J. Earle Bowden

From Pensapedia, the Pensacola encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
J. Earle Bowden
Born September 12, 1928
Altha, Florida
Occupation Journalist
Management, News Journal
Spouse Mary Louise Clark Bowden
Children Steven Earle Bowden
Randall Clark Bowden

Jesse Earle Bowden (b. September 12, 1928) is the editor emeritus of the Pensacola News Journal and a local historian and preservationist.

Born in Altha, Florida, 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. He was also the paper's main political cartoonist for decades, caricaturing local figures in a distinctive hedcut style inspired by William Hogarth and Thomas Nast. Andy Marlette took over as the main cartoonist in 2007, but Bowden remains a columnist and occasional cartoonist for the opinion section. Staff at the University of West Florida's Pace Library are in the process of archiving and digitizing many of Bowden's original cartoon drawings. He has taught journalistic writing since 1983 at the University of West Florida, which awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1985.

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 in (date needed). State Road 399 on Santa Rosa Island, which connects eastern Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach, was named J. Earle Bowden Way in 1998. Much of the road was washed away in Hurricane Ivan.

Along with Pat Dodson and Mary Turner Rule Reed, Bowden helped to establish the Seville Square Historic District in 1963. He was a charter trustee of the Historic Pensacola Preservation Board when it was formed in 1967 and has served as chairman since 1982. He became president of the organization when it was transferred to the University of West Florida and renamed West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc. (WFHPI) in 1991. The Bowden Building, headquarters of WFHPI, is named for him.

He lived in the Cordova Park area, and passed on February 15, 2015.


  • Florida in the Civil War: 1860 Through Reconstruction, 1961. With Alan Rick and other members of the Civil War Round Table of Pensacola.
  • Always the Rivers Flow: Deliberately a Memoir, Essays on West Florida Heritage by a Pensacola Newspaper Editor, 1979.
  • Iron Horse in the Pinelands: Building West Florida's Railroad: 1881-1883, 1982. Virginia Parks, editor.
  • Pensacola: Florida's First Place City, 1989. Photographs by Gordon Norman Simmons and Sandra L. Johnson.
  • When You Reach September: An Editor's West Florida Essays and Other Episodic Echoes, 1990.
  • The Write Way: Editor's Guidebook for Students of Writing, 1990.
  • Emerald Coast Review Fifth Annual Collection: West Florida Authors and Artists, 1993. Co-editor with Donna Freckmann.
  • Gulf Islands: The Sands of All Time, Preserving America's Largest National Seashore, 1994.
  • Emerald Coast Review Sixth Collection: West Florida Authors and Artists, 1995. Co-editor with Seldon Pierce.
  • Earle Bowden: Drawing From an Editor's Life. More than Forty Three Years of Cartoons, Caricatures and Illustrations, Pensacola News Journal, 1950s-1990s, 1996.