FrontJimmie Lee Jackson
Voting Rights Martyr
The death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot after police disrupted a peaceful nighttime demonstration in Marion, inspired the first attempted march from Selma to Montgomery that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Jackson, a 26-year-old black Army veteran, church deacon and hospital employee, had been active in efforts to register black voters. He himself had been denied five times.
On Feb. 18, 1965, police arrested voting rights organizer James Orange. That night Albert Turner and the Rev. James Dobynes led several hundred protesters two abreast out of Zion Methodist Church towards the jail a block away. The streetlights went out. Scores of local white police, along with sheriff's deputies and state troopers under the direction of Col. Al Lingo, attacked marchers and news reporters.
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Jackson's Death Led to 'Bloody Sunday' March
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A group of protesters pursued by troopers ran behind Zion church into Mack's Cafe. Cager Lee, 82, was clubbed to the floor, along with daughter Viola Jackson, whose son Jimmie Lee was shot in the stomach while trying to help. He died eight days
later. Strategist James Bevel suggested a procession to Montgomery to confront
Gov. George Wallace.
Some 600 marchers were routed by club-swinging lawmen at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, Bloody Sunday'. An attempt on March 9 was cancelled. On March 21, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led several thousand marchers to Montgomery. They reached the State Capitol in four days, their numbers swollen to 25,000.
In 2005, retired trooper James Bonard Fowler told the Anniston Star that he shot Jackson. In 2010, District Attorney Michael Jackson obtained a guilty plea to manslaughter from Fowler, then 77. Fowler served five months before being released for health reasons. Jimmie Lee Jackson's tragic story was featured in the 2015 film Selma.
This marker unveiled in August, 2015,
the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965