58 Years Ago, Virgil Lamar Ware Was Murdered While Riding on the Handlebars of His Brother’s BicycleSep 16, 2021 10:00AM ● By Kassidy Garland
On September 15, 1963, the city of Birmingham, AL was rocked by the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The explosion killed 4 young girls, shocking the nation and causing outrage. Nicknamed “Bombingham”, Birmingham, AL was one of the most segregated cities in the country and was known for its extremely violent KKK chapter. While the tragedy of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing covered the front of every newspaper, the murder of Virgil Lamar was swept to the side.
Virgil Lamar Ware was born on December 6, 1949, in Pratt City, a section of Birmingham, AL. The third of 6 boys, Virgil was a straight A’s, eighth- grade student, football player, and aspiring lawyer. Ware, just hours after the bombing, was cast aside. On the evening of September 15th, Virgil was riding on the handlebars of his older brother’s bicycle. They were on their way back from the store, unaware that the bombing had occurred, when they encountered Larry Joe Sims and Michael Lee Farley, both age 16, riding a red motorbike.
Sims and Farley were on their way home from a segregationist rally, and were carrying a .22 revolver. Farley suggested that Sims shoot off a few rounds to scare the brothers, and so Sims shot twice with his eyes closed. Virgil Ware was shot once in the cheek and a second time in the chest. The thirteen-year-old died in the middle of the street right in front of his older brother’s eyes.
Jefferson County sheriff's detectives Dan Jordan and J.A. McAlpine were assigned to the case. Based on a tip from another police officer, the detectives were led to the home of Michael Farley, who claimed that he had no knowledge of what had happened. When Sims was questioned, he confessed through tears, stating that he shot with his eyes closed and didn’t mean to kill anyone.
The two boys were arrested and charged with first-degree murder. A few months later, Sims was convicted by an all-White jury for second-degree murder. Farley pleaded guilty to the same charge. Both Farley and Sims were sentenced to 7 months in jail, but the sentence was suspended. The boys only ended up serving probation and were released from supervision by 1965. It wasn’t until decades later that Sims and Farley apologized to the Ware family.
Virgil Ware was buried in an unmarked grave on the side of the road until 2004, when donations allowed the family to move him to a proper burial site with a bronze marker.
Kassidy Garland has had a great appreciation for reading and writing since she was young. She graduated from West Chester University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English & Women and Gender Studies. With a concentration in creative writing, Kassidy has 5 years of experience writing blogs, articles, and for social media. Kassidy is also pursuing a Master’s degree in IT with a concentration in Web Development. Based out of Philadelphia, Kassidy loves to write about a number of topics and looks forward to sharing her passion with those at FunTimes Magazine.
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