Long Time Coming: An Insider’s Story of the Birmingham Church Bombing That Rocked The World

All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: © 2013 by The Estate of Petric J. Smith.

To start reading the book now, click here.

This website presents in full the original text of Long Time Coming: An Insider’s Story of the Birmingham Church Bombing That Rocked The World written by Elizabeth H. Cobbs/Petric J. Smith and published by Crane Hill Publishers in 1994.

The author died in 1998.

Crane Hill Publishers is no longer operating, and Long Time Coming is out-of-print. The Estate of Petric J. Smith is making this digital edition available so that the story of the long journey to the conviction of Robert Chambliss for the death of Denise McNair in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, is accessible to a wider audience.

To start reading the book now, click here. An annotated table of contents with links can be found under the tab titled “Table of Contents for Long Time Coming” at the top of this page.

Denise McNair was just one of the four girls killed on Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, and Robert Chambliss was not the only man responsible for this atrocity. But his conviction on November 18, 1977, over fourteen years later, was all the State of Alabama could manage, and without the testimony of Elizabeth H. Cobbs, even that would not have been possible.

The reasons for this neglectful failure of the City, State, and Federal Governments to aggressively pursue justice in this — and many, many other —  vicious acts of domestic terrorism during the Civil Rights Era and beyond are still emerging. The questions Cobbs/Smith raises in the final chapter of Long Time Coming have yet to be answered.

This is a story of moral courage, a quality too rarely encountered in our culture. Elizabeth Cobbs was the niece by marriage of Robert Chambliss, a violent sociopath, who was not just tolerated by a society in which racial hatred was considered reasonable but protected by the power structure that on paper was charged with serving all its citizens equally. Had Chambliss not been convicted, Cobbs would almost certainly have faced a hideous death. She put her life on the line.

Even with Chambliss’s conviction, Cobbs was shattered by this final trial in a life-long series of assaults: simply surviving in an extended family poisoned by the rabid hatred of her uncle, dealing with its secrets, lies, and threats, daily witnessing physical and emotional domestic abuse and knowing that as bad as he was toward his wife, Chambliss was much, much worse to anyone with black skin, and struggling all the while with poverty, the desire to get the education she had been denied, and to provide a better life as a single mom for her son.

This digital edition takes advantage of its formatting by adding hyperlinks to the text. New pictures, which unless otherwise noted are in the public domain and available at the Library of Congress’s website, have also been included.

Agents and publishers interested in securing the publications rights to Long Time Coming may write the Estate of Petric J. Smith at moonaged@outlook.com.


Header image is a detail of a photograph by Carol Highsmith of The Wales Window, which was donated to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church by the people of Wales to replace a window destroyed by the 1963 bombing of the church.

Credit:  The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. [LC-DIG-highsm-05063]Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

5 thoughts on “Long Time Coming: An Insider’s Story of the Birmingham Church Bombing That Rocked The World

  1. I grew up in the early sixties in Eaat Texas. I remember all of the racial hatred and segregation. My family regularly discussed what was happening in Birmingham around the dinner table. My maternal great great grandfather escaped Alabama and came to Texas to pick cotten. I was taught to memorize Addie Mae’s, Denise’s, Carol’s, and Cynthia’s names because of their great sacrifices. I never knew the story of how exactly Robert Chambliss was finally convicted. I never knew the pivotal role Cobbs/Smith played in securing that conviction. I am so grateful to him I just want to hug him!!! I know he paased away but I just wanted to express to SOMEONE just how much I enjoyed the book and the additional research I did about the sixties because if Mr. Smith. I am glad to know he has gone home to receive his just reward. Thank you again.

  2. I’ve been trying to reach the Estate of Petric J. Smith at the email address above, but with no reply. Can anyone help me reach them?

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