State records: Fowler discharged after he beat superior officer
by John Fleming
Editor at large
May 10, 2007 | 1808 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Bonard Fowler, the former state trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson in 1965, was a once-promising officer who was forced to leave the troopers after beating a superior officer, according to that officer and state records.

Fowler was discharged from the troopers in late 1968, according to Department of Public Safety records, after he beat his superior officer for giving him a tepid evaluation.

The supervisor, T.B. Barden of Wilsonville, was beaten so badly he was sent to the hospital.

An affidavit from Barden in September 1968 says in part, “I turned to get in my car and as I turned Fowler hit me on the left side of the head. He got me around the head and began bumping my head on the side of a car. While he held me around the neck, he pushed his finger in my mouth and I bit it. He then bit my left ear. I turned his finger loose and he turned my ear loose.”

Barden went on to say that he later woke up in the hospital.

Reached by The Star at his home in Wilsonville, Barden, 83, said he remembers the event but has no hard feelings toward Fowler.

“As far as I am concerned, that is water over the dam,” he said. “I harbor no ill will toward Bonard Fowler whatsoever.”

The last time they spoke was when Fowler phoned him after his return from Vietnam, Barden said.

“He just called me one day,” he said. “We had a nice talk. He apologized for that stuff, and I told him he ought to come up and visit sometimes.”

Barden went on to say that Fowler had a promising career and that he was favored by then- trooper Chief Al Lingo.

“It was my impression that Al Lingo took Fowler under his wing. He was going somewhere. If that business had not happened between him and me, he probably would have stayed on with the troopers.

Barden also spoke briefly about another incident in 1966, when Fowler was involved in the shooting death of Nathan Johnson Jr. of Ensley in Alabaster city jail.

In an interview with The Star in 2005, Fowler referred to the shooting, saying Johnson was intoxicated and hit him with a billy club and that Fowler shot him in the chest.

A Birmingham Post-Herald story from May 9, 1966, paraphrases the Shelby County coroner, Bill Thompson. The article in part says Johnson grabbed a billy club and hit Fowler in the shoulder and again in the forearm. Fowler tried unsuccessfully to wrest the club from Johnson, then pulled his gun and shot him twice in the chest.

“There was some talk around that department about that shooting in the Alabaster jail,” said Barden. “I don't think anything ever came of it.”
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