of years with his grandmother and other family members.
Smith held a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and religion from Birmingham-Southern College. He studied for the ministry and, in 1977, became the first female Methodist minister appointed to an urban congregation in Alabama. He pastored two United Methodist churches in Jefferson County and Birmingham during the late 1970s.
He worked closely with the FBI during the four year investigation of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, which killed four young girls in 1963. When Alabama Attorney General William Baxley re-opened the bombing case in 1976, Smith again became involved. He subsequently appeared as a star witness for the prosecution against his uncle. “Dynamite Bob” was convicted of murder in November 1977…the only conviction in the case.
After that trial, threats and harassment from Ku Klux Klan members and others forced Smith to flee the city. His transition occurred thereafter.
For more information, check out the book “Long Time Coming” by Elizabeth H. Cobbs and Petric J. Smith, Crane Hill Publishers, 1994. (Note that the book had only one author; E. H. Cobbs was Petric's birth name).
From the book’s back cover:
“Long Time Coming is the story of a courageous woman who braved a very real threat of death to stand up and speak out for truth and justice. It is also a revealing inside account of one of the most vicious hate crimes in history – the bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, in which four little girls were brutally murdered. The insights of Ms. Cobbs, a niece of one of the perpetrators, whose testimony has resulted in the only conviction in this case, ought to be of interest to everyone who cares about creating a society free from the threat of racist violence.”
- Coretta Scott King
The information above was excerpted from the book's covers by the Alabama Gender Alliance, and used in a flyer at their booth at Central Alabama Pride 2008.
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