November 15, 2010
On the night of Feb. 18, 1965, civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot twice in the belly and died after local police and state troopers attacked nonviolent voting rights marchers in the town of Marion. His death, at 26, sparked the first of what became known as the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, including infamous Bloody Sunday, that led to the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
For decades Jackson’s slaying went unresolved. Two grand juries investigated the case in the 1960s but failed to return criminal charges. Then, in a 2005 interview with Anniston Star reporter John Fleming, former state trooper James Bernard Fowler admitted to firing the gun, saying he acted in self-defense. In 2007 Fowler was charged with murder in the case, but in a deal announced on Nov. 15, 2010, the 77-year-old agreed to plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to six months. He served five months in the Geneva County Jail before being released for health reasons. He died in 2015.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.