Pike County Times

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PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal at the link on the bottom of the page. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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Fowler pictured with Kathryn Smith, author of the biography "The Gatekeeper.

James Fowler and Kaye Minchew and filming in Warm Springs.
Becoming Franklin Delano Roosevelt
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - James Fowler first came to work for the Little White House in Warm Springs in 1982. He lived on the grounds and spent the summer as a tour guide. For a history teacher, this was a dream job come true! He left to begin a teaching career at East Coweta High School in October of 1982, but he hoped to return to the Little White House at a later time. That return began a career of its own!

Becoming FDR

Around the end of 2009, Fowler came back to the Little White House as a part-time tour guide and became an employee of the Department of Natural Resources, Parks and Historic Places Division. At this time, they needed a Frankin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) actor on occasion. Fowler had been a movie extra and done some theater work so he knew how to stand before and audience and communicate. He decided to give it a try.

He listened to speeches on YouTube to get his impersonation just right and searched through thrift stores for just the right apparel. He spoke on the anniversary of D Day around 2010 and gave a successful performance as FDR. He came back for the Pearl Harbor Speech. “The more speeches I gave, the more I was asked to return,” he said.

Fowler has performed for Presidents Day at Fort Benning and various co-ops across the state. He helped celebrate the 75th anniversary of FDR and Congress working together to create the birth of rural electricity. Fowler has also spoken before the Pike County Historical Society, given birthday and evening performances as Mr. Roosevelt, and performed as a one man show at Gordon and Kennesaw Colleges.

Fowler performed at the Little White House last February with nationally known writer Kathryn Smith. She is the author of the biography "The Gatekeeper," FDR's personal secretary and unofficial chief of staff. Kathryn performed as Missy. "It was great fun."

He also gave a performance at Ft. Benning two years ago to dedicate the D-Day Prayer Memorial, which is the only one of its kind so far.

Filming a Documentary

Recently, Fowler was excited to be a part of the filming of a documentary based on the book “A President in Our Midst: Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Georgia” by Kaye Minchew. Filming took place at Gordon State College, the Little White House, and at the historic Dowdell’s Knob in Pine Mountain. Kaye Minchew was the executive director of the Troup County Historical Society and Archives for more than thirty years. Now retired, she serves as an archival consultant and lives in LaGrange, Georgia.

“I am so excited about this new project. Having a documentary about FDR in Georgia that will air on Georgia Public Television and based on my book means that many more people will become familiar with the story,” said Minchew. “They will gain a great appreciation for how important the people of the state were to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his presidency. I especially enjoyed working with James Fowler as he helped bring FDR to life with his reenactment.”

The highlight of filming for Fowler was getting to ride in a 1938 Packard convertible courtesy of Taylor and Judy Merrill of LaGrange. Fowler said that he was riding through Warm Springs, dressed as FDR with his hat and cigarette holder, and waved like FDR at two gentlemen walking down the sidewalk. “Their jaws dropped for a few moments taking it all in,” he said. Minchew said that the documentary will likely air in early April close to the anniversary of FDR’s death.

Living History

Fowler said that he likes communicating and teaching history. “This is living history,” he said. History is in his blood with 27 years at East Coweta High School, 6 years at Gordon State College, a couple of years at Georgia Military College, and is currently teaching at Southern Crescent Technical College.

Pike County Times asked for Fowler’s coolest experience as FDR. He told of a humbling experience about a year ago at the Little White House in the auditorium. He and his good friend Bob Anzuoni, an Army veteran and the director of the Army Signal Corps Museum at Fort Gordon in Augusta, were together at this event. Bob dresses up as a WWII paratrooper. “We were going to do the Pearl Harbor speech, and the tourists were all assembled in the little auditorium,” he said.

Bob and Fowler’s daughter Brittany, who dresses in 1940’s clothing, often accompany Fowler at his speeches. A park ranger will give them the cue and Bob will wheel Fowler into the auditorium because FDR could not walk on his own. “As we walked in, several people—maybe as many as 7 or 8—stood and gave me a standing ovation,” he said. “That was very humbling.”

"About seven years ago, I got a call from Robin Glass from the Little White House. We were invited by Rep. Debbie Buckner to perform at the Georgia Legislature on January 31, FDR's birthday," Fowler said. "I could only speak for 10-12 minutes about his love for the state, but the entire assembly rose and gave me a standing oviation." Fowler's love for history and enjoyment of bringing that history to life for others shows through in his performances as FDR.

Another cool experience was when there was snow on the ground a few years back on a day that he was scheduled to perform the Pearl Harbor speech at the Little White House. They called and asked, “Are you coming?” Of course the answer was absolutely yes! He put an old weight set in the back of the car to weight it down and increase traction so he and Brittney could make the trip safely to Warm Springs. He said that they made the trip to Warm Springs with no trouble, but that they made the turn onto the grounds from the highway that they found more snow on the ground there. “As we drove into the parking lot, it was magical!”

Most of the time, when he performs at the Little White House, he gives his speech more than once depending on how large the crowds are. Most of the time, it’s only twice, but he has given it as many as five times in a day. “At the end of the day when you get home, the feeling of satisfaction is so great and so sweet,” he said. “I’d do it every week if I could!”


Fowler said that he always does his homework before a performance and never takes himself for granted. He prefaces his performances with historic facts to educate the audience on the time period. And he said that it is especially exciting when young people shake his hand and tell him that they got something out of the performance. “I love communicating and teaching history,” he said. “I humbly feel for me that this is another way to teach history… instead of learning it from books and taking notes. This is living history."

He said that the fellowship that reenactors have is very unique because they appreciate history and the values that make our society great including values rooted in the Bible, the Constitution, in our history, and the bravery of our men and women who molded this country.

If you are interested in speaking to James Fowler about a reenactment, he can be reached through Facebook.

James is married to Melinda Hadley Fowler. They are the proud parents of three children and grandparents of two with grandbaby number three on the way. They reside in Pike County, Georgia.