ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An Albany native who became nationally renowned on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” TV show in the 1960s, has died at 89.
James M. “Jim” Fowler died Wednesday morning at his Connecticut home, according to family members. He was born in Albany.
Fowler was the sidekick for Marlin Perkins, the main figure on Wild Kingdom, seen for years on WALB-TV. But it was Fowler who did the physical work on the show, wrangling large animals on land, and wading in crocodile-infested rivers in Africa.
The Fowler family issued this statement on Jim Fowler’s life and legacy Thursday-
Jim was born in Albany on April 9, 1930, and was one of five boys. Son Mark Fowler and Daughter Carrie Fowler Stowe were also born in Albany.
Betsey Fowler along with her children, Mark Fowler and Carrie Fowler Stowe, the family of the iconic wildlife expert and television personality, Jim Fowler, share that their father passed away yesterday, May 8th, peacefully in his sleep at the age of 89, surrounded by his family. Known to generations as Co-Host and later Host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, a favorite guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the Wildlife Correspondent on NBC’s Today Show, Jim lived an incredible life as a naturalist and spokesperson for wildlife and the natural world. Before his television career began, he carried out expeditions to Africa where he lived with the Kalahari Bushmen, and to the South America where he conducted ground-breaking research on the harpy, the world’s largest eagle, and the Andean Condor.
He is the recipient of the Explorers Club highest honor, The Explorers Medal, where he has been a member since 1960. Jim grew up on his family’s beloved farm in Albany, Georgia, known as Mud Creek, where he first bonded with nature and, by age eleven, was training birds of prey. Inspiring families to make a connection with the natural world like was the primary goal of the free roaming wildlife parks that he designed and created in Charleston, South Carolina, and his hometown of Albany. His home of 30 years in New Canaan, Connecticut, is now a 50 acre land trust preserve called the Silvermine Fowler Preserve for all to enjoy. One of the most influential personalities in nature programming, Jim Fowler, inspired millions to care about wildlife and nature and inspired countless zoologists, wildlife educators and other professionals who have dedicated their careers to helping preserve the natural world and the animals and habitat in it. His impact as a spokesperson for our planet will be felt for generations to come.
Jim’s wife Betsey Fowler is a renown wildlife artist, his son Mark Fowler is the VP of Wildlife Conservation at the Explorers Club and Nature Initiative Director at Grace Farms CT where he works to save African wildlife from poaching and trafficking and Jim's Daughter Carrie Fowler Stowe hosted the family’s Emmy nominated TV series Life In the Wild and is a major advocate for the environment. Jim’s grandchildren Avery and Brinton have taken on the love of the outdoors and are continuing his legacy by focusing on preserving and protecting the future of wildlife, wilderness and the health of all living things on this planet.
The Fowlers also added that Jim was a Georgia boy at heart who loved his family and in recent years, loved driving around in his vintage jeep on his wildlife preserve in Georgia and sitting outside watching birds at his homemade bird feeder while his grandchildren played in the yard. He also recently completed his autobiography called Jim Fowler’s Wild Life (to be released soon), and loved reminiscing about the good old days as he told stories around the campfire with friends and family. Jim was always focused on the big picture of nature and our human relationship to it and always said that how we treat the earth is directly related to our human quality of life and our own future.
Fowler’s wish has always been that all he inspired would continue to advocate for wildlife and the natural world and get out and explore!
He worked with Albany’s Chehaw Park for many years. His family and friends celebrated his 82nd birthday here in 2012.
Chehaw Park issued this statement Thursday:
Today, we celebrate the amazing life and legacy of Jungle Jim Fowler. Host of the Emmy Award winning Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, he has inspired millions to care about wildlife and the natural world. A pioneer in education and conservation, his vision for a wildlife park without concrete, bars, and cages proved he was ahead of his time.
Chehaw and the City of Albany commissioned Jim to designed and supervise the construction of the original wildlife park at Chehaw in the 70s. Working closely with Jim and his family over the years has truly been a privilege and we will miss him dearly.
This statement was sent as a bulletin from his family:
Dear Friends and Family,
Lynn and Kay have been crafting this Mud Creek Farm Bulletin to send to those of you who have shown interest in our farm and projects. Our first annual Mud Creek Farm Celebration was a complete success.
We are sad, however, that Uncle Jim died on May 8 at 2 a.m. in his own bed with his wife, our Aunt Betsey, beside him. We are glad to have honored him on the farm just a month ago.
Last year a good friend, and the Director of The Parks at Chehaw, in Albany Georgia, which Uncle Jim founded in the late ’70′s, shared his vision of creating an interactive display at the Park. Uncle Jim was very enthusiastic about this project.
Funeral plans have not been announced.