Jimmie Lee Jackson

Jimmie Lee Jackson

Jimmie Lee Jackson

Jimmie Lee Jackson (December 16, 1938[1][2]-February 26, 1965) was a civil rights protestor who was shot and killed by Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler.[3] Jackson was unarmed. His death inspired the Selma to Montgomery marches, an important event in the American Civil Rights movement.[3]


  • Personal background 1
  • Death 2
    • Burial 2.1
  • Aftermath 3
    • Criminal charges against killer 3.1
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Personal background

Jimmie Lee Jackson was a deacon of the St. James Baptist Church in Marion, Alabama, ordained in the summer of 1964.[4] Jackson had tried to register to vote without success for four years.[4] Jackson was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., who had touched off a campaign against Alabama restrictions on Negro voting and attended meetings several nights per week at Zion's Chapel Methodist Church.[4] This desire to vote led to his death at the hands of an Alabama State Trooper and to the inspiration for the Selma to Montgomery marches.[4]


On the night of February 18, 1965, about 500 people organized by Southern Christian Leadership Conference activist C.T. Vivian, left Zion United Methodist Church in Marion and attempted a peaceful walk to the Perry County jail, about a half a block away, where young civil-rights worker James Orange was being held.[5] The marchers planned to sing hymns and return to the church. Police later said that they believed the crowd was planning a jailbreak.[5]

Grave of Jimmie Lee Jackson
Memorial where Jackson was shot, behind Zion Methodist Church in Marion, Alabama

They were met at the Post Office[5] by a line of Marion City police officers, sheriff's deputies, and Alabama State Troopers.[3] During the standoff, streetlights were abruptly turned off (some sources say they were shot out by the police),[5] and the police began to beat the protestors.[3][5] Among those beaten were two United Press International photographers, whose cameras were smashed, and NBC News correspondent Richard Valeriani, who was beaten so badly that he was hospitalized.[5] The marchers turned and scattered back towards the church.

Jackson, his mother Viola Jackson, and his 82-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, ran into Mack's Café behind the church, pursued by Alabama State Troopers. Police clubbed Lee to the floor in the kitchen;[3] when Viola attempted to pull the police off, she was also beaten.[6] When Jackson attempted to protect his mother, one trooper threw him against a cigarette machine. A second trooper shot Jackson twice in the abdomen.[6] James Bonard Fowler later admitted to pulling the trigger.[3] The wounded Jackson fled the café amid additional blows from police clubs and collapsed in front of the bus station.[5]

In the presence of FBI officials, Jackson told a lawyer, Oscar Adams of Birmingham, that he was "clubbed down" by State Troopers after he was shot and had run away from the café.[7]

Jackson died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma, on February 26, 1965.[3][5]

Sister Michael Anne, an administrator at Good Samaritan, later said there were powder burns on Jackson's abdomen, indicating that he was shot at very close range.[7]


Jackson was buried in Heard Cemetery, an old slave burial ground, next to his father,[5] with a headstone paid for by the Perry County Civic league. His headstone has been vandalized, bearing the marks of at least one shotgun blast.[5]


Jackson's death led SCLC Director of Direct Action and the director of SCLC's Selma Voting Rights Movement, Bloody Sunday".[3]

Criminal charges against killer

A grand jury declined to indict Fowler in September 1965, identifying him only by his surname.[3]

On May 10, 2007, 42 years after the crime, Fowler was charged with first degree and second degree murder for Jackson's death.[8] and surrendered to authorities.[9] On November 15, 2010, Fowler pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to six months in jail,[10] but served only five months due to health problems which required medical surgery.[10] Perry County commissioner Albert Turner, Jr., called the agreement "a slap in the face of the people of this county".[11]


  1. ^ http://www.biography.com/people/jimmie-lee-jackson-21402111
  2. ^ http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_jackson_jimmie_lee_19381965/
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Fleming, John (March 6, 2005), "The Death of Jimmie Lee Jackson",  
  4. ^ a b c d Reed, Roy (March 1, 1965), "Memorial Service Honors Negro Slain in Alabama Rights March",  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Davis, Townsend (1998), Weary Feet, Rested Souls: A Guided History of the Civil Rights Movement, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 121–123,  
  6. ^ a b  
  7. ^ a b Reed, Roy (February 27, 1965), "Wounded Negro Dies in Alabama",  
  8. ^ "Nation in Brief: Indictment Brought in Civil-Rights-Era Death",  
  9. ^ Phillip, Rawls (July 10, 2008), Former Ala. trooper to face trial in 1965 shooting, Fox News, Associated Press 
  10. ^ a b uncredited (7 July 2011). "Former Alabama state trooper James Fowler freed in civil rights killing".  
  11. ^ Brown, Robbie (November 15, 2010). "45 Years Later, an Apology and 6 Months". The New York Times.

External links

  • 45 Years Later, State Trooper Pleads Guilty to Killing - video report by Democracy Now!
  • Martin Luther King at Jackson's funeral
  • Selma Exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum