VanPac News History

Copyright 1989 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.  
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

December 21, 1989, THURSDAY, THREE STAR Edition


LENGTH: 707 words


SOURCE: The Associated Press


MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. (AP) - Bomb-sniffing dogs and squadrons of police provided tight security Wednesday as mourners paid their respects to a federal appeals judge killed by the first in a series of mail bombs. St. Luke's Episcopal Church was filled to overflowing with more than 700 people, who were urged to put aside their anger over the killing long enough to remember the work of U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Robert Vance. Dogs searched the church before the service, and dozens of officers kept watch during the 35-minute program of scripture, hymns and a eulogy. Vance, 58, a member of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court and a former chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, was killed instantly Saturday when the Bomb exploded in his home, propelling nails into his lower abdomen. His wife, Helen, was injured in the bombing and remained hospitalized Wednesday. A similar Bomb two days later killed a civil rights lawyer in Savannah, Ga., city Alderman Robert Robinson. A package Bomb was found in the Atlanta courthouse including the 11th Circuit on Monday, and a fourth mailed Bomb was removed Tuesday from the headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The FBI said Wednesday that all four bombs had Georgia postmarks or return addresses. pN hJ Ca All four targets can be linked to school desegregation efforts by the NAACP, leading investigators to speculate that a white racist group may be responsible. These factors were being considered: The 11th Circuit hears federal appeals from Georgia, Florida and Alabama, including desegregation cases. Vance wrote a decision in September in which the appeals court ruled in favor of the Jacksonville NAACP in its desegregation suit against Jacksonville schools. Robinson was the Savannah NAACP's local counsel and had helped with an NAACP suit against the Savannah schools. The NAACP lost that case at the 11th Circuit; the three-judge panel that heard the case did not include Vance. Robinson had also advised the Jacksonville NAACP chapter in its desegregation case, according to a Jacksonville activist, the Rev. Fred Newbill. At Vance's service, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Clifford Fulford of Birmingham, a close friend of Vance, delivered the eulogy, asking the mourners to ''put aside our outrage for a while'' to honor Vance. ''The assassins were cheated if they thought that Bob Vance was afraid to die,'' Fulford said. He described Vance as a strong believer in the law and a man ''who stood up for the underdog and the oppressed.'' Among those who attended the service were FBI Director William S. Sessions, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the justice who oversees the operations of the 11th Circuit.

GRAPHIC: Photo; AP Photo - NAACP officials and other local black leaders holding a press conference in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday. A Bomb was received in the mail at the local office on Tuesday.