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Marion saw a number of important events in relation to the Civil Rights Movement. A Marion jury sentenced Jimmy Wilson, a black man to death in 1958 for stealing $1.95 from Estelle Barker. Wilson's case was covered by newspapers around the world and inspired over 1000 letters to Jim Folsom, the governor of Alabama. Finally, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed Wilson's conviction. At the request of Congress of Racial Equality Secretary John Foster Dulles wrote Folsom to explain the damage the case was doing to the United States' international reputation. Folsom granted Wilson clemency.
Marion was the center of civil rights demonstrations in Alabama in 1964. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a Marion resident, was killed and injured by James Bonard Fowler, an Alabama State Trooper, at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference march that took place on February 18, 1965. This occurred during the height of the Selma Voting Rights Movement. These events were captured in the 2014 movie Selma. Jackson died from an infection he contracted while recovering at Selma's Good Samaritan Hospital. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon at Jackson’s funeral on March 3. Jackson’s death is acknowledged as the catalyst that James Bevel called and organized the first Selma-to-Montgomery March on March 7. Fowler was first indicted in 2007 for his involvement in Jackson's murder. Fowler pleaded guilty in 2010 to a lesser charge, manslaughter.
The US Department of the Interior awarded Beyond 50 Years, a Marion-based community non-profit organization, a $500,000.00 grant in 2018 to transform the Perry County Jailhouse into an exhibit about voting rights. This historic jailhouse was where Reverend James Orange was incarcerated. This led to the 1965 march that ended in the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Although the jail is currently being renovated for conversion into a museum, a grand opening date has not been announced.