It should have been the best of times. The South, suppressed economically since Appomattox by Northern interests, in the 1950s was enjoying the sunshine of unprecedented prosperity. The G.I. Bill educated a workforce that attracted business and investment to the area as never before. Schools, churches, and government benefitted from the rising economic tide. All should have been well. Nevertheless, the cruelties of black subjugation fueled a growing civil rights movement that inflamed institutionalized white racism. Nearly all institutions that should have opposed racial intolerance—the Christian Church, government, law enforcement, education—failed. White racial prejudice, always pervasive, coalesced into a politics of hate unseen since Reconstruction. Violent white extremists were given virtually a free hand, and, particularly in Birmingham, their ferocity was appalling. Bombings and murder became almost routine, escalating to "a national turning point known…as the year of Birmingham, 1963," with demolition of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and the killing of four young girls attending Sunday services there. The murders galvanized fence-sitting moderates and mobilized a national countermandate against Birmingham’s white establishment, most notoriously characterized by Police Chief Eugene "Bull" Connor. From there began a (very) slow renunciation of racism and decline of extremism.