Selma D.A. to investigate civil rights era shooting death

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Cager Lee Jr. is a man of the earth, a farmer down in the soil scrabbling and scratching with honesty to earn a place more for his family than for himself in this world. In February 1965 his nephew, Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old from Marion was shot dead by an Alabama state trooper during a violence-filled night in that Black Belt town.

And Cager Lee Jr. and his children and grandchildren want to talk about Jimmie Lee Jackson now, after all these years, because today in Selma a special grand jury will convene to consider whether to indict the trooper who shot him, James Bonard Fowler of Geneva.

A number of historical works say Jackson was shot while trying to protect his mother, Viola Jackson, from baton-wielding troopers that night. It’s a version his family stands by.

Fowler, however, told The Star in February 2005 that although he did shoot Jackson during a melee in a restaurant called Mack’s Café, just off the town square, he fired in self-defense as Jackson was trying to take his gun. One of the last surviving troopers who was in the Café with Fowler that evening, R.C. Andrews, told The Star recently that he stands by an affidavit he wrote soon after the shooting, a statement that is similar to Fowler’s.

Cager Lee Jr. was not in Marion that night. He was in the hospital in Birmingham. But his father, Cager Lee Sr., was there and was beaten by troopers along with his sister, Viola.

Cager Lee Jr. did make it to the funeral, an event that he said helped crystallize the civil rights movement.

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