J. Earle Bowden

Year Inducted: 

2016

For
more than 60 years, Mr. Bowden was the cornerstone of journalism in Northwest
Florida.  Jesse Earle Bowden began
working at the now-Pensacola News Journal in 1953 and worked until his death on
Feb. 15, 2015.

 



His
obituary highlighted his education and work in newspapers: “Mr. Bowden attended Florida State
University, where he studied journalism and wrote for the Florida Flambeau
newspaper, before joining the U.S. Air Force.

“He was a military journalist stationed at
Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho during the Korean War, after which he moved to
Pensacola to begin his journalism career at the Pensacola News Journal on
September 30, 1953. Initially a sports writer until 1958, Bowden replaced
Marion T. Gaines as editor of the News Journal's editorial page in 1965 and
served as editor-in-chief and vice president of the paper from 1966 to 1997. “As
editor of the News Journal, Bowden began campaigning in 1965 to establish the Gulf
Islands National Seashore, which was authorized on January 8, 1971, and signed
into law by President Nixon. For his efforts, Bowden was named an Honorary Park
Ranger by the Secretary of the Interior.

 



Even
after his retirement, Mr. Bowden was a strong voice in the community with his
weekly cartoons and column. Always looking to the future, he welcomed the
digital age and joined Facebook to showcase his work. His thoughts and cartoons
quickly attracted many “friends.”

 



While
his writing and community leadership helped affect change in the community, his
cartoons were equally forceful. They ranged from poking fun at politicians and
their foibles, to biting satire about local and national events. Fortunately,
those thousands of cartoons will inspire and educate future journalists and
scholars. Staff at the University of
West Florida's Pace Library are archiving and digitizing many of Mr. Bowden's
cartoons. In 1983, he began teaching journalistic writing at the university,
which awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1985. Outside
the traditional newsroom, Mr. Bowden authored several books on Pensacola’s
history and was the foremost authority on the area's history that dates to
1539.

 



Mr.
Bowden’s community involvement was a natural extension of his passion for
journalism and a newspaper’s role in the community. He helped establish the
Seville Square Historic District in 1963, and was a charter trustee of the
Historic Pensacola Preservation Board when it was formed in 1967.



His
other accomplishments include:


-         
Board of trustees at Pensacola Junior
College, now Pensacola State College.


-         
Two-time president of the University of
West Florida Foundation.


-         
Chairman of the city of Pensacola
Architectural Review Board.


-         
President of the Pensacola Bay Area
Coalition on Literacy.


-         
Pensacola Kiwanis Club Civic Award in
1981.
-         
Three statewide honors from Florida
Architects for his work in historic preservation.


-         
Distinguished Citizen of the Year,
Pensacola Junior College, 1966.


-         
Law Day Liberty Bell Award in 1975.


-         
PACE Pioneer Award, 1998, for his
Pensacola leadership.


-         
In 1983, the Junior League of Pensacola
established the J. Earle Bowden Junior Historian Award for student winners of
the Florida History Fair in Escambia County.


Mr.
Bowden’s roles as a journalist, community leader, teacher, author and historian
were as important to Northwest Florida as the sugar-white sand and
emerald-green water.