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Jimmie Lee Jackson

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Title: Jimmie Lee Jackson  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: James Orange, African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954–68), Edmund Pettus Bridge, James Bevel, Police brutality in the United States
Collection: 1939 Births, 1965 Deaths, 20Th-Century African-American Activists, African-American History of Alabama, African-Americans' Civil Rights Activists, Assassinated American Civil Rights Activists, Deaths by Firearm in Alabama, History of African-American Civil Rights, History of Racism in the United States, History of Voting Rights in the United States, People from Marion, Alabama, People Murdered in Alabama, People Shot Dead by Law Enforcement Officers in the United States, Police Brutality in the United States, Politics and Race in the United States, Protest-Related Deaths, Racially Motivated Violence Against African Americans, Social History of the United States
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

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. ^
  2. ^
  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
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