February 2002

Rev. William M. Bowman, Sr.

Reverend and activist

Rev. William M. Bowman, Sr., was active in the community, ministerial organizations, and in the Civil Rights movement. He was a founding member of WOIC radio and the Columbia NAACP branch and was a Richland District 1 board member for 16 years. In addition, Rev. Bowman was active in the county Democratic Party and a variety of community organizations. As a school board member and chairman emeritus, Rev. Bowman not only pushed for education for all students, but also cared deeply about the cafeteria workers, custodians, and other low-paid district employees. He was known as a champion of the underdog. William M. Bowman, Sr., was born in St. George, SC, in February, 1914. He was raised on land settled by his grandfather, an American Indian who fought with the Union forces during the Civil War. At age 14, Bowman severely injured his leg and hip in a sawmill accident, along with a white co-worker. The co-worker was sent to the hospital. Bowman’s leg fracture was improperly set and Bowman was sent home. The accident left him crippled for life. His doctor told him he would eventually lose his leg, but Bowman proved him wrong. Bowman was ordained into the ministry in 1938 after graduating as valedictorian from Morris College in Sumter, SC. He served as pastor in churches in three counties ‘ Orangeburg, Calhoun, and Richland. In 1949, he came to Columbia’s Second Nazareth Baptist Church with his wife, Annie Mae Jones Bowman. Rev. Bowman retired from the active pastorate at Second Nazareth in 1996 and remained as pastor emeritus until his death. As a founding member of WOIC radio, Bowman thought it was important to help spread God’s word, as well as make WOIC a respected radio voice in the black community and the city of Columbia. He deejayed the early morning and afternoon gospel programs at the station for over two decades. He served several years as the state field director for the NAACP. During the 1960s, he organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in downtown Columbia and arranged workshops to teach African-Americans how to vote. Rev. Bowman showed considerable courage at a time when some blacks were killed for asserting their civil rights. A former resident of the Elmwood/Read Street neighborhood, this minister was instrumental in the revitalization of the Read Street area. In a lasting tribute, the city of Columbia, in 1995, named a new street in the Read Street community for Bowman and another community leader, Myrtle Gordon. Rev. Bowman passed away on November 21, 2000, at age 86, leaving behind a legacy of respect for human rights and faith in God. In 1985 he was preceded in death by his wife. The couple had four children.