Art Hanes Biography

Mayor, Lawyer (1916–1997)
Art Hanes was the one-time Birmingham, Alabama mayor who closed city parks rather than comply with federal desegregation laws.


Born on October 19, 1916, Art Hanes went on to become the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama. He became notorious for his vitriolic, racist statements and closing city parks in order to defy a federal ruling declaring segregation illegal. He later worked as a lawyer and was known for representing Robert Chambliss, James Earl Ray and Ku Klux Klan members. He died on May 8, 1997.

Hindering Civil Rights

Art Hanes, born on October 19, 1916, gained notoriety for his support of segregation in the United States during the 1960s. He served as mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, from 1961 to 1963, as part of the city commission. During his tenure, Hanes actively opposed racial integration. The city was ordered by a federal court to open its parks and other public places to all residents in 1961. In response to this order, Hanes and the rest of the city commission decided to cut all funding to these facilities instead of allowing blacks and whites to use the same pools, playgrounds and golf courses.

Later Life

After his term ended, Hanes worked as a lawyer for a number of years. He became involved in several infamous cases. Hanes represented Robert Chambliss who was tried for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which killed four young African-American girls. The case floundered for years before Chambliss was finally convicted in 1977.

In 1965, Hanes represented three Ku Klux Klan members accused of murdering civil rights worker Viola Gregg Liuzzo. He successfully defended them in state court, but they were later convicted on federal charges related to the murder.

Working with his son, Arthur Hanes Jr., Hanes also served as co-counsel for James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968. Ray dismissed them on the day his trial was supposed to begin??a move that is believed to have been an effort to stall the trial. Ray later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Hanes died on May 8, 1997, in Birmingham, Alabama, at the age of 80.

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