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‘Sins of Father’ tells of a son’s struggle

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NEW YORK — Most of all, Tom Cherry just wants it to be done with. But that's a tall order.

For one thing, a new film on cable's FX network is inviting fresh attention to his unrelenting nightmare: the struggle since boyhood for approval from his father as he came to grips with his father's possible involvement in a vicious crime four decades ago.

"It's always gonna be there," says Cherry of his pain. "But I'm not one to run from something."

Premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. MST, "Sins of the Father" is the story of this man, now 49, who's spent a lifetime "kind of in the shadow of the thing."

Ever since his troubled youth in Birmingham, Ala., Cherry has lived with the gnawing suspicion that the father he once idolized was among a group of Klansmen who planted a bomb that ripped through a black Baptist Church.

That explosion the morning of Sept. 15, 1963, left four girls dead and horrified the nation.

Then . . . nothing. Decades passed.

But two years ago, in large part thanks to Tom Cherry's testimony, his father was indicted for murder.

(Of the other suspects, Thomas Blanton Jr. was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001, while another ex-Klansman, Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, was convicted of murder in 1977 and died in prison. A fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died without being charged.)

Now 72 and ailing, Bobby Frank Cherry at last may stand trial. On Thursday, he was judged mentally competent, in a reversal of a ruling handed down last summer. His trial date could be set later this month.

How will it go? Did his father do the awful deed? Those are questions Tom Cherry makes a habit of not answering. "Everybody has an opinion," he says, "and those opinions don't mean a hill of beans. What counts is what the evidence shows."

Then he adds: "It doesn't matter who, what, when or how — he's still Dad."

Playing the son in "Sins of the Father" is Tom Sizemore (currently in theaters in "Black Hawk Down") while the father is played by Richard Jenkins