Hospital logbook offers a glimpse of history
by John Fleming
Editor at large
May 17, 2007 | 2879 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A page from an emergency room logbook records the treatment of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Photo: Donnie Coffee/Courtesy of Old Depot Museum, Selma
A page from an emergency room logbook records the treatment of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Photo: Donnie Coffee/Courtesy of Old Depot Museum, Selma
In sterile language used amid the chaos of an emergency room, the truncated story of a violent night that eventually ended Jimmie Lee Jackson's life is written in red ink.

“Gunshot wound of abdomen - noted hole in left side also. Laceration on back of head appears 2 inches long ... Was shot by a state trooper in riot ...,” the tattered logbook from Selma's Good Samaritan Hospital, dated Feb. 18, 1965, states in part.

Jackson had been taken to Selma from nearby Marion, where the shooting took place. He died a few days later of an infection that was the result of the wounds he received that night.

Last week, a Perry County grand jury returned a murder indictment in the 42-year-old case. While the former trooper, James Bonard Fowler of Geneva, does not deny shooting Jackson that night, he insists it was done in self-defense.

Legal experts say the prosecution's case now could hinge in large part on the testimony of a former nurse at Good Samaritan, who says she spoke with Jackson before he died. She already has testified before the grand jury.

Under Alabama law, a so-called dying declaration — a statement that otherwise would be considered hearsay — may in certain conditions be admissible in court.

The nurse, Vera Jenkins Booker, a Selma resident, was indeed employed at Good Samaritan, according to former hospital administrator John Crear, who said Tuesday from his home in Selma that Booker worked as a night supervisor when he started working there in the early 1970s.

Attempts to reach Booker at her Selma home were unsuccessful as of Wednesday. A former colleague of Booker, retired nurse Etta Perkins of Selma, confirmed that Booker was employed at Good Samaritan in February 1965.

Booker's name, also in red ink, is in the logbook entry that outlined Jackson's wounds and treatment.

Thus far, no one else who spoke to Jackson at Good Samaritan before he died has stepped forward.

The Rev. James Orange, a civil rights worker who had been jailed in Marion before the riot and was in his cell the night it took place, said he did visit Jackson in the hospital, but that Jackson was unconscious at the time.

Jackson died Feb. 26, eight days after he was brought to the emergency room. At some point before he died, Orange visited his bedside. Orange cannot remember exactly when.

“Yes, I went with the family to see Jimmie Lee,” Orange said from his Atlanta home. “But he was in a coma when I saw him, so we didn't talk about anything.”

Former FBI supervisor Bob Fry said Tuesday that he never spoke with Jackson directly, nor did either of the two agents he was supervising in central Alabama at the time. But a New York Times story from the time reported that Jackson spoke to his lawyer before he died and that he did so in the presence of two FBI agents.

As a matter of routine, Fry said, his agents would have waited until Jackson left the hospital to do the interview. Fry does insist that a report was compiled about the Marion incident that led to the shooting. However, in responses to past Freedom of Information Act requests by The Anniston Star, the FBI has said it has no such record. The possible explanation for that, says Fry, is that the FBI has lost the report.

Fry says he did speak to hospital personnel about Jackson before Jackson died.

Good Samaritan was owned and operated by the Fathers of St. Edmund, a small Catholic order, and was staffed by nuns. It was more of a clinic at the time, a place where blacks were sent in the then-segregated Alabama.

“I would have been talking to the head sister in charge,” Fry said in a telephone interview. “I don't remember her name, but we talked every day. She said (Jackson) was up and walking around on the first or second day, but she was concerned about this low-grade fever he had developed.”

Jackson eventually died of a massive infection.

The managing nurse was Sister Michael Ann, according to John Crear, the former administrator.

Walter Cureton, a cousin of Jimmie Lee Jackson also visited him at Good Samaritan. He spoke to Jackson, but says he cannot recall what the two talked about.

In the days immediately after the shooting, Birmingham attorney Oscar Adams, who later became an Alabama Supreme Court justice, went to Selma to see Jackson.

It is unclear what happened in that meeting; Adams is dead. His widow, Anne Marie Adams of Birmingham, who also worked in his law office, said the records from that time either have been destroyed or lost. But, she says, Adams talked frequently about the case and did indeed interview Jackson. She says he recorded the conversation.

Adams' law partner at the time, U.W. Clemon, now a federal district court judge in Birmingham, said he has no recollection of Adams telling him of the interview or the recording.

“I'm not surprised Oscar went down there,” Clemon said. “He was down in that part of the state a lot. I went down there with him sometimes.”
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Hospital logbook offers a glimpse of history by John Fleming
Editor at large

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