This day in Alabama history: 1965
MARION, Ala. (WSFA) - On this day in 1965, Civil Rights Activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten and shot during a peaceful march in Marion, AL.
On Feb. 18, 1965, Jackson, along with several hundred others, were participating in a march from Zion United Methodist Church in Marion towards the city jail. The march was in protest of the arrest of James Orange, a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Jackson was marching with his sister, mother, and 82-year-old grandfather. Before the march made it even one block, local police violently broke up the march with the help of state troopers. Demonstrators fled back to the church, nearby houses, and businesses for safety.
Jackson, along with his family, sought refuge in Mack’s Café. Troopers followed the protesters inside and began beating people. Jackson saw a trooper strike his mother, and he went after the trooper. He was clubbed across the face, and another trooper shot him in the stomach.
After being shot, Jackson was chased outside by troopers, and they continued to beat him until he collapsed. Hours later, Jackson made it to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma for treatment.
Four days later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Jackson at the hospital. Jackson was conscious and spoke with King. Four days after that, Jackson died in the hospital from his injuries.
When King spoke at Zion Church during the eulogy, he reflected back on that hospital visit. “I never will forget as I stood by his bedside a few days ago … how radiantly he still responded, how he mentioned the freedom movement and how he talked about the faith that he still had in his God. Like every self-respecting Negro, Jimmie Jackson wanted to be free ... We must be concerned not merely about who murdered him but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderer.”
King called Jackson “a martyred hero of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity.”
In the following weeks, the SCLC organized the march from Selma to Montgomery. An SCLC brochure stated that Jackson’s death was the catalyst that produced the march to Montgomery.
45 years later, the trooper who shot Jackson, James Bonard Fowler, who claimed he shot in self-defense, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree manslaughter. His sentence was a mere six months in jail, and he was released early due to poor health.
Copyright 2023 WSFA. All rights reserved.