Fowler apologizes to family of man he killed during Civil Rights era

Jimmy Lee Jackson
Jimmy Lee Jackson
File Photo: James Fowler
File Photo: James Fowler

Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

MARION, AL (WSFA) - There will be no trial for an ex-Alabama State Trooper who was accused of the 1965 shooting death of a civil rights activist in Perry County.

James Fowler, 76, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Monday in the half century old murder case of Jimmy Lee Jackson. Earlier in the day a judge put the story back in the spotlight setting a trial date of November 29 for the former lawman.

Fowler, a white Alabama State Trooper in the racially charged environment of the 1960s, was accused of shooting Jackson, a black man, during a civil rights demonstration in Marion in Perry County.

Jackson's death sparked outrage and inspired marches at Selma that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Fowler pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to six months in the Geneva County Jail, his home county.

Perry County District Attorney Michael Jackson said Monday's plea brings a long needed sense of closure. "We were trying to accomplish one of three things," Jackson said, "and we accomplished all three..." Jackson said Fowler admitted guilt, apologized to Jackson's family in open court and will receive jail time. "Hopefully, the community can heal now," Jackson added.

"I was coming over here to save lives," Fowler told the family. "I didn't mean to take lives and wish I could re-do it."

Fowler's attorney, George Beck, says his client has until Dec. 1 to turn himself in to authorities.

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