Jimmie Lee Jackson (December 1938 – February 26, 1965) was a young, unarmed civil rights protestor who was shot by an Alabama State Trooper in 1965. Jackson's death inspired the Selma to Montgomery marches, an important event in the American Civil Rights movement.
Jimmie Lee Jackson was a deacon of the St. James Baptist Church in Marion, Alabama, ordained in the summer of 1964. Jackson had tried to register to vote without success for four years. 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. 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.
On the night of February 18, 1965, around 500 people 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. The marchers planned to sing hymns and return to the church. Police later stated they believed the crowd was planning a jailbreak.They were met at the Post Office by a line of Marion City police officers, sheriff's deputies, and Alabama State Troopers. In the standoff, streetlights were abruptly turned off (some sources say they were shot out by the police), and the police began to beat the protestors. 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. The marchers turned and scattered back towards the church.
Twenty-six-year-old Jimmie Lee 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 Cager Lee to the floor in the kitchen. The police continued to beat the cowering octogenarian Lee, and when his daughter Viola attempted to pull the police off, she was also beaten. When Jimmie Lee attempted to protect his mother, one trooper threw him against a cigarette machine. A second trooper shot Jimmie Lee twice in the abdomen. James Bonard Fowler later admitted to being that trooper. Although shot twice, Jimmie Lee fled the café amid additional blows from police clubs and collapsed in front of the bus station. Jackson made a statement to a lawyer, Oscar Adams of Birmingham in the presence of FBI officials stating he was "clubbed down" by State Troopers after he was shot and had run away from the café.
Jimmie Lee Jackson died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma, on February 26, 1965. After his death, Sister Michael Anne, an administrator at Good Samaritan, said there were powder burns on Mr. Jackson's abdomen, indicating that he was shot at very close range.
You may be saying, "Interesting, Marcia, but what's the point?"
The point is that former state trooper James Bonard Fowler has entered a guilty plea to shooting Jimmy Lee Jackson. It took more than a little while but at last the guilty may end up punished. And it has me thinking of an 80s song by former Stray Cats Brian Seltzer's solo hit "The Knife Feels Like Justice."
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"