On this dayFeb 18, 1965

The Murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson

Video | Voices of the Civil Rights Movement

On the evening of February 18, 1965, a group of civil rights activists gathered at the Zion United Methodist Church in Marion, Alabama, for a night march in support of James Orange, the recently arrested field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As the demonstration started, protestors were met by Alabama State Troopers, who ordered the crowd to disperse and then attacked the protestors.

Jimmie Lee Jackson, his mother, Viola Jackson, and his eighty-two-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, were among those who fled the escalating violence. Surrounded by panicking demonstrators, the three sought shelter in Mack's Cafe. Police followed them into the cafe and physically assaulted them. When Jimmie Lee Jackson came to the aid of his mother and grandfather, he was shot twice in the abdomen by trooper James Fowler.

Despite his wounds, Mr. Jackson managed to escape from the cafe before collapsing. He died eight days later at a local hospital. In an impassioned eulogy, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described Jimmie Lee Jackson as a "martyred hero."

Though he readily admitted to the shooting in the event's aftermath, James Fowler did not face any criminal charges until 2007. Mr. Jackson's death has been cited as one of the catalysts for the March 7, 1965, march from Selma to Montgomery, which became known as "Bloody Sunday."

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