Jackson was shot in the stomach by James Bonard Fowler, a state trooper. Witnesses said Jackson was protecting his mother and 82-year-old grandfather, who were attacked in the cafe. Fowler claimed he had been acting in self-defense, trying to keep Jackson from grabbing his gun.
The injured Jackson first taken to a local hospital, then sent to a hospital in Selma. He lingered for a week before dying from his infected wound on Feb. 26. He was only 26 years old.
Jackson's death inspired civil rights leaders to hold the Selma to Montgomery March on March 7, 1965. A violent response also awaited these demonstrators. When they arrived at Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge, law enforcement used tear gas and batons against them. Images of the violence against the protesters – which became known as "Bloody Sunday" – were shared across the country, making the public more supportive of the civil rights struggle. The fallen included civil rights icon John Lewis, today a U.S. Congressman; he almost was killed that day for leading the march.
Two weeks later, another Selma to Montgomery March was led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to complete the route stopped on Bloody Sunday. By the time those marchers arrived in Montgomery, there was a crowd of 25,000 people.
The Voting Rights Act became law on Aug. 10, 1965. The sweeping legislation fought the discriminatory measures that had kept African Americans like Jackson from voting.
On Dec. 16, 1938, Jimmie Lee Jackson was born in Marion, a small central-Alabama town near Selma.
After serving in the military, and spending time in Indiana, he returned to his hometown. There, he made about $6 a day as a laborer and woodcutter. He became a church deacon – the youngest at his Baptist church in Marion – and fathered a daughter.
Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, Jimmie Lee also made several attempts to register to vote, but was blocked by hurdles set up to keep African Americans from casting ballots.
In February 1965, James Orange from Birmingham, a young civil rights volunteer and a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was arrested and thrown in jail in Marion. On Feb. 18, Jackson, his mother and grandfather met with other black citizens of Marion in a local church. They planned a peaceful night march to the jail, one block away, to protest Orange's arrest; they also feared for Orange's safety. They planned to sing, kneel and pray, then leave. Pledged to nonviolence, none were armed.
As the demonstrators left the church, the town's streetlights were turned off; under cover of darkness, 50 Alabama state troopers joined local law enforcement and attacked them with clubs, sending them fleeing in all directions.
Jackson and some other demonstrators fled into a restaurant behind the church, Mack's Cafe. There,
JIMMIE LEE JACKSON
BORN: Dec. 16, 1938
DIED: Feb. 26, 1965
The killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson was a keystone event in the Civil Rights Movement. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at his funeral. His death set off the first Selma to Montgomery March and the resulting "Bloody Sunday," when Alabama state and local law enforcement attacked peaceful demonstrators. This chain of events hastened passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act in 1965.
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